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/ 31 July 2014

All Souls Ivybridge wins the first Church Urban Fund ‘Together Grants’ award

At the end of 2013 the Church Urban Fund announced the new format and criteria for the Small Grant Programme to replace the Mustard Seed Grants.

The ‘Together Grants’ would accept and approve bids from parishes across the country irrespective of deprivation indices or other ranking.

It would encourage parishes to work in partnership with other agencies to combat poverty. It would not hold parishes to producing new pieces of work.

All Souls Church Ivybridge (Kensington Area) received the first award in the Diocese of London from this programme, accepting a maximum grant of £5,000 to develop and deliver its ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) and ‘Bridgelink’ work.

The deliberations and conversations took place with Fi Budden, Community Projects Manager at All Souls. Fi was appointed last year. Throughout 2013 we explored various scenarios and practical issues before submitting the bid to the Together Grants programme. Personally I was relieved as we (the Diocese) had not submitted many bids up to that point.

This short article details the journey of that led to the application being made and some thoughts as to where they expect the work to lead.

Fi’s story

This is an extract from Fi Budden’s story.

London’s chequerboard effect

At first glance All Souls Church, St Margaret’s upon Thames is, a comfortable suburban parish, just across the Thames from Richmond. However, taking a short walk over the borough boundary, from Richmond into the Hounslow side of All Souls’ parish, will bring you to the Ivybridge Estate.

Ivybridge Estate is dominated and enclosed by four tall tower blocks, which can be seen clearly from surrounding areas. It is a densely populated, multi-cultural social housing estate, and is completely at odds with much of its surroundings and it is ranked on a national scale to be amongst the most disadvantaged areas.

There are many families struggling financially and with issues relating to over-crowding. This is the home of All Souls Ivybridge, which has a mission to serve and support residents from the estate and the surrounding areas.

Getting to know you

By attending stakeholder meetings at the Bridgelink Centre, we developed a greater understanding of the estate’s needs and got to know the workers running an advice service at the centre. We looked at setting up a ‘pop-up’ café that would run at the same time as the advice service, in order to provide a waiting area for those accessing the advice service. This would be somewhat better and far more comfortable than meetings held in the corridors. This would also run alongside our newly set up foodbank distribution centre (part of Richmond’s Trussell Trust foodbank).

The advice service at the Bridgelink Centre is dual language, having a Somalian case worker – many people accessing the service are from the Somalian community. Through dialogue with the advice workers and people accessing advice appointments, we have learnt that although Somalian families have been on the estate for a decade and more, there remain many Somalian women who speak little or no English. It is clear many have not been able to access formal English language classes for a variety of cultural or personal reasons.

Since setting up the pop-up café, we’ve been given a real opportunity to connect with local Somali residents and speakers of other languages, and realised that there is a desperate need for more English-language learning opportunities in order to break down cultural barriers, improve confidence, and assist in developing positive relations with people from other backgrounds – something which is difficult for many of the women we meet.

The families we meet also need considerable help to understand the statutory correspondence they receive, which is often what leads them to seek advice in the first place. The advice workers have managed to build up a real sense of trust amongst the local community and this trust is starting to extend to us, as our links with the advice service strengthen. Without the advice service we wouldn’t have been able to make any connections with the Somalian or other nationalities living on the estate; and so we have understood the importance of working together.

We realised that this was an important opportunity to support families with their English conversation or ESOL courses. In order to provide this support we needed the advice service to continue running, as it was due to come to an end; otherwise the seeds of work sown in November would come to nothing.

Time for positive action

When we received the information about Church Urban Fund’s Together Grant programme it felt that it was very much God’s timing and time for us to move on to the next level. We could now apply for funding to work directly with the advice service and provide the ESOL Club.

It was important for the local community that this bid was successful, as this was a real chance for increased integration, development of English skills and the building of positive relationships between different cultures, as well as continuing the vital support with finances, bills, translation and advocacy offered by the advice service. I remember chatting to one Somalian lady waiting for her appointment, and saying that I would be praying for the success of this grant; she looked at me and said she would also pray for a positive response.

Pennies from heaven

Although it felt initially daunting, the process of applying for the Together Grant was made that much smoother thanks to the support particularly from Marlon Nelson. We ultimately applied for start-up costs (equipment, stationery) and for salary and expenses. We maintained contact once the bid had been submitted and following a short interview with Church Urban Fund staff in May we were informed that we had been successful.

Where are we now?

The ESOL club is now up and running, resourced by volunteers from All Souls Church and across the wider community. Most have also been involved in the foodbank and the original pop-up café since November. Their enthusiasm to take on this new challenges is encouraging and amazing. It has been wonderful to see their commitment and the varied skills they are bringing to this work.

Our hope is that, through the connections we make and the development of English language skills, we can encourage some of the residents we meet during the ESOL club to become involved in other projects we are looking to develop, such as a new community café project planned for later this year. We hope to see people grow in confidence and to feel they are an important part of the community, through this small but necessary project.

We are extremely grateful for the advice received during the application process, and excited that we have this opportunity to serve our community, through God’s love, in this very practical way.

The Together Grant programme

The Together Grant programme offers awards of up to £5,000 from a project budget of £15,000 to enable projects to test and pilot a piece of work but also has scope to allow projects to expand and extend their work in different directions. The number of bids to the programme is still relatively low and parishes are encouraged to explore its possibilities. For any CofE parish-based project who wish to have a no obligation discussion about this fund, its eligibility criteria and to outline your proposal please contact Marlon Nelson, who knows he might be able to signpost you to another source too.

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