March 12th 2020
This is the day for us that everything changed in our direction of travel and community support. It’s the day we closed our door, temporary, some 6 months ago.
We chose to close a week before the government announced the country lock down, at the time we didn’t know the plans of the government but we kind of knew it was going to happen.
We, like the whole country, and even the world was shocked at the situation, our situation and our decision to close a week before the country went into lock down gave us that time to think clearly, act on those thoughts and adjust our sails for what was to come. And boy did it come.
The first month or so was quite desperate for many we found, the areas we work in are quite deprived and with little extra spending available so when panic buying, stock piling and shortages started to happen, when those 2 for 1 offers dried up and the daily specials stopped people in our community felt it and especially with the children home from schools.
Although our decision to close our community shop was a hard thing to do, we know it was the right thing to do. This last 6 months has been a very quick learning curve for our community and us in the best ways we could support it. We were due to take on 7 new staff at the end of March on a new venture in our social enterprise endeavors and only able to send them home was a real low moment for us as we have worked and built this up over the last year or more. The news that our main funders, The National Lottery, would keep supporting us during this time was a life saver and in their words; `We are best placed to understand and deliver to our community needs` this alone was our saving grace, our reason to continue and to take the right actions after listening to our community needs.
Within weeks we had emptied our social enterprise shop where those people were due to start work and we transformed it over night to make space and provision for food that we had been lucky to have found through another fantastic national charity -`FareShare` and more direct `FareShare South West`. The team there knew us from previous visits and talks held the year before and when we reached out to them they could understand our community, our set up and our passion to make things work and with this information they set about supporting us from early April through FareShare Go and then onto larger amounts from May with the offer of collections from Bristol of whole pallets of dried ambient goods per week. As we grew so did the support, first one, then two, sometimes three and for a few weeks even 4 pallets of food came to us from Bristol or Exeter to our little shop in Bodmin to support the communities here. Over 30 tons of food came and went through or doors in the 4 months between May and the end of August. 30 tons. An enormous amount.
Through our main supporters we had managed to support and engage with our community as best we could. We took on, and have, a great team of new volunteers who are mainly young people that came calling in our hour of need. They have stuck by us in this time and we look at ways we can reward them, if ever possible, because we know that without their help then no 30 tons of food would have happened and that our community is in a better place for it.
Now we find ourselves 6 months in to something we still know very little about and have no end date on the situation. We find ourselves looking at the future, making educated predictions from the feedback gained from the community, community leaders, research and gut feeling (never ignore gut feeling). Although our findings point in many ways of continuation, they also point at the other things that are starting to surface and that things that we may be able to support our community with. Again, food is high on the list but so is youth support and is mental health issues, some of which we expected and have started to lay plans for the future with.
To tackle what we believe are concerns in our community we have set off in our way and have started to take action.
The end of September will see the start of a new project that will be run from out TeX shop in Bodmin. This is a music-based project called Poly Rhythm. Poly Rhythm is a youth led Musical Instrument Library where we will be able to loan out musical instruments from Bag Pipes to Bass Guitars. A free service that will serve our community for months to come.
We will look at finally opening up TeX shop in some description. We have started slowly doing so recently where we have been able to give out free school uniforms and children`s clothing that has been left over from donations and from our Swishes that we may not be able to return to anytime soon. We think TeX will open during October, depending on restrictions and staffing, and will offer reduced workshops but also a space for community ideas that we will try and test out over the next 6 months.
As stated, our Swishes are on hold for now. We know these were very popular but we also know that they are very hard to manage with the Covid Restrictions everyone is now faced with. We hope that someday we can return to them in some form and until then we will be able to offer a space for donated clothing and a space as so we can give these out in a controlled safe way. If you have clothing to donate then please contact us and we can make arrangements and the same goes if you may need any clothing, let us know if we can help.
Supporting Young People in our Community. This is a big reason why we started Cultivate Cornwall some 5+ years ago and its as high on the list today as it was back then. Predictions are not looking good for youth in the near future and although Poly Rhythm will help some but we think we can do more and this will be a main focus and aim. We want to find ways to create opportunities from our shops and projects that will support more needs of our youth, be it employment opportunities, training and life experiences. Many will no longer face the chances that were traditionally there and will see increased competition when it comes to employment so we are seeking ways where we can help with this. It’s a small way we can support our young people but we hope for some it will be just what they need, when they need most.
Mental Health and especially men`s mental health. We know this is important, we have lived it, we have seen it rise over the years and we have seen it peak during Covid 19. We don’t have all the answers but we can do things that we believe will help so we are going to look at setting up a social enterprise whose main aim is to bring men together where they can feel less isolated, share experiences and just maybe find the help that is missing at times. Seed funding will be sought as so we can start it going and get it sustainable and we will look at collaboration with other agencies who have some great ways to help people overcome mental health issues. We are really keen to start this going and at present it is just seed funding holding us back.
Not many will know about our COGS project where we are found supporting other community groups, (community organisation and group support) but we have run this for 3 + years now and we will continue but slightly reduced in deliver. We have never really had funding ourselves with COGS but have managed to help support a lot of community groups in setting up, governance and to find funding with funding being the most beneficial to them. With our energy being directed at the current situation it means with our limited time we can only do so much and yes; we can still help but sadly maybe not so many at the moment.
Bugler Library of Things has been a fantastic project to be involved with and long may it continue. We helped set this up in January of 2020 only to be faced with a pandemic 2 months later. What came of that was simply amazing with the efforts Jo and Rob (+ other volunteers) jumping in to support the community. The food we have been able to distribute there to Jo really has helped and we have seen first-hand how the community has reacted to Jo + Rob and The Library of Things. We are going to do everything to make this a long-term project as it is simply so beneficial to everyone there. It has actually inspired us to look at more of them and in more places like Bodmin and could possibly happen over the next few months. Let us know if you like this and would use it.
The Fare Exchange Bodmin was set up in answer to community needs and the Covid Pandemic. This we will be continuing with and we hope to be able to set up in Partnership with FareShare to open a Hub that will serve more communities in Cornwall. At present we support 5 communities with essential food items and we hope to be able double that at least to 10 communities by the end of the year. We know there is a need for this service and we know the benefits to the community, we just need to find space for this to happen as the shop on the high street is just a little too small for this. The hunt is on so if you know somewhere it might be well placed can you contact us please. The project will be aiming to bring of more youth as a place to gain work experience, further training and will create opportunities in employment.
And there are other things we are working on but yet to announce.
For now, we think we have our work cut out though and are looking for help within each project, we need funders to keep believing in our work and we need new funding bodies to fill the gaps that are missing. We owe it to our Youth, our Community and to ourselves to create the future and a place we love to live in. You can be involved with us, or others and make the change you want to see.
Before I sign off and get back to the projects, I would like to say a massive thank you to the community here. This last 6 months have been very difficult for many of us and of all ages. You have kept us going and supported us right the way through this pandemic and without you I think we would have been in a very dark place. I know why I live in Bodmin as you have so much to give and for this, I thank you, we thank you and we can now carry hope into the future.
YeS Bodmin !
August has brough some brilliant news from the National Lottery Community Fund when they said YeS to Bodmin.
Youth Essential Support funding will enable us at Cultivate Cornwall to continue to support youth services in Bodmin over the next 6 months.
During the pandemic we took time to speak with some of the young people in Bodmin to find ways that would benefit them, their mental wellbeing and help them through this hard time for all.
They can up with ideas that we managed to put into collect, help shape and now with the Community Fund support, we can turn into reality.
The 3 part delivery will be first aimed at dignity and creativity and the fund will enable us to deliver, alongside our food supplies, dignity bags filled with essential items and that feel good support that is often missing and alongside this we will be able to offer creativity and craft bags to brighten those dull days, we hope to be able to deliver 80 of these per month over the next 6 months.
The main part of the support from the Lottery Community Fund will enable us to set up a Musical Instrument Library where we will be able to loan out various musical instruments for free and to al lages. This project is run by the youth and aimed mainly at the youth in the community.
We currently have a call out for donations for all types of instruments as to build up the library inventory and we should be able to start this from early September. Poly Rhythm – the name chosen by the people behind the project – are really excited to get going and to highlight the benefits that music can bring during times of hardship and during this pandemic. Poly Rhythm also is looking for ways to support others during the next 6 months by arranging Jam sessions and hopefully lessons, in socially distanced way or even online, who knows, watch this space.
What we do know is that this is a great opportunity for Bodmin to get involved with and to support the youth in this community. We plan on lots of updates of the progress and we should share more in the next few weeks on the music library, how to get involved, how and what you can loan out and the jam sessions.
This week and 4 months in to the Pandemic we hit a mile stone.
It really has not been easy over this time and we have faced massive hurdles during this time that have included no local funding, vehicle breakdowns, staff and volunteer shortages, and enough supply to keep up with demand.
The upside of all that very hard work can be seen here and there is so many more we could mention like Re-act, the volunteer ex vets from Red Cross in Exeter who actually built a distribution center overnight to make it easier for the community hubs in Devon and Cornwall get the essential supplies to where they are needed. Without people like these, without the Community Groups in Cornwall who we work with and without the youth of Bodmin who have given the most in a real time of need, then very little would have happened and for this, we thank every last one of you.
We have repurposed one of our shops on the Bodmin Highstreet to help feed our Cornish communities through the pandemic. It came after being forced to shut our shop during lockdown and wanting to find a way the space could continue to support those most in need.
Each week over two tonnes of food is being sorted into food parcels and then distributed across Bodmin and the surrounding areas. We have also been lucky enough to be able to support other groups with this new project 'The Fare Exchange', giving access to the food, for free, to other community groups feeding their communities during the Pandemic.
Coronavirus has brought new challenges for us all, we are just trying to make life just a little easier for the community during this challenging time. As a small team we wouldn’t have been able to get to this point without the huge amount of support we have received and all the new volunteers that have joined us to make it happen.
It has been refreshing seeing so many young people come forward wanting to help the more vulnerable in our community, the energy and passion they have brought has made it more than just a lifeline for those that receive the food, but also as a team we have been able to support each other, it has been a challenging time for everyone.
This is a fantastic opportunity for our community but it has also helped our volunteers, In lockdown many have needed to find a way to keep themselves occupied, through being involved as part of this team they have been able to overcome some of the personal challenges they have also been facing. We have all loved helping people in this challenging time and for many their involvement has helped them consider how into the future they can become more involved in the community.
The Fare Exchange, in the last month alone has distributed food for almost 2,500 food parcels, each week there is more demand and more people being fed, it seems that this is far from over yet. As well as supporting their our local community in and around Bodmin and Camelford, Cultivate Cornwall have also been able to support other food projects across the county to help them access food to distribute to people who need it in their communities. Each week as much as one tonne of food is being donated to Bugle Library of Things, Lighthouse Community Centre in Liskeard and St Erme.
We spoke to Jo who is managing the distribution of food in Bugle and this is what she had to say; "This has been a lifeline for so many, just in our small village we are now feeding 150 people each week, without the Fare Exchange we would be forced to make choices between who can eat and who goes hungry, The fare Exchange has allowed us to ensure everyone in need is able to get access to food.”
This has only become possible by working with all these amazing different groups and we are delighted we have been able to help them in some way. But this has been more than just a group effort from a few, this would not have happened without the continued support of FareShare Southwest, alongside Tesco, Asda, The Hive, WRAP, DEFRA, The National Lottery Community Fund, Western Power, Groundwork and the Red Cross. Not to mention all the people from across the community who have made donations and given up their time.
Fairshare Southwest have been key to our ability to expand to the thousands of meals each month that we are able to give away, in the last month we have often been donated as much as 5 pallets of food from them. We have been talking to FareShare Southwest for over a year now so we are delighted to now be able to work with them on such a large scale.
The last few weeks have been epic and so much work has been carried out.
This week we have had 2 more volunteers come to lend a hand with packing and delivery of the support we give in the community and again, it's the youth that have really made a massive effort in this situation. 6 people are now sorting everything and all are under 27! ( I don't count myself because they took control and took over the running and I just get to do the running as required)
Last week we supported 168 just around the Bodmin area and already those figures have increased and with the support of FareShare South West we will be able to continue at least until the end of July when we assess the situation and find a way to continue.
We also welcomed The Hive Cornwall this week with their support. The Hive has taken over the production unit at Rick Stiens and produce ready meals that help fight food poverty. We took 550 meals of them this week and that has been sent out to the community with a warm welcome. We are busy making plans to ensure this continues long into the future.
We also collected from FareShare SW -Bristol twice this week to ensure the support is ongoing. That is just over 5 pallets of food and of essential items given by FareShare to the community here. Simply amazing and hard to think that we go through this each week as Saturday our shelves were empty just about.
The support we give is not limited to Bodmin but we are acting as a hub for distribution to St Erme, Liskeard, Bugle and Camelford and support community groups who again help to give the right help to the right people. In total we reach around 600 people a week through this quickly expanding network we have built.
We can't thank our youth volunteers enough for the help they give. Battling through their own problems and giving their own time to help others. The young people involved really are an inspiration. Without them we would find it very hard to do what we do. We also thank those that support us through food donations and the Lottery Community Fund who have supported us through funding that helps cover core costs and enables us to deliver the much needed support.
We have always tried to champion now ideas and community projects and through the pandemic there has been no exception as we move to new ways of working, today is a good day to look back and reflect on how COGS has evolved over recent weeks and to celebrate the first big successes since lockdown. Despite restrictions we have still been able to find ways to support new community projects in starting up. There has been a lot of demand as community projects are facing new challenges, new community needs emerge and ore people are inspired to lead change in their community.
Today we helped launch a community helpline for the Bodmin Community with Earth23 CIC, as part of our work with the COGS project. We are delighted to have been able to see this to fruition and to have been able to support a part of that process. The number is free to call, manned by local volunteers who know your community and is open from 8 am until 9 pm, 7 days a week.
It has been a rather strange few months and I'm sure you have noticed that as much of us, just coping with such an unprecedented circumstances has been challenging in its own right and like so many we have felt scared, motivated, anxious, positive, confused, progressive, and everything in between. I am sure that many of you have also found that how you feel can vary hugely day by day or even minute by minute. Through all this though there has been one feeling that has remained constant, and that being having a responsibility, to you the community to ensure we use our resources, expertise and skills are used as effectively as possible to support you through the pandemic.
Today marks two months since the closure of our two Bodmin shops so we have taken some time to reflect on what has changed and to provide an update on what has been happening behind the scenes and what is next.
Sewing is something that as I'm sure most know comes naturally to us and as you might expect we have been able to use our skills and textiles stocks to support the collective effort of ensuring key workers have access to personal protective equipment, this has included hundreds of wash bags donated to the hospitals and other key healthcare workers, while several thousand masks and face covers have been made and donated. We are now working with the council and others to look at scaling the production of masks to help meet some of the local need. However, this has been the easy bit quickly being able to adapt to address this need in line with our existing skills and capabilities.
The challenge really came as we looked to move beyond textiles, we started receiving lots of requests from people who needed food. With many on reduced pay or even being made redundant, the demand for food has increased massively beyond what existing providers like the food bank can provide. The challenge we faced was how do you feed up to 200 people a week with no budget. Fundraising? Yes an option, but we would have struggled to raise the tens of thousands of pounds this would have required.
A solution has now been found and in fact it perfectly aligns with the direction we were previously going, so now we are pleased to say that we have expanded beyond our work with textile surplus and have now now also started to distribute food to those in need during this crisis. Over the last few months we have built up to helping 60 + people a week with essential items and food and now after sourcing and being supported by a national charity we are now in a position to expand on this to help more. Our town suffered before this crisis from deprivation and even more so now. The long term impact is not fully understood at the moment but we hope that we are in a place now that can help serve and assist the community as we go through it together.
This has been made possible by Fareshare who we had been having conversations with already for over a year, together we have been able to respond to the calls for help from the community. Now with their help we can secure enough food each week for 100-150 people. It has not been easy, one of the shops has been freed up to sort and distribute the food from and thanks to the willingness of Fareshare we have been able to fast track what we had initially planned to launch in 12 months.
The main support to make this happen has come from FareShare and Fareshare Go but also Tesco, Asda, Lush, Bugle Library of things, and many more. Combined we now have the potential of distributing as much as a tonne of food each week. The food will be distributed each week, delivered to the door of those in need each week to Bodmin and Camelford while we have also been able to secure enough food that working with Bugle Library of things to provide food delivery across Bugle.
Food will also be distributed to other community projects across Cornwall, many of which have struggled to keep up with the demand and need to provide sources of food to the most vulnerable during the pandemic. True to form there will be no cost incurred to anyone.
Monday was a big day for us, it marked our first collection from Fareshare, yesterday the food was sorted and from today it is now be distributed over the remainder of the week along with the other food collected from businesses across Cornwall. As some of you will know, over recent weeks we have been providing food for between 50 and 80 people, but after this latest development we will be able to double the number fed each week.
We will not be opening the shops to the public during the near future while we coordinate our Coronavirus response so we can priorities the safety of all our volunteers who are collecting, sorting and distributing food. One thing that has stood out from our volunteers though is their age, all but one under 30. It has been great to see those that are usually least at risk come forward to help those most in need. Together they have brought energy, passion and commitment, setting a great example to their peers and giving us hope for the future, when their generation is in the lead, great things will happen.
A lot of the work we do is simply bringing people together for greater good and this week has seen us do just that.
We work with many and varied companies and organisations across Cornwall and the UK, in various forms that can be seen in partnerships, in support or simply through social interactions.
We managed to bring 3 groups together this week that we hope will be the start of something good and that will highlight causes and the actions being taken by those involved.
It started with a Coffee with the team at Brandon Trust who provide supported living throughout the SW and that they highlighted the need for some of their residents to be involved in Environmental Projects. With us being quite well connected in Cornwall we were quickly able to reach out and connect them with a few groups and soon after we had arranged a beach clean that will take place later this month. The `Turn the Tide` team were more than welcome to have Brandon Trust onboard to help with their planned events and that it will help highlight the need to look at the waste we are producing and where it often ends up.
Our part in this was not just limited to helping to make this happen but to also provide them with equipment so they could help out and use in the future for other planned events.
We are working with Cormac on waste reduction and this enabled us to re purpose Hi- Vis products from Cormac end of use materials that we could give to Brandon Trust team members to carry out their duties on helping to clean up the environment in ways that will benefit the local community and visitors alike.
This week has been a good week as most weeks are but this week, this simple act we made and the results from joining people up has really raised a smile.
If you have a project that would suit Brandon Trust residents, If you have textile waste, If you want to join in with environmental projects then why not give us a shout and see if we can connect you with others.
This last 2 weeks we have been a massive turning point and a time that have may made a lasting sustainable impact on our future.
It’s the point we have been tirelessly working towards as a team for the last year or more with our aim to be less reliant on funding and more self reliant on producing our own income.
The turning point has come through investment and development into staff and equipment to make this happen and through working with partners to understand their needs to find a place for us to fill that gap that makes it win/ win for everyone involved.
Being a CIC we take our work very seriously as when we get it right then the community in which we are well placed can gain great benefit from this. We strive to pay a living wage, we are open to all and willing to train at our expense and we invest in people and the equipment to get it right when we can. Often being heavily reliant on funding we have hurdles to get over in doing this and face massive challenges in doing so but with a shared desire to make this happen, a fantastic team that shares vision we may have just cracked it this last few weeks.
This week we started work on an order that should keep us busy for the next few years, It has produced 6 new jobs and jobs that pay the living wage in an area of deprivation that is so in need of this to happen. The people employed range between 17 and 60 and all come with great attitudes, the desire to learn and understanding of what we aim to achieve. Some we have worked with in the past, students that have now graduated, semi retired people who have taken part in our workshops previously and all with various skills to bring in to share.
This is only the start though and we think that the future will bring in double the work force again on other products that are in development that we think will happen off site and with partners we have identified that share the same values and desires.
Being a social enterprise is very rewarding but we do run like a normal business at times as we understand we have to be competitive in today`s world. Our business side of things needs to be run seriously and this is often a challenge as is all business in today`s uncertain world. Our eye is always firmly fixed on our community, how they can benefit from our actions and most often the environment is better for our work in waste reduction and actions that benefit the climate.
For us, we think that the future is looking very positive and this is largely down to our drive to be less dependent on funding and to be more sustainable in what we do. Its taken a while because of restrictions, silly things like gaining degrees at university and finding the right team that shares vision but it finally feels like its happened and that 2020 is our year of growth and real development.
Our blog is designed to keep you up to date on Cultivate Cornwall news and all the different projects we are working on.