As Chief Officer of Community Action Malvern and District I recently attended the CTA Roadshow in Birmingham. It was a great day and it was very beneficial to talk with CTA and other community transport operators about what we do in our organisations day to day, sharing our thoughts and learning from each other. We talked a lot at the event about sharing the stories of our organisations and about why we’re proud of our work, and I wanted to share why I’m so proud of everyone who works for, and with, Community Action.
Community Action Malvern and District was set up over 45 years ago to provide accessible transport to the people of Malvern in Worcestershire. The initial scope of the organisation was to take people to medical appoints but it has grown significantly from there.
We now have over 150 volunteers and operate a wide range of services in Malvern. Over half of these volunteers help with our car service: taking older people and those with disabilities to and from shopping trips, medical appointments and other social outings. We also have three minibuses and operate our ‘Shoparound’ service, taking older people to places like the garden centre and the seaside, as well as trips to see the daffodils and the beautiful Malvern countryside. We work with another local charity to run a cinema club for our clients and we’ve just started a service we call ‘Helping Hands’ where volunteers help people with jobs that may have become too difficult such as house work, shopping, gardening or helping with phone calls and letters.
Our services have such an enormous impact on our local community. One of the reasons this is so important is because older people make up a large proportion of our demographics. It’s a lovely place to retire, the view out of my office window is gorgeous and you can see for miles, but even then you need to be able to get out and about, be social and access your community.
A few years ago, we wanted to raise awareness of our value in the local area, so we went about setting up something that demonstrated the importance of community transport. When we talk to our clients about what it’s like to be lonely and isolated they describe it as being in a cage in their own front room. It’s a desperately sad description and it’s the reason we go out every day and do everything we can to fight loneliness in our community.
To demonstrate this we built a mock front room where the front and side walls were a cage. We then set it up in various places in the local area. Our volunteers took turns sitting in the room, staring out at the world as it passed them by, and it had a huge impact on the public. We were interviewed by the BBC, the Mayor of Malvern came to talk to us, and some of our service users were there to talk to the public about how they’re able to get out and about because of community transport. The campaign had a really positive effect: raising support for community transport, awareness of our work, and encouraging more people to come and volunteer. We were even given an award for services to public health and wellbeing by our local MP, and then Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Jane Elision.
Community Transport isn’t an inexpensive service to run, though, and just like other CT providers across the UK, funding is a growing concern. We used to get a lot of money from the county council but this has been decreasing, and we’ve recently been informed that we’re not receiving anything next year. As you might expect, this is having a significant impact.
We’re lucky, however, to have such a dedicated group of supporters and fundraisers. ‘Friends of Community Action’ have been raising £10,000 a year, which is a fantastic amount. Through holding fundraising events such as coffee shops and pimms evenings, selling our very own cookbook at local markets and food festivals, and working with the local amateur-dramatics society to put on fantastic whodunit evenings, our fundraisers do so much.
As well as being Community Action’s Chief Officer I also drive for the organisation and try to spend us much time with our volunteers and services users as possible. They all have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share and it’s always important to spend time with the people that make up your organisation. All of our volunteers and staff work so hard, every day, to ensure we can serve the people in our community and we couldn’t do it without them.
“Stuck in? Get out!” That’s what we always say, and it’s what drives our services. Community transport helps people to be part of their communities and I love spending every day as part of an organisation that does just that.
Want to find out more about Community Action Malvern and District? You can take a look at their website here: http://www.communityaction.org.uk/