As a remote national membership organisation, connecting with others in person throughout the year is a vital part of our engagement. It enables opportunities for voices to be heard, ideas to flourish, trust to build, and collaboration to continue across the UKCF team and throughout our wider network.
“For the UKCF team, having the opportunity to see the members in action is wonderful – we get to know each other and see the important work they are doing in their regions.”
- Rosemary Macdonald, CEO at UKCF
In the first week of March, the UKCF team visited Coventry in central England – a region that is supported by the Heart of England Community Foundation. Our purpose? To gain further insights into the delivery of local funds, and to identify and learn about the current challenges community groups and charities are facing post-pandemic.
UKCF visited five different organisations that are doing a phenomenal job in their local areas:
St Basils is a youth homelessness charity that provides accommodation for 16- to 25-year-olds. This can be in emergency form or longer-term support. They provide life skills training and employment support to progress into better, independent living.
“This is the place where young people will be supported as they enter adulthood, to learn the skills needed to live independently. For young people near the point of crisis, this is the vital support that they need to be safe and begin developing their adult lives.”
- Laura Cameron Long, Revitalising Trusts Programme Manager at UKCF
Watch is a charity that provides employment training and life skills for asylum seekers and refugees who wish to benefit from this support. The charity runs a culturally diverse and accessible community radio station, Hillz FM, that runs 24/7 and is managed completely by members of the community. Despite having to close its doors throughout the pandemic, Watch provided food vouchers and medicine to people, and maintained phone conversations with those who lacked digital equipment at home.
“The team at Watch Charity are incredible and the impact they have on the local community is clearly evident. The financial situation they face at the moment is hard. They’re having to make cuts they don’t want to, while seeing a huge rise in mental health issues and digital exclusion among the diverse communities they work with.”
- Lydia Cerguera, UKCF Communications Officer at UKCF
Wild Earth is an organisation that works with young people and adults to engage in nature-based activities, including gardening and bush craft, to help connect people to the environment and strengthen their wellbeing. The work improves people’s confidence and mental health.
“The work that Wild Earth does is really unique and wholesome. It takes you back to the basics of what’s around you. The people there are really knowledgeable about nature and how it can help people.”
- Ebony Healy, Programmes Officer at UKCF
The Hope Centre is a Christian-based community hub which is home to Coventry’s largest food bank and Cherished Hearts, a charity that provides outreach and drop-in support for vulnerable women who are either socially excluded or at risk of abuse. The team goes out twice a week to meet the needs of vulnerable women, supplying food and other essential items of need, while also providing awareness of services that women can attend to bring about change in their lives.
“The volunteers and staff that do this work have a vision and dedication that can completely change the outlook of someone’s life. It’s wonderful to see.”
- Katie Bow, Finance Manager at UKCF
Baby Godiva is a charity that provides nursery items and consumables to families in need, such as prams, cots, clothing, milk powder, and other essentials. The charity saw a high increase of need during the pandemic. Due to grant support from Heart of England and an increased level of service, they are now close to achieving their 10 year target after only 3 years of operation. This is down to the hard work of the dedicated Baby Godiva volunteers.
“The passion and drive of the Director, Belle, was evident and is a clear indication of why this charity continues to be a great success.”
- Jon Everett, Director of Business Growth and External Affairs at UKCF
Heart of England Community Foundation was established in 1995 and now supports communities across Birmingham, Coventry, the Black Country, and Solihull, currently managing over 60 different funds. It is one of 47 community foundations within our UK network. Tina Costello, its CEO, leads a passionate team of 10 and explains that:
“Ninety-three pence of every pound donated to Heart of England goes back into the community. We are always finding new ways to engage with communities to provide more inclusive and accessible funding.”
The challenges faced by the charities visited by UKCF and those of local charities around the UK are similar: a lack of financial sustainability, versus an increase in service demand.
Community foundations serve as a bridge between donors, charitable organisations, local authorities, and community groups, to design and distribute more sustainable funding that supports the valuable work in communities for today and for tomorrow.
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