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A New Year Message: The rewards of helping Peterborough's communities

Stuart Haw with a New Year message from the Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services on how communities have worked together throughout 2021.
Stuart Haw

The last 18 months have been challenging for those working in community sport, health, and wellbeing. Whilst restrictions have been lifted, for now, the uncertainty facing community members has continued. This has compounded existing inequalities across the city, with many vulnerable groups and communities being hit hardest with how to cover costs, feed families, and stay healthy when necessary.

The response from the community sector has once again been exemplary. Charities and community groups have responded to the emerging need of different communities, in ways which only they could.

Peterborough Matters shared examples of the incredible work of community groups who provide catering, meals, and drinks to the community. These showed the inspirational work of many community groups such as South Grove Community Centre and Extended Hands.

However, this only scratches the surface, as across the city many more groups have been providing such support.

The Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS) has been ensuring that the network of community organisations across the city remains represented and supported.

The charity, set up over 40 years ago, has been called upon more than ever during the last two years to support community members in need. Further, with new community groups across the city emerging to respond to increasing demand, the charity has seen an increase in membership, which is now over 500 members.

Through their forums the charity brought together local experts to collectively plan events, conduct networking, and apply for and distribute funding. There are a multitude of forums, each addressing key areas including mental health, domestic abuse, women, and funding.

Similarly, PCVS’ Health Xchange Project has seen a growth in new groups. The project involves distributing National Lottery Community Fund grants to groups and providing them with community health and wellbeing training. The project has gone from strength to strength, with some groups finishing their funded projects and being able to acquire larger grants from elsewhere.

The funding has also been used to set up the Wonder Women Project, a project that works with local partners to provide health and wellbeing opportunities that are delivered by, and for, local women. Wonder Women was also funded by the Thriving Communities Fund, through the Arts Council England (ACE) on behalf of the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)

Most recently the charity has been supporting the City Council to deliver grants, as part of efforts to reduce food poverty across the City. What is most inspiring about this work, is that the team at PCVS have been working relentlessly to ensure this support is provided, whilst having to combat many of the challenges the communities who need support face.

This challenge is one of the reasons PCVS set up the Covid Voluntary Centre Support Group, a community network which shared resources and support during the pandemic by working together collaboratively. This earned the team at PCVS a Civic Award from the City Council for their work.

I want to emphasise that these awards encapsulate only a small area of the wide-ranging support that PCVS offers to communities. The work they do is rife with challenge, it is often thankless, and despite how rewarding helping communities can be, it is never easy.

I feel privileged to work with such incredible individuals at both PCVS and within the communities they serve. One thing is for sure, I will work to ensure the inspiring community members in this city have a voice. I know that the staff at PCVS will do the same.

Hope you had a great Christmas, a happy new year, and stay safe.