Services extended at Stoke-on-Trent loneliness charity following National Funding

    (L) Nannette Hulse, CAFAG Community Health and Wellbeing Officer and (R) Sarah Hulme, Head of Childcare.

    A Stoke-on-Trent charity, which helps to tackle loneliness, has been able to extend its
    services and introduce state of the art facilities at its centre following a share of a national fund.

    Chell Area Family Action Group (CAFAG) was awarded £98,687 from the National Lottery
    Community Fund in December 2018 and has since not only employed two part-time
    community Inclusion Officers, purchased a disabled friendly mini-bus, are refurbishing a
    kitchen area, introduced sessional workers but also expanded its over 55s Lunch Club.
    Disabled friendly footpaths and other improvements to the centre’s garden area are also in the pipeline.

    CAFAG, which is based at the Whitfield Valley Centre in Fegg Hayes, applied for a share
    of almost £9m of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2018. The fund is
    to be used to tackle loneliness by building strong social connections and welcoming
    communities and the money formed part of £11.5m Building Connections Funding which
    was developed in response to the Jo Cox Foundation and her belief that young or old
    loneliness does not discriminate.

    In their applications charities had to demonstrate that their projects would reach out to
    people of all ages who feel lonely or isolated and encourage them to take part in activities and help them feel more connected.

    Bernie Webbe, Community Enterprise Officer at CAFAG, was elated when she heard the
    news of the funding and has been delighted with the improvements which have so far
    been made.

    “We couldn’t believe it when we were awarded the funding, there was so much
    competition. There was around 2,457 applications received and only 104 of these were awarded funding so it was extremely competitive. In Stoke alone only three organisations were successful and CAFAG was one of them,” says Bernie.

    “Our project started in January and it will run until 2021. We have already done so much.
    Being able to have a disabled friendly mini-bus means we can help transport more people to and from the centre, people who may have felt isolated and alone – it means such a lot- we really needed this mini-bus. Having a brand new kitchen will be fantastic too as we will be able to start offering more. We already serve hot and cold food and now we can look at extending what we do in there – we could even hold cookery sessions which would be great.”

    CAFAG’s Building Connections project is called “Together there is Hope” and aims to build upon work which is already being done at the Fegg Hayes Centre. The charity, which will soon be introducing a weekly Gardening Club, has also recently launched a Men in Sheds project which is a community space where people can learn DIY skills and take part in up-cycling workshops at the centre. The charity have some of their own tools for the Men In Sheds project, but are actively seeking more. Learn my Way Online Computer Courses to help people learn digital skills have also started with the opportunity to gain a City & Guilds qualification.

    “We really cannot say how much this funding has helped us,” adds Bernie. “Our Men in
    Sheds project is really starting to grow, but we do need more tools so people can take part in the DIY sessions. We really need things like handplanes, jigsaws and screws and nails.
    “It’s a horrible thing to feel lonely and excluded and everything we do here at CAFAG is
    about tackling loneliness – now we cannot only reach a wider geographical area with the
    mini-bus, but we can offer more at our centre.”

    If anyone would like to know more about CAFAG or would like to donate any tools for their Men In Sheds project please telephone the Whitfield Valley Centre 01782 878843. Read more about CAFAG on BabaBaboon’s main website here.