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.
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