This Thursday @ Honor Oak Community Centre: Inclusive Cycling

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Come along to Honor Oak Community Centre, This Thursday from 2 – 4 pm to try out some inclusive cycling. There will be a range of bikes for all different abilities including two-seater side-by-side and handcycles. The event is free to attend and there will be information on hand about other similar sessions that take place in Lewisham. So why not come and have a go?

Post by Henry

 

 

Caught on Camera

Here is a video of Henry and I visiting the Lewisham Speaking Up ‘Big Parliament’ a few weeks ago at The Albany. We were asked to come and talk to the members about what the Community Connections Project is about and ask people to spread the word. We prepared a presentation in which we sought to give an overview of all the many activities that community groups and organisations offer in Lewisham, but the list was so big that we only had time to mention a few.

During the presentation we talked about groups that we have got to know and all the great work they do, as well as being able to talk about clients that we have already worked with that are now able to access activities and hobbies that they enjoy. We also asked people to challenge us to find new skills or activities that they would like to learn, so that we can continue to make new links in the Lewisham community.

I was very nervous but luckily everyone was friendly and welcoming and we were able to really enjoy talking about what Community Connections does and what we hope it can do for people in Lewisham in the future. Working on the presentation even gave me a chance to realise just how much I have learnt in the short time I have been working in the team.

We hoped that we would be able to get people interested in finding out what’s going on locally to them and we were very pleased when we received referrals after the presentation. We are hoping to get the opportunity to present to as many groups and clubs as possible so we can tell everyone about the good work that’s going on in Lewisham for people to get active, socialise, volunteer, maybe even access employment or simply learn new skills.

Post by Sam Farinha

Wheels for Wellbeing

 

I heard about ‘Wheels for Wellbeing’ from my colleague Henry, he was really enthusiastic about this project so I thought I’d give it shot. ‘Wheels for Wellbeing’ aim to make cycling accessible for everyone; they do this by providing an array of adapted cycles and intriguing contraptions! I asked a client of mine, James, whether he’d like to try it out. We were both a little unsure of what this activity would be like as James uses an electric wheelchair most of the time. When we arrived we saw that there was a wide choice of bicycles. We used a ‘Velo Plus Wheelchair bike’ the cyclist sits behind the wheelchair user, who sits securely in the front.

Click here to see a video!

This was an interesting experience for both of us and it was surprisingly easy to ride. We saw that there were people of various abilities using the bikes. One of the most interesting bikes was the ‘Handcycle’. This bike can be utilised by those who cannot use their legs. I tried it out, it’s good fun and is definitely a great arm workout! James was interested in trying out the ‘Handcycle’ in the future to build up his strength. James felt that he’d prefer to do this activity outdoors, ‘Wheels for Wellbeing’ have told us that they plan to do just that in Ladywell, Lewisham, once the weather picks up. I would strongly recommend this activity for anyone who’d like to get back into cycling or just try something a little different. It’s also a good chance to socialise and meet new people in your local area. This activity takes place each Tuesdays 12-1pm at Ladywell Day Centre.

Post by Rosa Parker

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An Event and a Half!

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The Community Connections launch aimed to increase awareness of this innovative voluntary consortia led project which aims to support Lewisham residents to increase their health and well-being using community based solutions.

The project launch was an opportunity to highlight the successes achieved so far. For example, MT had was socially isolated due to health issues that forced her to leave her job. Our facilitators who work with clients supported MT to access activities and increase her social interaction with the community.

“Your professional support is so valuable, it is allowing me to be more confident and to look forward to doing activities.”
M T – Client

With feedback like this – we had to share!

Attendees came from all over Lewisham and the surrounding areas to find out more about the project, its clients and how Community Connections could support them.
Our keynote speaker, Professor Marjorie Mayo from Goldsmiths, University of London shared her experiences of “Integration and Citizenship” projects in Lewisham and how inspired she was by the potential of Community Connections to reduce unmet needs and increase individual participation.

Jacky Bourke-White, the CEO of Age UK Lewisham and Southwark and Tom Nixon, Project Worker from Voluntary Centre Lewisham were other important speakers. We also heard from one of the organisations that has benefited from working with one of our Community Development Workers (to read more about this piece of work click here)

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A special thank you goes to our client speakers; Glory and Chris. They shared with the audience how Community Connections has allowed them to meet new people, share their interests and skills and grow in confidence. Their input was one of the highlights of the day.

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There were a number of organisations who ran stalls at the launch:
Communites that Care Lewisham which includes:
Access Lewisham
Heart n Soul
Meet me at the Albany
Rushey Green Time
Sydenham Garden
Their website is: http://lewishamctc.co.uk/index.php

There were also stalls from the Lewisham Direct Payment Team and Healthwatch Lewisham. Their website links are below:

Direct Payment Team:  http://www.lewishammylifemychoice.org.uk/
Healthwatch Lewisham:  www.healthwatchlewisham.co.uk

There were also workshops around key issues that affect the project and voluntary organisations in Lewisham. The areas covered were:

  •  How can we reach vulnerable adults in the community?
  •  How to increase volunteering and volunteering opportunities
  •  Developing sustainable community transport links for Lewisham

You can still join these discussions online by clicking here:

If you would like to find out how you or your organisation could get involved with Community Connections get in touch using the ‘Contact’ tab above.

Post by Noreen

5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

This is just a quick post to let you know about the Community Connections Launch Event on Thursday the 27th March 2014 from 12:00 to 15:00 in the Civic Suite in Catford, SE6 4RU.  There will be a good mix of speakers including Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus Professor of Community Development at Goldsmiths and Jacky Bourke-White, CEO of Age UK Lewisham and Southwark.  There will also be some workshops on reaching out to vulnerable people, volunteering and sustainable transport solutions, and a chance to meet some people we’ve been working with and supporting in the Borough.

A light lunch will be provided and there will be opportunity to network with other providers. Check out the flyer for the event for more info:

Community_Connections_Launch Flyer

Please come along if you can make it and would like to know more about the project and the people involved.  You can sign up via Eventbrite here.  We hope to see lots of you there!

Post by Henry

 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller

On the morning of Saturday 8 March 2014 the Practice Patient Group (PPG) held the inaugural South Lewisham Health Centre Health and Well Being community event. This was held at the South Lewisham Health Centre.

At a very early stage in the planning process the PPG decided that ‘collaboration’ would be the key theme of the event. And in a spirit of collaboration the Community Connections Community Development worker for the South Eastern cluster (Trevor Pybus) had the opportunity to work closely with the South Lewisham Health Centre Patient group to help deliver the event. 

A series of outcomes for the event were developed; these included increasing the current health information held at the South Lewisham Health Centre for patients and the wider community and, importantly, to share the learning from the event.

A draft plan setting out the potential best use of the waiting room space was drawn up. Over twenty different community services applied to have information stalls at the Health and Well being event. The variety and breadth of organisations that were willing to participate was outstanding; new and old, small and large; all applied and were welcomed.  The PPG supplied a unique opportunity for these very different organisations to network with staff from the Health centre. Local people along with the South Lewisham team of Doctors engaged in a very informal dialog. People quickly found out more about the very different community based services.  

An unplanned outcome of the day was the potential for community partners to have information stalls available during the centres opening hours.  

The day was an excellent example of how the Community Connections project is trying to embed the key concept of co-production in the development of public services. The day helped especially toward increasing community capacity. The informal approach untaken will hopefully lead into improved user and carer experience of services. And the use of PPG will help toward the acknowledgement that the citizen has a vital role in achieving positive outcomes from public services.

I look forward to letting you have a copy of the final report!

Trevor Pybus

Community Development Worker

At First I Was Afraid, I Was Petrified…

Those two lines from the famous song certainly summed up how Angela felt when she first met me and I’m not that scary I promise…..

Y’see Angela moved to London last year from her native Devon and aside from her sister who lives on the other side of Lewisham, did not know a soul. She practically never left her flat, certainly not alone.

When I first met Angela, in the company of her sister, she barely spoke two words to me. I persevered and after my next visit, Angela seemed more comfortable with me. What I discovered was that Angela was incredibly lonely. She later told me that back then she had felt “lost, unhappy and very depressed”

I suggested that Angela may like to attend a local lunch group that meet every Friday called “Friendship Fridays”. I had been to the club previously and the lady that runs it (Jackie) is extremely friendly and makes everyone feel welcome.  Angela agreed to give it a try and so I agreed to escort her there on the bus the following week.

Angela was extremely “scared and nervous” on her first visit to Friendship Fridays. She wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t expect anybody to talk to her let alone make new friends. However, she couldn’t have got a warmer welcome from Jackie and the team. I stayed with Angela throughout the stay and by the end she was laughing and joking. I asked her if she’d like to return the following week. Her reply was:

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world”

Since then, there has been no stopping Angela. Not only does she attend the club every Friday – by taking the bus alone (something she had never done previously) she now goes shopping alone and even visited her sister on the train. Her sister is delighted in the change in Angela and they have both thanked Community Connections for all their help and support.

And that’s not all. Angela has asked me to pass on her details to the Volunteer Centre Lewisham as she would now like to help other people out, after all… What goes around, comes around.

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Happy Angela

By Fay Russell-Clark

Surviving, Striving, Thriving?

Two weeks ago I went to a conference hosted by the Centre for Community Engagement Research at Goldsmiths University. It was called “Communities surviving, striving, thriving? A day of dialogue and action.”
One of the most thought provoking moments of the day for me came right at the start when Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters offered up a thoughtful and engaging critique of multiculturalism and multifaithism. Her objections to these movements were centred on how they can have a homogenising effect on minority communities; allowing people to check the “we are being inclusive” box by referring to “the Muslim community” or “the Somali community”, for example. It is of course important to recognise the existence of these communities, to be able to work with them and include them in discussions and actions that will affect them just as they affect the wider population. But it is this repeated reference to “them” to which Pragna objects. As if “they” are a homogenous lot and “their” views can be represented by individual (usually religious) community leaders. It was, in a way, a plea for a wider recognition of intersectionality. The recognition that, in essence, people are not just members of the ethnic and religious communities they are (usually) born into, but that their identities are far more complex and they will themselves identify with several different communities at once and, most importantly, that this will have effects that cannot easily be broken down into their constituent parts.

We also heard from a number of other panelists including Mat Danaher from the Unison trade union whose impassioned call for people to restore faith and renew support for the trade union movement was warmly received and former young mayor of Lewisham Jacob Sakil in a day that managed to encompass a heated debate on food banks alongside workshops on the effective use of music as a means to engage with communities and on what the concept of democracy means to communities. There was even an agreement to take immediate action to address the problem of homelessness within the student population at Goldsmiths.

A running theme throughout the day and one that is most relevant to our work in Community Connections was the need to build more resilience and strengthen bonds in communities. It is a common reaction to the world we are presented with in 2014 which is characterised to a large extent by the disappearance of those links between people that once bred the kind of mutual support that we are struggling to provide to our ageing population. A world that Zygmunt Bauman calls “Liquid Modernity”. Crucially though, our attempts in the voluntary sector to reinvigorate communities are not (and should not be) just nostalgic calls for the solidarity of bygone eras, lest we reinforce the homogenising effects referred to above. Instead we must strive to celebrate the complexity that exists within us all, recognise each other as assets, and offer up support that blurs the lines drawn up by this well-intentioned drive to tolerance we call multiculturalism.

Post by Henry

100% Great!

Mr. W, a gentleman of 74, was referred to Community Connections in December 2013 by Lewisham Council. I was assigned as his Community Support Facilitator. Around the same time Lewisham Council’s social services were working very hard to support Mr. W after some time spent in hospital. The Holy Cross church in Catford has also been wonderful in the support they have offered him. Holy Cross bring communion to Mr. W.’s home, they also brought him hot meals throughout the winter and are encouraging him to attend social events at their church.

I worked with Mr. W between December 2013 and February 2014. In this time Mr W. and I explored what kinds of activities would improve his life. I also spent time encouraging Mr. W. to take care of himself and his home.

Mr W. loves football and socialising, he also likes to go to the local cafe for breakfast. I linked him up with Age UK Lewisham and Southwark End Loneliness Project. This project provides befrienders to visit people who are feeling isolated. A befriender was provided for Mr. W., who likes football and also loves to socialise, so that have plenty of common interests! This befriender is hoping to arrange a Men’s social group in the future. Mr. W. expressed that he was very enthusiastic about this prospect. He also told me that he’ll soon be introducing his befriender to his favourite café!

During the follow up visit Mr. W stated that he felt a lot better and also felt that he was more active and had met more people. Mr. W. looked in really good health and he said that he was feeling well. He had improved drastically since December. When asked about his befriender Mr. W, said that he was “a smashing bloke.” He felt that the input from Community Connections, Holy Cross Church and Lewisham council had improved his life. I asked Mr. W. if there was anything else he would like to add about the Community Connections project, he replied “you’re just 100% great.” This case is a really positive example of how Community Connections can work in partnership with other agencies to enhance the wellbeing of an individual. This is also an excellent case of organisations working in an integrated manner. I look forward to reporting upon many more cases like this!

Post by Rosa Parker, Community Support Facilitator

Happy Valentine’s Data

Call me an old romantic if you will, but I like nothing more than trawling through a good old data set on Valentine’s day.  There’s a simple reason for this and that is that good service delivery needs to be evidence based; nothing says “I love you” quite like developing services that actually address the well evidenced needs and desires of local people and capitalise fully on local resources.  Evidence and data in this sense are interchangeable.  A record of the fact that we have an empty community hall on Friday mornings is data, as is knowledge of a nascent voluntary group looking for a venue (hopefully you can see where this is going).  A more traditional conception of data is perhaps represented in this table derived from the 2011 census data which gives reported general health by ethnic group in Lewisham.  All three could be put to good use in developing a new service with a health-focus for the local community.

As a Community Development Worker, access to data and its effective interpretation and implementation are of paramount importance to me as a I go about my work.  But I want to stress that this doesn’t mean sitting down in front of spreadsheets all day long – it also means going out and visiting groups and venues, putting faces to email addresses and gaining a thorough and human understanding of who is working to deliver services, what their motivations and visions are, and how they go about it.

Between these two extremes there is a wealth of information available for free and presented in intuitive and accessible formats that can help people who are thinking about services and service delivery to work effectively.  This ward atlas by http://data.london.gov.uk/ is a great example.  A few clicks and you can generate a map of Lewisham indicating the population density of the over-65 age group:

lewishamwards65plus

(Note how the density increases gradually from the north to the south of the borough).

You can imagine for yourself how this kind of information could be put to use by a local authority or by local people working to support each other.  Powerful, wouldn’t you say?

We also live in the era of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) produced by Local Authorities in conjunction with local NHS bodies and by which many priorities in terms of funding and commissioning of services are set.  Anyone thinking about a new service or developing an existing one would be foolish to ignore their local JSNA and the local priorities identified therein.  Having said that the priorities identified in the JSNA in Lewisham are wide ranging and could be interpreted to include almost any illnesses (“reduce the number of emergency admissions for people with chronic long term conditions”  and “improve mental health and wellbeing” are just 2 of the 9 priorities in Lewisham) – so organisations looking for funding can and should be considering how their projected outcomes fit in with these priorities.

And yes, here at Community Connections we are generating our own data sets.  Most interesting will be the work our facilitators have been doing to uncover the most significant unmet needs in the borough (see my previous post: Could you be a befriender? – and there will be more to come) but also on the development side of the project we are working towards developing maps like this that give a broad overview of services in one corner of the borough.

So what sources of data do you use that I could access?  Is there anything else available in Lewisham?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Post by Henry