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Make Yourself at Home With... Sheffield’s Voluntary & Community Sector

The people working within Sheffield’s voluntary and community sector have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, providing vital services to those most in need.

While most if not all sectors have been hit hard by the events of the last nine months, there are perhaps none that have felt it more keenly than those caring for local communities across the Sheffield City Region. With ever-dwindling resources, lockdown restrictions and staffing constraints to contend with, organisations involved in delivering crucial community service provision have been stretched to their limits.

However, in the true Sheffield spirit of solidarity and determination, the people dedicated to providing community support have taken on the challenge, adapted to constantly changing circumstances and delivered vital services to those who have needed it most.

One such person is Patrick Meleady of Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, an invaluable safe space for young people to blow off steam which has been a cornerstone of the community for almost 50 years, and established as a charity in 2013.

Patrick told us that the playground provides services five days a week for children, young people and families in Pitsmoor, the surrounding areas and across Sheffield, with a focus on “traditional play – we want children to play like they used to be able to play many years ago” but also “fire safety, road safety... how to become a good citizen”, along with celebrations which represent the cultural diversity of the area. Patrick’s take on the Covid situation is a typically positive one: “We need to get the messages out and be positive, be constructive, be upbeat about things”, which is exactly what the team have done since March, with no staff being furloughed but instead taking on other vital services such as food provision for local families.

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Pitsmoor Adventure Playground

Fran Belbin, who as well as working at the Pitsmoor Adventure Playground is also on the board of community regeneration charity SOAR and has been instrumental in the delivery of Voluntary Action Sheffield’s Healthy Holidays initiative, added that in spite of having to change their original plans quite significantly due to the restrictions, during the summer they were able to produce and deliver “6,000 food hampers”, reaching around “4,000” children in the north Sheffield region.

Also working tirelessly in the area of food provision is Josie McCullen of Food Works in Wybourn, with a second outlet having recently opened in Sharrow, the aim of which is to “create a more sustainable food system in Sheffield”. Food Works’ team of over 300 active volunteers intercept over 10 tons of surplus food every week, which Josie says they have been “using throughout Covid to feed the people of Sheffield”.

Josie believes that evidence of our city’s collective will to work together throughout this incredibly difficult period is in abundance, and particularly so within the community support sector. She added that she thinks that “Sheffield is an amazing place for community support”, and that during the pandemic “we’ve seen lots of different organisations communicate and partner together”, something that we all hope will continue.

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ShipShape Health & Wellbeing

An often overlooked factor during this pandemic is the level of inequality that pervades our city, frequently in marginalised communities from a diverse range of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. ShipShape, based on Sharrow Lane, is an organisation whose overarching aim is to address this problem by “delivering services to tackle health and inequality across some of the most deprived areas in Sheffield”, Tanya Basharat, CEO, told us. “We have a diverse team within ShipShape who can speak different community languages and we also have a team of volunteers who are trained up to support and deliver services within the community”, she added, meaning that people from a wide range of backgrounds too often left in need are able to access their range of services, providing everything from food parcels to emotional support.

Another such organisation which aims to redress the balance of support across the city, specifically within Sheffield’s long established community of African diaspora, is SADACCA on The Wicker. Having formed in early 1955 from the then West Indies Association, the Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association provides community support to those from across the diaspora, and their Chair Rob Cottrell told us that he believes that “Covid-19 has exposed those inequalities even further to the point where we are more likely to become infected and to die from Covid-19, and I think that’s been probably the biggest wake-up call in this country in many decades”. Adding that “...because we haven’t been getting access to information, access to care, we’ve been more susceptible to dying in disproportionate numbers than other communities and we’re still trying to find out what those precise reasons are”.

When speaking about SADACCA’s direct response to the Covid crisis, Rob told us that “We thought about how we could best provide an alternative service so we delivered an emergency phone line. We’ve delivered over 400 food parcels to people in the community and we’ve developed and expanded our homecare service”.

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Photograph courtesy of SADACCA

When we think of those most vulnerable in society, most of us would naturally think of children. This is perhaps even truer in the case of those who are battling health problems. We spoke to David Vernon Edwards of the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity, a charity whose aim is simple – though never easy, namely to raise as much money as possible to support Sheffield Children’s Hospital with services outside of NHS provision. David believes that charities across the board in Sheffield “really, really do plough back into the city in terms of social cohesion”, adding that those “working on youth homelessness, in drug addiction, all of the food banks... there are some amazing people in the city doing brilliant work”.

Covid-19 and the resultant restrictions have impacted the charity massively, with David and his team - who he says have been “brilliant” - seeing a 77% reduction in income, which had lead to the need for rapid innovation in terms of the methods of fundraising, such as taking the sponsored walk scheduled to take place at Chatsworth online in family groups, raising £7,000. David and the team have several plans to emerge from this situation, including the iconic snowflakes that adorn the hospital over the Christmas period, as well as the famous emblem of the charity, the Children’s Hospital Bears.

With so many often unsung local heroes carrying out genuinely life-saving work across the city, the sense of hope is as inspirational as it is emblematic of what Sheffield is all about.

Learn more

Make Yourself At Home is a collaborative campaign, which means groups, companies and organisations in Sheffield are encouraged to use its assets and messaging as part of a collective recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Reopening High Streets Safely (RHSS) project is receiving up to £500,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Filed under: #Make Yourself at Home

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