Despite the 2nd lockdown, November was a full month with both virtual and Covid safe actual visits to charities and other organisations.
I was honoured to attend our local Remembrance Sunday Service in Oakley and lay a wreath in honour of the police who served in the Wars.
I also recorded a short reflection for the Mayor of Basingstoke’s Remembrance Day service. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rRNhFlGYzM&list=UUp34LAXFMyIl7dANEo3v3jQ&index=15&t=10s
It was a month of Annual General Meetings for Winchester charities which gave good insight into the way they have responded with creativity and compassion as they have worked out how to provide ongoing excellent care even when unable to meet face to face with their service users, or have had to limit numbers to Covid safe gatherings for much needed support. Do explore each of their excellent websites.
- Friends of the Family Winchester http://www.fotfwinchester.org/
- Winchester Youth Counselling https://winchesteryouthcounselling.org/
- Winchester Street Reach https://www.winchesterstreetreach.org/
- Winchester Churches Night Shelter https://wcns.org.uk/
Also, I attended the AGM of an Andover based charity, Yellow Brick Road Projects, and spoke with their founder Siobhan Down https://yellowbrickroadprojects.com/ . The passion and compassion at the core of this charity was palpable as I listened to Siobhan. In short, they run a number of projects which engage with and educate young people by supporting them to learn life skills that reduce the impact of poverty, risk of experiencing homelessness and loneliness. This is well expressed by the photograph as you open their website – a young person bowed down but surrounded by gestures of hope and help.
I was so pleased to finally get to visit the charity Releasing Potential https://www.releasingpotential.com/ and meet with their co-founder/CEO Mike King with whom I have chatted over the months of Covid restrictions. One particular conversation with a young person there whose life is now on a slow journey of transformation, is so far, the defining highlight of my year of office. Intervention, offered with sensitivity, wisdom and compassion can transform the whole trajectory of a young person’s life, from exclusion to inclusion, hopelessness to hopefulness.
I was given a fascinating tour of HMP Winchester by the Resettlement Officer and one of his team. To see the established and developing projects to enable the men to learn skills which will help them find employment on release was brilliant – from hairdressing to pastry making, barista-ing to painting and decorating and all in a prison which is 175 years old which poses great challenges. The prison not only enables men to plan for employment, it also facilitates ongoing relationships with family – for example the charity Spurgeons facilitate ‘story book dads’ – filming dads to read their children bedtime stories and so strengthen that parental relationship. https://spurgeons.org/storybook-dads/ As they say –“At HMP Winchester, our team are also involved in making video recordings, so children can see as well as hear their dad! And we hope to attract additional funding, so that more dads can share bedtime stories with their children through this brilliant scheme.”
One of the charities I am supporting this year, Home for Good, https://www.homeforgood.org.uk/ held an one line summit in place of their normal event. Well over 1000 people signed up for 5 evenings of events, and so hearing a range of keynote speakers, personal stories and attending informative webinars. Both the turnout and stories provided tangible evidence of the growing numbers of people who are making choices to adopt and foster and so move towards the aim of the charity to find a good home for every child in the UK who needs one.
I met on line with Annie Jeffery, the founder and CEO of hART https://www.hart.works/ Hampshire Art for Recreation and Therapy. This charity “exists to offer creative therapeutic and recreational activities to support mental health, wellbeing and wider social issues in people of all ages and abilities.” I was interested to hear from Annie that hArt has run a programme for young children affected by domestic abuse – domestic abuse is one of the key reasons that children themselves experience emotional abuse and neglect in the home and become part of the stats of children needing to be placed into the care of the local authority. Engaging therapeutically with the victims of domestic abuse is healing for both them and their children.