GRASS roots voluntary groups and charities across the county helping to support people with issues such as mental health, isolation and other social challenges have been awarded almost £150,000 from Dorset Community Foundation’s Neighbourhood Fund.
Among the 36 applicants to receive a grant is ASCape in Bridport, which was awarded £2,200 to continue its Saturday support sessions for parents and carers of young people with autism, ADHD and social anxiety.
The sessions, at Bridport Children’s Centre give parents and carers a chance to try activities such as crafts, yoga and food tastings together. Volunteer and co-lead Claire Cameron said the sessions are a respite from their difficulties at home.
She said: “Completing an activity together, without the pressure to chat or share, enables individuals who are carrying a heavy emotional burden, and who may struggle with ‘small talk’ to talk about the activity, or keep quiet or share information at a pace that they feel comfortable. They can feel confident that any discussions shared are kept confidential.”
A grant of £4,200 will help the Islanders Youth and Community Centre on Portland to launch a Friday social club for elderly people to alleviate isolation and loneliness. Head of Fundraising Jemma Good said the weekly club will include activities such as elderly fitness, slow cooker courses, crafts, knitting and sewing, puzzles and card games. As part of the programme a hot lunch will be provided to ensure each individual has had a wholesome warm meal.
“Social isolation and loneliness among the elderly is a real problem in our area,” she said. “The Verne common estate is situated away from the bus route and is not well suited to those with mobility issues. With the cost of living crisis and our local estate being in such severe poverty, going out for activities and socialising with others is simply not affordable for so many of our older neighbours the impact of this is poor health, mental wellbeing and loneliness, especially for those who live alone or have no family or friends nearby.”
Counselling Together in Christchurch will use a £3,900 grant to help cover the costs of providing low-cost counselling at churches around the area. The charity said it has lost some financial support since the pandemic at the same time demand for its help has risen.
Administration manager Alan Boyce said: “Our project addresses mental health issues, this includes, though not extensively, abuse, anxiety, bereavement, depression, loneliness, relationship difficulties, stress and trauma and suicidal thoughts.
“The pandemic and the cost of living crisis has exacerbated these problems and our experience is that people are finding it more and more challenging trying to cope with their mental health.”
Social isolation and loneliness among the elderly is a real problem in our area
A grant of £4,050 will fund a vital administrator for the East Dorset CAP Centre in Ferndown, which offers debt counselling. Treasurer Derek Howsell said the role is essential for the smooth running of the group, which is based at Hope Church and has already enabled 34 people to be debt-free.
“The grant will mean that the debt centre manager and befrienders will have admin support to enable the service to run as smoothly as possible,” he said. “The focus is, of course, on the needs of the clients, but in order to provide a high standard of person-centred support, we have found over the years that administration has played a key role.”
Home-Start West Dorset in Dorchester will use a £5,000 grant to help cover the costs of training and providing volunteers to work with families and single parents with young children facing a variety of challenges. Volunteers spend up to a year visiting the family for a few hours week to lend practical help and assist them in working out how to overcome difficulties with parenting, relationships or finances.
Manager Helen Horsley said: “One hundred per cent of our families stated they would recommend us and 50 per cent said they had already done so because the support they received made such a difference.
“Our families have been helped to cope more effectively with the problems arising from poverty and need by ensuring that coping strategies are in place and are effective. Families function more positively and the home environment is generally improved to give greater sense of security and wellbeing to all the family.”
The Friendly Food Club has been awarded £5,000 to work with two other groups – Grounded Community and Bournemouth Well-Being Experience – to continue running the successful Aspire project from the Joy Café at Churchill Gardens in Boscombe.
The project works with people who are unemployed or unable to work and teaches them how to grow fruit and vegetables and use them for nutritious meals. They are also able to take part in healthy activities such as boxercise and Pilates.
Project manager Liz Guilmant-Cash said: “The Aspire project has already helped 45 people in improving their confidence, fitness, helping their weight management and learning new life skills. Some of these people have since moved on to finding work and others have aspirations to in the near future.”
She said the project was due to come end in March but the funding will keep it going until September.
Dorset Community Foundation director Grant Robson said: “It’s thanks to the generosity of our donors and the trust they place in us to use their money effectively that we can fund wonderful projects like these that, though small in scale, have a huge impact on the lives of people in their communities.
“Whether its providing food, companionship, solace or inspiration to get out and do something different, all these amazing voluntary groups are making a huge difference to we say a heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful people who have supported this fund.”
The Neighbourhood Fund opens again for applications in November.