Gloucestershire Funders’ Spotlight is a series aimed at raising awareness of some of the organisations we have helped to fund. Each week we speak with a representative and ask them questions about what it is that they do, what they have learned during the last few months, and how else they might be supported to ensure they can keep making a difference to lives in Gloucestershire. This week we spoke with Margaret from Cotswold Counselling.
Q1: What does your organisation do, where are you based and who do you work with?
Together In Matson based at the Redwell Centre is a youth and community project based in Matson Gloucester; one of the areas in the top 10% of the deprivation scale. We work with all ages and abilities to support activities, health and wellbeing, socialising and having fun. We also tackle mental health issues, unemployment, poverty, and we are very pro-active to people’s issues and needs within our community; either supporting them ourselves or taking them to another project that can help.
The support we give varies widely, from providing food, clothing, furniture, small DIY and gardening jobs, to providing mentoring and working with schools, the police, housing and care projects. We also have a partnership with Glo –Active that works with children and young adults that have a diverse range of physical and mental health challenges. We have a large workshop, outdoor space, nine-hole crazy golf course and children’s play area.
We also have a mobile home that can be used by any of our community to meet any other project need.
Q2: How has your organisation and the people you work alongside been affected over the last 3 months?
The last three months have been a huge learning curve, and we have just reacted to each new situation on a daily basis. One minute we were an active, well-used community centre, and next we were the local food bank or Tesco’s. The way our staff responded to their new roles was amazing, supporting people in need in whichever way they were required. We changed rooms in the centre to accommodate the new work we were doing, and we used all of our resources to bring the much-needed connections to our community. Our community were scared and needed someone to tell them that they were not alone, and that we would be their ‘outside world’ connection, so this is what we did; we collected and delivered food and medication, we took people to hospital appointments, we bought microwaves for people that didn’t have cookers and usually relied on café’s for their food, we taught people to cook, we went out and entertained older people and children in their front gardens, we sent out birthday cards, presents and visits by ‘Superman’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ to people who were isolated, we played street bingo, and more than anything we comforted people when they felt their world was turned upside down and couldn’t cope within it.
Q3: Have you learned anything or been surprised by anything during this time?
Oh yes. I was surprised how many lonely people there were living on our streets, people who we never see; people who just exist outside of society. We only found them because they too needed help and support. We have managed to build relationships with some of these people and if there could be a silver lining to Covid-19 this would be it. More people are now being noticed by their neighbours and community projects, finding a better life socially.
We have also found a lot more living conditions to be unacceptable; people living in houses that need repair and attention and the person not being able to afford it or do it themselves; people living in squalor and not realising they are.
Q4: How will the money from Gloucestershire Funders be used by your organisation?
Every day we are responding to new and diverse incidents within our community; mothers can’t cope with their children, especially teenagers; older people are still scared to leave their homes; mental health for all ages is not good. As a project we are worried we won’t be here to continue our support due to our funding situation, so firstly, the money from Gloucestershire Funders’ took away some anxiety. Now we are able to work to provide the services that are needed, and although we are unsure how this is going to play out, what we do know is that young people will be wanting to get back together asap, and so we will be starting with them. Our activities will either be in their streets, in our outside area or the top of a hill; whatever we do, we will have to be inventive and safety conscious.
Our older people are already lined up for groups of four to have afternoon tea together; again, in one of their gardens or in our Redwell garden.
Music is going to be part of our work with all ages; small little get-togethers with social distancing in mind, but also with a positive mental mindset and a ‘get back to some normality’ attitude. We know what we are doing, even though the work is still evolving, and this money will help us to do it.
Q5: Are you still fundraising? How can people support your organisation?
We continually fundraise, and we continually do our work on a shoestring – but we do make an impact on our community; our outcomes can be seen and spoken about by the people we support.
More funding would enable us to put more time in to providing early intervention; finding people in the local area who need our support, rather than waiting for them to come to us.
More funding would also allow our project manager more time to train staff and work with the community, rather than focussing purely on fundraising. Our building also needs small upgrades and improvements.
If people would like to support us financially, we have a donations page on our website where they can find out more.