It had been a slightly dreary morning in East Sheen, a sky with grey pallor struggled to allow the suns rays through the dull thick clouds, where was the sun hiding? The answer would become obvious later.
Illana, a friend of mine, we share the same school for our children asked me to cover an event. She is the owner of Purple Carrot 7R’s, a local up-cycling business which resides within Castelnau Community Centre in which the affair was going to take place. I happily agreed. Castelnau was easy to find and I arrived just after lunch
It became apparent that this was where the sun had been shining, smiling upon the small gem of a community who frequent the much loved Castelnau Community Centre tucked in the heart of Barnes. The ‘event’ was that Ebay, organised through Groundwork had donated a day of service from 5 members of their staff to do various much needed jobs for the Community Centre. This involved the following: soil cultivation, planting of various bulbs, remodelling the bug hotel (yet to be named), sealing the benches and building an indoor mobile skate ramp. So let me dig (excuse the pun), a little deeper, explaining a bit more about all parties involved so that you might attach your heartstrings to such a well deserving and far reaching project.
A little bit about the Company Groundwork
Their motto is changing places, changing lives – one green step at a time. Groundwork work across the UK helping communities to find practical solutions to the various challenges faced. Areas covered and provided for are in reducing energy and waste, re-connecting people with nature, providing training and creating jobs.
One of the key areas where Groundwork helps is to preserve, protect and improve local green areas, be they parks, playgrounds, allotments or nature reserves amongst other things. The idea behind this is to empower local residents, bringing them together in a united area of interest, giving them the practical boost to get things going. This help streams in to many different areas, in this instance creating more play opportunities in the form of an indoor skate park, this service available to non residents as well as residents. This in turn helps out parents who need to find somewhere safe and healthy for their children to play.
There are allotments that provide a source of nutrition and mobility in keeping people active, outdoors. It also unites, bringing people together, giving a sense of pride in local produce grown. It allows those from young to old to learn and participate in toiling the land, growing something beautiful which also contributes to creating a healthy lifestyle. In this particular instance Groundwork helped to find funding in the form of arranging ‘actual’ labour donated by ebay.
Next we move on to Ebay
Ebay has provided a platform for every householder to re-cycle and hopefully make a profit by having the ability to sell used items. It has also enabled people to start up businesses in selling independent items, be they craft items made by the seller or bought in as stock. This has opened up opportunities in itself to people that might not have found this possible before. The staff members working on this project volunteered, having no particular skill-set in the jobs they were assigned, but took joy in the fact they were in the here and now, on site, making a difference to other’s lives.
Last but not least Castelnau Community Centre
The local area comprises of over 800 households which sit in a pocket of social housing and financial strain surrounded by affluence and privately owned homes. The Castelnau Community Centre houses the Castelnau Centre Project (CPP) which is a small charity responsible for developing resources for the whole community. The Charity utilises the Community Centre as a base not only to reach out and provide support to their local residents but also provide and encourage non residents to use the facilities as well, hoping to bring a diversity of people, new opportunities and social unions including friendships to the local community. The centre provides a mind boggling array of services a few being:
- A food bank
- Sunshine Nursery
- Citizens Advice
- Community Choir
- Venue Hire
- Birthday Barter Scheme
- Well stocked cafe with free Wifi and toddler play
- Infant & Junior Kids Club
- Homework Club
- Youth Club
- Community Goldies Exercise
- Zumba Gold
- Goldies Lunch
- Threatre Group
- Back to work group
- Purple Carrot Furniture Up-Cycling Project
- Career Advice
The Community Centre relies on funding.
There has been some funding from the Barnes Workhouse Fund and Richmond Housing Partnership, plus a lottery funding for 8 years which runs out in 2015. After this period, financial resources will be scarce and they look towards Local Corporate Funding as a hopeful source in providing the necessary income to keep them going. Local Corporate Funding has many advantages to the Companies by touching the local community with its aid in a physical sense rather than just a visual advert; help is put in to place and becomes tangible link between the community and company. This in turn helps residents and others to have a better environment in which to learn, find jobs and live a healthier life, giving them an awareness of the world around them in understanding sustainability and eco awareness, which can only have a beneficial knock on effect with the initial Local Corporate Funding stretching far and wide over time.
My welcome to the Community Centre was nothing short of warm and I immediately felt at home. I passed a group of parked wellies from well worked volunteers taking a much needed break, but there were smiles all around upon my entry as I was introduced as the ‘blogger’ with name, I might add!
Illana showed me around, whilst a local resident made me a fine brew from the cafe. The hall is splendid, a place my son would love to come to and have a run around.
The skate ramp was still in the very early stages of being built. The volunteer making it having no carpentry experience whatsoever, but this did not deter him from his enthusiasm in getting the job done with precision and a smile. He was overseen by one of the local residents as you can see above. The outside space was quite large with a mixture of allotments in varying states of cultivation or disarray. The volunteers started at one end sensibly moving to the other end, weeding and turning over the soil ready for them to plant tulips and crocuses.
Amongst some frivolous dancing in wellies I had the privilege of seeing the ‘bug hotel’ carefully dismantled and re-built, its splendour rivalling the Dorchester Hotel. Various names were suggested, “Bug B&B, Bug Chateux Catelnau to many other variations. I wait in anticipation to see if a final name was chosen after I had to make my departure.
The ‘Bug Hotel’ was a learning curve for me, having many levels. The gardener from Groundwork informed me the straw layer was for bumblebees, bark chips for centipedes and millipedes. They also drilled holes in lengths of wood for leaf cutter bees to hibernate, so I learnt a thing or two.
Overall the atmosphere was jovial and energetic. I went away wishing that everyone could have the opportunity to have such a Centre within local reach. It is obvious that the residents as a collective are very close and support each other in a way that is infectious to all that meet them. I can only hope that more Local Corporate Funding reaches the Castelnau Community Centre and other well deserving projects because a little goes a long way when a little bit of good will is thrown in.
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