One of the longest running Community Gardens in Birmingham, Martineau Gardens, has been recognised for its commitment to the community, receiving the Queens Award for Voluntary Service. The Gardens have been described by visitors as ‘an oasis of calm in the bustling city’ and as ‘Birmingham’s hidden gem’ – all thanks to the dedication of the wonderful volunteers.
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network is here to help all of Edgbaston’s community assets with everything from grants and funding applications to networking and promotion. That’s why Community Connectors Deb and Natalie are always on the lookout for new community projects to meet, learn from, and support! Every two months, they speak to one of our assets in depth and feature them in the the ENNS Newsletter. This time, it’s the turn of Woolly Mammoth Stitch Works CIC.
Focus on Assets: Woolly Mammoth Stitch Works CIC
By Deb Ufton and Natalie Tichareva
We all know that making time to connect with others and do the things that make us happy help to improve our health and wellbeing. This is something that Woolly Mammoth have addressed repeatedly with their various stitch projects. Read on to find out more about Woolly Mammoth and their latest Metre Meadow Sewing and Sowing project, in partnership with The Patchwork Meadow, in Quinton.
Woolly Mammoth’s Creative Director, Tina Francis, tells us, “I come from a family of makers. I have three brothers, a builder, a master tool maker and an interpreter for the deaf. So we all use our hands and heads to make a living. I don’t find it unusual for men to knit and stitch because my dad was taught by his mom to do this. Her family were all fishermen and so knitting and stitching were essential skills for men at sea. I think that if you can stitch you can travel the world, firstly, people will always need things fixed and secondly you do not need to speak the language when you have the language of stitch in common.
“Working with Suze on Woolly Mammoth Stitch Works is the best of both worlds for me. As a stitch artist, running workshops can all too often be about the stitch process which is fine if you are coming to me to learn a specific skill. But we are about way more than this, stitch is the activity but community is the aim. Having Suze by my side gives me confidence because her ability to bring the creative community element never fails.”
Projects Director Suze tells us how Woolly Mammoth got started, “In 2012 I started working in the Jewellery Quarter on heritage regeneration projects. Tina was active as a resident and business owner there and our paths soon crossed regularly at various work events. I moved on to deliver the community engagement programme at Stirchley Baths in 2016 and invited Tina to be the artist on a community project for local residents, to recreate a piece of history in stitch. Before you know it, we had 155 people all stitching pieces in a coordinated way for an artwork which still hangs proudly in the building today.
“Back in the Jewellery Quarter a year later, I commissioned Tina to work with me again – this time we set the bar much higher and challenged ourselves to bring together 1,000 people from across the city to stitch a bee for a collaborative tapestry for The Hive. We created an epic tapestry where every bee is unique, just like its stitcher. It was such hard work, but after this second project we knew we had something really special.”
Connected, content and colourful
About 18 months later Tina and Suze set up Woolly Mammoth Stitch Works as a Community Interest Company with a vision and social mission to stitch Birmingham’s communities together through creative fun and a shared purpose to build a connected, content, and colourful city.
Tina says, “Craft is often seen as a singular activity but at Woolly Mammoth Stitch Works we are about creating large scale artworks using small contributions from everyone. We have stitch projects that have included people from aged 3 to 93 and no one’s work is rejected because it might not look neat. We value everyone’s contribution!”
Tina and Suze always wanted Woolly Mammoth projects to connect people to places and to each other and to use a needle and wool as a tool to get people working together towards a shared goal. As the pandemic struck it also became apparent that taking part in something creative and collaborative could also have a positive impact on people’s personal wellbeing.
Suze remembers, “Three weeks into our first Woolly Mammoth project – 18 at Heart – we were forced to change our way of working. We had programmed 20 social stitch meet ups over the next six months but had to cancel them and move to postal tapestry kits and online activity. We sent out 1,900 tapestry kits during the first lockdown March – June 2020 and five fantastic artworks were created from the stitched pieces that collaborators sent back to us. This included a 6ft arch in Northfield created by 162 people; a field of poppies created by 250 people for the Jewellery Quarter cemeteries; 18 tapestry train artworks with individual carriages, doors and engines stitched by over 250 people (one for each rail station in Worcestershire); and an apple wall hanging made by 160 stitchers for a church in Evesham. We even did a yarn-bomb along 5.5miles of the number 18 bus route from Billesley to Northfield, featuring 670 tapestry hearts stitched by a stitch team of 40.”
Tina adds, “during the pandemic lockdowns we were able to work with large amounts of people by sending a dose of what we like to call ‘woolly wellness’ through the post for people to do safely at home. Two further projects included sending out a monthly wellbeing tapestry pack and community magazine for four months for around 200 people, thanks to NNS grants in Selly Oak and Ladywood constituencies.”
Covid recovery projects
Since covid restrictions have eased, Woolly Mammoth projects have been more about recovery and bringing smaller groups of older people back into spaces to stitch together and this includes projects in Ward End where over 20 stitchers created their own tapestry samplers and told their life stories in stitch for an exhibition. Two weekly social craft groups have formed and thrive as a legacy of this work. In Billesley around 20 stitchers who had been receiving ‘woolly wellness’ kits came to Tina and Suze’s ‘in person’ meet ups, and they now continue to meet monthly to craft together. These ‘covid-recovery’ projects have been made possible thanks to Neighbourhood Network Scheme grants.
Suze says, “Our latest project in Quinton is a partnership with The Patchwork Meadow, a small environmental charity and Edgbaston NNS. In fact, it was Deb Ufton who connected us! We are running a ‘sewing’ and ‘sowing’ project which has almost 40 stitchers, aged 50+ using embroidery to sew wildflower designs each month for collaborative artworks which will form a public art trail next Easter. At the same time we are also sowing wildflower seeds to brighten up Quinton’s green and not so green spaces. So far we have planted meadows in the Toby Carvery car park and in the communal garden at Moat Meadows Retirement Housing complex as well as in the stitch team’s gardens. We’ll be doing more sowing across the area again in March next year. It is a really fun and friendly project, and two groups are meeting at Quinton Library and Toby Carvery as well as keeping in contact in a WhatsApp group”. We have received such a warm welcome from the staff at these venues and are grateful to the Library for also offering their space so that stitchers can meet up to sew together at other times.
Alison, founder of The Patchwork Meadow says, “We have planted 1,750 square metres of meadow to date across the city and counting! We are really enjoying working on the Quinton Metre Meadow Project with Woolly Mammoth.”
Suze continues, “After the last 18 months, it’s so wonderful to see people sitting together, chatting, laughing and sewing. Friendships are forming, people are getting more confident about being out and about, and in their sewing abilities, and green shoots can be seen emerging through the earth, promising colourful meadow areas in the future. It’s been a really excellent project to work on, and we can’t wait to see what we can all create together”.
Across Birmingham, the city’s Early Help system is still giving thousands of families and children vital help and support. Below, you can read the story of just one of those families.
What is Early Help?
Originally set up by Birmingham Children’s Partnership as part of their COVID-19 response, the Early Help system allows teachers, social workers, housing workers (and others) to refer families and young adults to one of ten specialist teams based across the city. These Early Help teams work with families to find out what they need, and then give them extra support, including emergency food and financial help.
In Edgbaston, where many families are living in temporary accommodation, including hotels, the Early Help service is led by Gateway Family Services. We have worked with nearly 400 families since the service began last year, providing food parcels, emergency funds, and connections to local services that can offer longer term help.
Case study: the Maier family*
The Maier family were referred to Early Help Edgbaston by a Barnado’s housing worker in the summer of 2021. Dad Denis, mum Maria and their teenage son Stefan* were living in temporary accommodation – a single room at a hotel – and although they were receiving help from Barnado’s, the housing worker felt that they needed further support.
The referral indicated that the family’s status is ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF), meaning that they are subject to immigration control and can’t claim any mainstream benefits or housing help. The housing worker had also mentioned they were short of food, and that there were health issues, although it wasn’t clear at first what this meant.
A member of the Early Help team called the family to find out more and, although Denis had very limited English, they managed to get a better picture of what was happening.
Denis explained that he had moved to the UK from Romania a couple of years ago. Upon arrival, he had successfully applied for a National Insurance Number and started working at construction sites, and was joined by wife Maria and 18-year-old Stefan at the start of 2021. He also mentioned that Stefan is disabled and that Maria looks after him at home.
However, soon after the family’s arrival, things had taken a turn for the worse.
Denis’s National Insurance number had been used by someone else illegally, and this, combined with the language barrier, made it very difficult to apply for settled status. Having missed their chance, the family were left with No Recourse to Public Funds.
What’s more, Denis had been injured, meaning he was no longer able to work, and Maria was now caring for both her son and her husband. During the conversation, Denis expressed a lot of concern for his wife and mentioned that she was suffering from back pain. It took some digging before we realised that Stefan is severely physically disabled, but didn’t have a wheelchair. Maria had been carrying him around the hotel room.
The Early Help Edgbaston team jumped into action, making referrals to various health services for Denis and Maria, and to the council’s Occupational Health service for Stefan so that he could be assessed for a wheelchair. They also referred Denis to the Community Law Centre for support with his legal challenge for National Insurance fraud. Finally, they arranged food parcels and some emergency funds. At this stage, the family felt they were getting all they help they needed so, with their consent, the case was closed.
In September, however, the Maiers were re-referred, this time by someone from the Big Issue legal support team. Although Denis is making a legal appeal, with help from the Central Law Society, the family still needs a bit more help. So Early Help Edgbaston is now working with local charity Karis to deliver a joined-up community support package. Early Help Edgbaston is part of Gateway Family Services, which has a family support worker and access to interpreters, who will help build a much clearer assessment of the family’s needs. Together, they will help the Maiers to access further help with housing and finance, as well as linking in with existing GP support.
If you are a family in need of support, or an organisation helping families in the Edgbaston locality, please visit the Early Help Edgbaston pages on our website, call Early Help Edgbaston on 0121 456 7821 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to our team.
*All the family’s names have been changed
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme newsletter goes out to members every two months, and we’re delighted to report that it now includes the latest news from ENNS’s sister service, Early Help Edgbaston.
Early Help is the Birmingham Children’s Partnership model of connected support for families and children across Birmingham. In Edgbaston, this work is led by Gateway Family Services, and so the team naturally works closely with the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme.
In each edition of the ENNS newsletter, we showcase great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency. So for this issue, we asked the Early Help team to get involved – and they told us all about the Love Your Neighbour food bank.
Love Your Neighbour helps Early Help Edgbaston to reach more families
By Marc Baggott, Edgbaston Early Help Coordinator
Love Your Neighbour, part of Gas Street Church, started out as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I asked Martha Goshawk, the Love Your Neighbour Co-ordinator, to explain how the project started.
“As a church we wanted to play our part in our local community and provide practical support,” Martha says. “We started small; delivering emergency food parcels and providing a telephone befriending service. Since then we have grown and expanded our work and reach and now run a foodbank, provide a financial advocacy service, have opened a CAP Debt Centre and CAP Job Club and work with children and families. We’re also just about to open our food pantry called The Community Shop, and a new cafe and soft play centre. In all we do, we want to bring light and hope to the city and that’s what Love Your Neighbour is all about.”
I first learnt about the Love Your Neighbour Foodbank just after Christmas. The start of the new year is when lots of Early Help clients have food needs, partly because families tend to spend what little they have at Christmas, but mainly because support services are reduced over the holiday period. I met Martha at the Food Justice Network meeting, and she helped Edgbaston Early Help to register so that we could distribute food parcels through their food bank.
Since then, we have come to rely on Love Your Neighbour and the Gas Street St. Luke’s team. As well as helping us to meet the most urgent needs – distributing food to families living in temporary accommodation in Edgbaston and Harborne – we have been able to expand on our collaborative work by helping to deliver Family Fun Sessions directly to families.
Martha explains, “Recently we’ve loved going into the Cobden Hotel and running craft sessions for children and families currently living there. From painting and bracelet making, to making vast quantities of slime and hundreds of biscuits, we’ve loved getting to know people, spread the word about Love Your Neighbour and just having fun! One girl described it as “the best day ever” and we couldn’t ask for a better report than that!”
I totally agree with Martha that the craft activities were very impactful – the families were engaged and happy to be part of something. It’s a great example of how we can build on our connections to reach more families and provide wider support. I hope Early Help can continue to work with Martha and the team on future projects.
For more information about the Love Your Neighbour project, visit the Gas Street Church website.
If you’d like to subscribe to the Edgbaston NNS and Early Help newsletter, and get it straight to your inbox every two months, simply fill in your details on the newsletter signup page.
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network is here to help all of Edgbaston’s community assets with everything from grants and funding applications to networking and promotion. That’s why Community Connectors Deb and Natalie are always on the lookout for new community projects to meet, learn from, and support! Every two months, they speak to one of our assets in depth and feature them in the the ENNS Newsletter. (You may remember the Sar Ramz Cooking Club from our December newsletter and Digikick from February.)
For the April newsletter, Deb and Natalie visited a new food pantry in Quinton.
Focus on Assets: Your Local Pantry
By Deb Ufton and Natalie Tichareva
For the last month, the Haven Centre and B32 Community CIC have been working behind the scenes to launch a food pantry, called ‘Your Local Pantry’. So we went along on a sunny Friday afternoon to find out more!
The Haven Centre is run by Rachel and her husband Simon, with a small team of staff and volunteers, and was already the first port of call for many local people who needed support or advice. However, when Covid hit, the team realised it was an opportunity to show the community that they were there for them. As Rachel said, “we couldn’t close the doors on people when they needed us the most”. So, for the last year, the activities and support the Haven offers have changed and grown according to local people’s needs.
Realising that there was an increased need for food, Rachel and Simon got together with Kerry and Becky from another popular Quinton community group, B32 Community CIC, and came up with the idea of a food pantry, to be based at the Haven Centre. They contacted Shabir Jivraj, Project Officer for the national organisation ‘Your Local Pantry’, and he helped them to set up.
The ‘pantry’ model enables people to access help by becoming members and paying a very small amount for food: for £4.50, members receive shopping worth between £20 and £30. The idea is to make sure no-one feels any sense of shame in accessing the essentials they need.
Your Local Pantry at the Haven has been running quietly behind the scenes for the last few Fridays, but now Rachel, Simon, Kerry and Becky hope that more people in the community who need help with food will sign up and become pantry members.
When we went along, pantry staff and volunteers from the Haven and B32 Community had created a welcoming environment for visitors, with Bob Marley playing on the radio and all who entered being offered a drink and a chat before accessing the pantry.
A local resident told us, “It’s a great thing! I came down during lockdown and it’s really helped. I love it so much, I’ve brought my mom too.”
It’s obvious that Your Local Pantry is a perfect complement for the other activities held at the Haven. The atmosphere at the Centre is happy and peaceful, and there’s something for everyone. In-person meetups of the long-established Older Adults Group, Youth Club, and Women’s Group are slowly being re-introduced; last week the Haven held a Stay and Play and this week they’re going to have a ‘pop up lunch’ at the Pantry.
Jade, who works at Your Local Pantry at the Haven, told us, “Work doesn’t feel like work. I first started to come to the Haven through the Women’s Group, and I really enjoyed it so I became a volunteer.”
From volunteering, Jade then became a member of staff, something which has helped her build confidence and recognise her skills. “Before I found the Haven I was in such a bad place, but I didn’t really realise I was in a bad place,” she says, “and I can see that in many of the people we help.”
We loved visiting Your Local Pantry and think it’s a great initiative, so we hope lots of people in the Edgbaston Neighbourhood community will sign up as members and make the most of it.
Your Local Pantry will be available on Fridays, 12 – 2pm, at the Haven, on Rilstone Road in Quinton. For more information, and details on how to sign up, contact the Haven Centre on 0121 681 0388, or simply keep your eyes peeled on social media – visit the Haven Centre on Facebook or B32 Community CIC on Facebook.
St. Germain’s Church and the Emergency Supplies Grant
This is our second blog post highlighting the impact of the Emergency Assistance Grant which is being distributed by the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme and the Heart of England Community Foundation.
Last time, we looked at how Home from Hospital Care helped ‘Brian’ by sending him free tailored food parcels.
This week, it’s the turn of St. Germain’s church who are using the money to run their community ‘Food Hub’.
St. Germain’s Community Food Hub
The church’s Food Hub uses donations to provide fresh meals and food parcels for people in Edgbaston. Each week, volunteers collect clothing and enough food for 300 meals. An Emergency Assistance Grant has allowed St Germain’s to pay their expenses.
With more money, the Food Hub have also been able to run a debt and benefits advice service, which Les Allan, St. Germain’s Operations Manager, says has been able to ‘lift the whole person up’.
Les applied for the grant in January 2021 describing the process as ‘straight forward’- adding that he loved the fact you can save your progress as you go!
He also praised Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme’s support, whose community connectors met with him over Zoom to offer hints and tips on how to focus his application.
‘The funding came just in the nick of time’, Les said, highlighting that the quick turn around between the application and receiving the money allowed St. Germain’s to keep the service running.
Les explained the impact it has, mentioning Nadia (not her real name), who had been using the Hub since the summer to feed both herself and her son who was not very well. The Food Hub has done a 360, Les explained, where Nadia is now back on her feet and even volunteering in the kitchen.
It has ‘been a very difficult year for our community’ Les noted, ‘but, thanks to this funding, our service will be able to continue supporting them.’
Funding is still available for groups and projects similar to St. Germain’s and Home from Hospital Care’s. If you are interested, get in touch with Marc Baggott at M.Baggott@gatewayfs.org to find out more. Deadline for applications is 23/4/21 (noon).
Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme has been working with the Heart of England Community Foundation, supporting Edgbaston’s response to COVID-19 in distributing the ‘Emergency Food and Assistance’ grant.
‘Home from Hospital Care’, is one such charity who have received this grant. The team are using it to provide food and fuel vouchers to those discharged from hospital and living in Edgbaston.
Dawn, Fundraising Officer at Home from Hospital Care, made the application which she says she found easy, complimenting the website and support from their local NNS development worker.
One month after the application, Home from Hospital Care had received the funding, and were able start helping people.
‘It’s going pretty well so far’, says Rosalind Ejenavi, Fundraiser at Home from Hospital Care. The grant has allowed them to support two more people in Edgbaston in the last two weeks.
Brian (not his real name) was discharged from hospital into temporary accommodation after deteriorating health issues alongside his contraction of COVID-19. However, he has quite complex needs, including an eating disorder, and financial difficulties.
Thanks to the extra funding, Home from Hospital Care has been able to provide Brian with free, tailored food parcels. The fact they cost him nothing and allowed him to choose what he received has been, as Rosalind puts it, a ‘lifeline for him’.
Brian now feels less worried whilst he recovers from COVID-19 and is being supported in making longer term support and accommodation plans.
‘COVID has made people feel so anxious about how they are going to meet their basic needs’ Rosalind noted, who said she hoped this grant would give people the ‘sense that there is support there’.
Funding is still available for groups in Edgbaston and Northfield, with the extended deadline for applications now falling on the 23rd April 2021. Contact Marc Baggott at M.Baggott@gatewayfs.org to find out more on how to apply, and what guidance Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme can provide.
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme, which launched last year, has a bi-monthly newsletter for members, which you can subscribe to here. In each edition of the newsletter, we’ll be showcasing great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency.
For the February issue, Community Connector Deb Ufton spoke to DigiKick, a Community Interest Company that helps people to get online and to feel more comfortable using technology.
Focus on Assets: DigiKick
By Deb Ufton
The Covid-19 Pandemic has seen us all having to social distance, isolate, shield and work from home. It’s seen us having to move support to telephone calls and online groups and adapt to new ways of living. It has increased the need to access online resources and it has highlighted the digital literacy gaps in communities.
For one local asset, 2020 was definitely a year of learning and adapting. DigiKick has seen so many more communities and groups of people that need this support – more than they previously would have thought: older people, school children, jobseekers, migrants and carers to name but a few – some of whom were alone because they didn’t know how to access the internet or didn’t have the device or internet connection needed.
Who exactly are DigiKick and where did it all start?
I caught up with one half of the dynamic duo to find out how they came to be and what they’re doing in the community.
One’s a local girl from Quinton, with a passion for community and young people; the other is an energetic lad from Somerset with a passion for bringing people together. Together, they are the founders of DigiKick.
Sair Reading and Chris Laband met nine years ago and spent a few years as work colleagues. A few years later they had a random coffee catch-up to put the world to rights; both were frustrated at what was happening in their local areas and looking for a greater sense of purpose in their work lives.
They put their heads together to see if there was something they could do to help change that and within four hours they had started a Community Interest Company. Although at the time, they had no idea what it was going to do, or what they were doing; they believed they could bring something positive and exciting to the table. Since 2017, DigiKick have been delivering fun, friendly internet access projects helping people become more confident and safe online and learn internet skills they can use every day.
Sair said, “It wasn’t planned how it worked out. Our original ideas were aimed at younger people, but the more time went on we saw there was an issue affecting people of every age. It was loneliness. In 2018, loneliness was more dangerous than obesity, and we could only see the problem getting worse. So many people and so many communities were disconnected and alone, but didn’t need to be.
“Chris and I are ‘Inbetweeners’; we know what it is like to grow up playing in parks and fields with friends, but we also grew up alongside technology and the internet. We felt connected in that way and confident we could access the things we needed to. There is a benefit to using the internet and if we could help people feel confident online, fewer people would feel lonely. We needed to find out what people wanted, so we set up a table in Costa Coffee in Longbridge and invited people to come and talk to us – and our very first customers were 77 and 82. We started from there and never looked back! It’s been an adventure, and hopefully it’s just the beginning.”
In February, they started running two projects in the Edgbaston constituency: Tea and T’Internet in Bartley Green and Tea and T’Internet in Quinton.
Natalie and I (the ENNS Community Connectors) have both popped online to join sessions. I went to the Quinton session, where I found hosts Lewis and Emily (pictured) to be welcoming and friendly from the start. They’d previously had a few one-to-one sessions with each of the participants, to make sure they had the skills and confidence to get online and this was the first ‘group’ gathering.
The theme of the session was “Scams”, and the team took us through the key points on how to recognise and avoid scam websites and emails and keep ourselves safe online – which we can all agree is a very useful skill to learn, especially with the increase of online scams during Covid 19. The session ended with a game of hangman, digital themed, and I left the group confident that anyone that joins in with a DigiKick group can feel comfortable meeting other people from their own community; learn new, practical, internet skills, and feel confident they’re in control. (Thanks for inviting me to the group, guys!)
It’s not just the participants that get something out of the sessions either:Lewis, one of DigiKick’s Digital Engagement Officers, said he loves watching the sessions develop and that the group gives him a place to have fun whilst they all learn.
Sair had this to say: “Chris and I are #tooproud of the participants and the teams in the Bartley Green and Quinton Tea and T’Internet Projects. The Team: Lewis, Effy, Emily and Yorda, feed back with stories and ideas for the next sessions. We have some fabulous characters in the projects; who keep the team busy with questions, jokes and new things to learn each week. The individuals are leaving the sessions feeling confident, connected and happier. It would be fair to say we are overjoyed with the feedback.”
When asked if they had any advice for other assets in the community, Sair said, “We have had a brilliant time pulling together with some other organisations. Referring people to other projects is one of the best things we get to do! Hosting other organisations in our sessions and sharing what else is available has been helpful to the assets and to the participants. NNS have been a joy to work with! They are able to connect to their community in a way that DigiKick can’t. As experts of their community NNS have connected us with links to other organisations and to participants, which has only made the projects better. We look forward to our continued work together, to create new projects that support more people.”
We at Edgbaston NNS are looking forward to future projects with DigiKick too. Through our micro grant scheme, we have already funded three assets to attend a small DigiKick focus group which helped them to develop and update their website and social media presence. We are also looking to fund workshops for up to twelve people in “How to use/ better use spreadsheets”, “marketing your group” and “how to use zoom as a host”. If you are interested in joining a focus group or workshop, please contact your ENNS Community Connectors: me (Deb) at email@example.com, or Natalie, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since Early Help Edgbaston started in May 2020, our team has directly supported 340 families to access services, receive emergency funds and get back on their feet during the pandemic. This didn’t stop over the Christmas period, when our Early Help team worked hard to make sure that Edgbaston families facing the added strains of winter were supported.
On 16th December two of our Community Connectors, Justin Hinton and Deborah Ufton, worked with Lorraine Lane from Birmingham Forward Steps Edgbaston, and Hannah Brooman at InUnity, to deliver gifts from the Birmingham Forward Steps shoebox appeal. They delivered 190 toys to children staying in temporary accommodation on the Hagley Road, making sure that each child who asked for a toy got one.
Later in December, Gateway’s Early Help Co-ordinator Marc Baggott collaborated with Tesco Hagley Road to put together 35 Christmas hampers to be delivered to families. Together they assembled 15 hampers full of Christmas dinner and all the trimmings, as well as 20 grocery hampers of non-perishable goods, so that even those without cooking facilities would have enough food over the festive period.
Gateway staff from across our services — Jemma Abbott, Adwoa Owusu-Barnieh, Justin Hinton, Abeda Begum and Anita Ward — all helped to deliver the hampers to Edgbaston families.
The families receiving these gifts seemed very grateful, with one mother saying “Thank you so much. You don’t know what this means to me and my kids”. The Early Help Edgbaston team were able to provide practical support to families by listening to their needs and collaborating with others.
— Gateway Family Services CIC (@Gateway_FS) December 23, 2020
The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network (ENNS) supports older people in Birmingham connect with others in their local neighbourhood, and is led by Gateway, together with Age UK Birmingham. So our ENNS Community Connectors are always on the lookout to find great community work and learn from it, as well as helping them with whatever they need, from funding applications to networking. Every two months we feature one of our “assets” – the activity and community groups in Edgbaston who are doing great things for the neighbourhood.
One inspiring group has been working hard over the last year, in the face of Covid-19, to support its community by running a Virtual Cooking Club. The Sar Ramz cooking club developed out of the Edgbaston Multicultural Community Group, led by Nadima Vasi, and provides recipes, tutorials and much needed social support to the Edgbaston community.
Community Connector Natalie spoke to Nadima to hear more about how she used the Sar Ramz Cooking Club to bring people together, and you can read her report below.
For more stories and updates about our Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme, and to find out how we can support local assets like Sar Ramz, please subscribe to the ENNS newsletter by clicking this link.
From Cooking Club to Virtual Cooking Community
By Natalie Tichareva
In early 2020 Nadima, who runs the Multicultural Community Group based at Edgbaston Community Centre, received a grant from the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme to run a series of cooking classes, which she called Sar Ramz Cooking Club.
Sadly, soon after receiving the grant, COVID-19 hit the UK and the social distancing restrictions meant that the cooking classes were unable to go ahead in person. Undeterred, Nadima began to contact people in her group to check on their wellbeing, and started to think through ways she could adapt her activity to keep the Sar Ramz Cooking Club going.
The Multicultural Community Group already had an active WhatsApp group for members so, instead of hosting cooking classes in person, Nadima began to post cooking tutorials and recipes onto WhatsApp for Sar Ramz members: the Sar Ramz Virtual Cooking Club.
These tutorials were incredibly popular. Soon, other members began following Nadima’s recipes, sharing their own, and taking part in tutorials through WhatsApp video calls.
Throughout the first lockdown, the Sar Ramz Virtual Cooking Club grew from strength to strength. Now, it’s much more than a cooking club; it’s a thriving WhatsApp community, bringing people together through a shared love of food, culture and inclusion. Through the Sar Ramz WhatsApp group, Nadima also hosts weekly quizzes and prayer nights, and hosts virtual celebrations for members to observe religious and cultural events.
With Birmingham currently under Tier 3 Coronavirus restrictions, there are no plans to put the group, which has been an important social support for many, on pause. As Nadima says, “COVID19 has changed our lives and we will always be more alert about how we live and approach people, but I feel this has brought people closer, we value and appreciate each other more.”
Going forward the Edgbaston NNS team will be working with the Sar Ramz Cooking Club to support it with applications to our small grants and micro-grant funds. We would like to thank our colleagues at Ageing Better Birmingham for introducing us to Nadima and her wonderful group.