New Ventures and Old – Community and Volunteers

As usual, a lot has been happening thanks to the involvement of enthusiastic and committed volunteers. And we are currently in the process of guiding a large cohort of new volunteers through our induction procedure. We are on the verge of holding our 4th Information morning to give a very general picture of RA-C and to tell potential volunteers about the roles in which they are particularly interested. People have become office support workers, general helpers, befrienders, first responders and we have ESOL pairings to be made. And of course, as volunteers get more active in RA-C  they get involved in the many community activities, sometimes with the people, they have befriended. Current volunteers have helped us in doing the presentations to potential volunteers.

The community activities themselves continue to expand and our newest ventures are meetings in the Dome Room at the Co-op Bank on the High Street. This amazing room is available to us as a Community group at times when the bank is functioning and is where we have had our Information sessions.

Within this room, we now run a Sewing and Making group for women on Tuesday mornings. This is where some people are adding to their already substantial skills and others are learning something for the first time. One very good needle-woman wanted to learn to use a paper pattern and has just made her first dress using a pattern. Interestingly, to us, what she does without a pattern is exceptional.

The other activity at the Dome Room started as a Coffee Morning on Fridays but after an initial activity of peg, doll-making has become a chatting, knitting and crocheting session. At each of these sessions there are a few women with babies and toddlers and we have a good selection of toys donated by the generous Colchester people. Some of those who attend are women who needed more social contact, some are very new to Colchester (e.g. Afghans) and others are women who are settled in our community and want to welcome others. Usually at least 4 volunteers are facilitating the sessions and take part.

This half-term week we had a day of children’s activities in a space provided by the Mercury Theatre. While some of us were at the Mercury with about 15 children Wayne, from Together We Grow, took 6 of our children, who he has worked with and got to know over the past 18months, to his Big Garden and they produced wonderful food from BG produce with Wayne and a few volunteers. This they brought back to the Mercury to feed the rest of us!! This was an amazing feat of organization and worked because the children enjoyed it so much. In this ongoing project these children of 8 + have now learned about compost, sown seeds, harvested fruit and vegetables and producing tasty food.  The children departed at 2pm and in the afternoon of this same day the Afghan families who are currently in a hotel in town, before being housed, came and joined us for conversation and games. This was a very heart-warming session in which they relaxed and told us how welcomed by us and others they have felt and how much they appreciate that shopkeepers in Colchester help them when they have language problems. We thank goodness that they feel they have been welcomed positively and have not suffered too much from the attention from Britain First.

And numbers of the refugee and asylum-seeking men still enjoy their days at the Big Garden and as well as this cohort a smaller group of LGBTQ men meet there on another day for conversational therapy and outdoor activity with Wayne and our counselor Mehmet.

We have had 3 out of 6 planned drumming sessions at First Site recently and our Community Meetings at First Site have resumed for volunteers and clients to meet and continue their friendships and welcome new immigrants.

Best wishes,

Elizabeth, Community and Volunteer Co-ordinator.

Stop Press

New Town and Christchurch Labour Party are holding a book sale in aid of RA-C at Christchurch Hall, Ireton Road, Colchester on Nov 13th, 11 am – 2 pm. We are told the books are in very good condition and include a lot of books on Architecture and Art.