0333 321 3021


Spirit Story Day Five - Friday 23 September

The last day of Spirit Story week saw ten final stories. 

Fareshare Greater Manchester - 4.49 Tonnes of Food

“I would struggle financially and turn to crime in order to get food”. Eric was referred to one of the organisations Fareshare delivers to, Mustard Tree, after moving from homelessness into his first tenancy. He likes everything about the Food Club he is a part of and is glad it is here.

It was as usual a busy day for Fareshare. Having received 4.49 tonnes of food into the warehouse, 2.45 tonnes was re-distributed to 34 community organisations out of 216 members. These groups reach over 4000 people. Fareshare not only divert, sort and re-distribute surplus fruit and veg from New Smithfield Market, they also receive food directly from manufacturers such as four pallets of cake today. Fareshare helps save its charity members £7000 which they can use for other work.

 Fareshare Greater Manchester redistributes surplus food to other charities and community organisations that use food to help people in need, either using  the food in community cafes or distributing the food to the local community. Fareshare’s 17 volunteers and four staff are also able to provide primary schools  with fruit to give to Key Stage Two pupils, provide food to community centres to help them provide meals for older people, and support the homeless by  providing produce to organisations such as the Booth Centre. The food that FareShare redistribute is very varied and includes lots of fresh produce.

 This food helps families such as Lesley’s as it “stopped us going hungry” and the project helps its volunteers by giving them structured accredited work  experience that could lead to employment and further training.

BiPhoria - Bi Visibility Day comes of age!

If hard work alone can make something a success, then Manchester-based BiPhoria, the UK’s oldest bisexual community organisation, deserves to have the best Bi Visibility Day ever. Now in its 18th year, the day came about as a result of people who attended an international Gay and Lesbian festival deciding to take action so that Bisexual people were represented as well. In its first year, the day was celebrated in just three locations: the US, South Africa – and Manchester! Now it’s celebrated across the world on 23rd September every year.

So Jen, BiPhoria’s Convenor, spent Thursday in a whirlwind of preparation and activity, including unpacking and setting up a new pop-up street stand for Bolton’s LGBT festival which also starts tomorrow, giving a presentation about bisexuality in the workplace at the Co-op’s Headquarters, running a live web chat, giving out festival flags to pubs and bars in the Northern Quarter, attending a screening of The Comedian, a film about a bisexual man, and delivering leaflets and information for a benefit gig at Gulliver’s bar.

The aim of Bi Visibility Day is to raise awareness of the issues and challenges experienced by bisexual people, along with answering some of the questions and busting some of the myths surrounding them. One of BiPhoria’s members said, ‘I thought I was happy being a bisexual person until I came here and found out what acceptance really feels like.’ The organisation hopes that Bi Visibility Day will be a small step – or even a giant leap – towards bringing about that acceptance everywhere.


Stroke Association - Life After Stroke

Stroke Association North West held its Life After Stroke Awards in Salford yesterday, Thursday 22nd September. Its Life After Stroke Awards recognise the brilliant work that volunteers, stroke survivors, carers, stroke clubs and health professionals do for the charity. The event was attended by over 100 people, with roughly half receiving an award.

 Natalie, a volunteer and ambassador at the Stroke Association, presented the Carer’s Award, which recognises the outstanding  achievements of carers throughout the North West. Natalie presented five different awards within her category. Natalie said that it was  “such a humbling day to see how people have gone through their journey and are now continuing to live their life after stroke despite  many difficulties, a lot of which are hidden”. The Stroke Association will continue to share stories from yesterday’s event on Twitter.  You can guarantee that some of stories have made a lasting impression amongst attendees and will be shared with friends and families  in the weeks to come.

 The Life After Stroke Awards provide an opportunity for all the parts of the Stroke Association to come together and hear what each  other is doing. It’s also a great opportunity get everybody on board with the Stroke Association’s latest campaign “New Era for Stroke”.

Hulme Garden Centre - Marrow Barrows

Ten Marrow Barrows regulars attended a session in Birley Fields Orchard today, Friday 23rd September. Victoria (pictured right) is one of them. She’s been coming to Marrow Barrows sessions, a group for people with complex needs, for some time now and she loves doing something that she’s never done before, getting her hands mucky whilst having a relaxing chat.

Coming to this Hulme Garden Centre gardening project boosted her confidence and she found herself “able to speak to more people”. She regularly attends the session on Friday mornings and uses the knowledge and experience she has gained.

Today, Victoria and the group are busy harvesting lavender, rosemary and poppy seed heads to be used in classes for children who are being home educated and in parent and toddler groups. Through these community outreach sessions, Hulme Garden Centre promotes sustainability and wellbeing.

Whitemoss Club for Young People and Community Centre - Where the community takes ownership

Whitemoss Club for Young People is a community centre in Charlestown (North Manchester) which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The centre is very well used; with a whole range of activities taking place six days a week, there’s always something going on! The centre is particularly busy on Fridays, with activities for children, young people and over 50s taking place.

On the morning of Friday 23rd September, 20 NEET (not in employment, education or training) young people used the centre for an hour, taking part in activities such as boxing, football, table tennis and pool. Manchester Young Lives also called into the centre. During that time, volunteers also prepared a meal for the Age Friendly Luncheon Club. This runs fortnightly on a Friday, reducing social isolation for the over 50s. On Friday, 25 older people enjoyed a two course lunch of stew, followed by jelly and ice cream, which was made by young people on Thursday night. Those who attended thoroughly enjoyed this lunch and a game of bingo for just £3.50.

On Friday night, there was a Junior Club session, where 30 8-12 year olds enjoyed various activities, such as inside and outside sports, as well as use of the centre’s allotment, music studio, computer room and games room. The session is run totally by volunteers, seven of which are young volunteers (aged 12-18) and five of which are adults.

John Biggs, the manager of Whitemoss, joined the centre aged 8 in 1956 when it was a boys’ club. Having been a part of the centre for so long, John can really see the positive impact it has on the community. He says that Whitemoss is “a proper community centre, where the community takes ownership. I dread to think what the community would be like without it”. So many people support the centre in so many different ways, and so many people benefit from it.

Many children who attended the centre in the 1960s are now volunteering there. It isn’t an understatement to say that the centre changes lives. John reckons that about 20 couples have met at the centre and married, many of whom still continue to use the centre today. John himself met his wife at Whitemoss and their son, Jonny, now volunteers at the club.

Whitemoss is predominantly run by volunteers. John said that “Without people like this and grants, the club couldn’t be where it is today”. Through fundraising, donations and successful grant applications, the centre has been able to improve its premises and continue its work. The centre has changed tremendously over the years, with features such as a sensory garden being developed, which is really beneficial for children and adults with special needs. The centre gets quite a lot of support from Manchester City Council, and John wholeheartedly believes that the government needs to put more money into places like this.

The centre has received funding to make a film of its history, as part of the celebrations of its 60th anniversary. This film and a fun day are expected to take place in November.

Sporting Memories Network - Building Memories

Every Friday afternoon starting at the beginning of September 2016, there has been a FC United of Manchester Sporting Memories Group for Manchester United supporters to meet and bring stories of football from the past. These stories go back as far as the Second World War and also discuss the wider social changes at the particular time. The group members also bring photographs and memorabilia of football matches such as the 1968 European Cup Final. The group is open to anyone and it's aim is to address health issues such as dementia, depression, and loneliness and isolation. It is a fun community activity that helps to build connections between people.

In other Sporting Memories groups, the benefits have been to increase confidence and to enable independence, and to be part of a fun, relaxed activity. Volunteers facilitate the groups and there have been training session for volunteers, which have increased their skills. As well as the group based at FC United of Manchester's ground in Broadhurst Park, Moston, there is also a current group in Salford.

Sporting Memories believe in the power of stories to reignite connections between generations and combat the effects of dementia, depression and loneliness in communities. Jason White, Area Project Co-ordinator for Sporting Memories said, “Sporting Memories groups are a great way for people to come together to talk about something that they are immensely passionate about: sport, but don’t always have the opportunity to do so. Last week, we had a very good friend of Nobby Stiles attend and he delighted us all with his own stories, including one about how Nobby got George and his friend into the European Cup Final in 1968. To see the passion and energy in their discussions is a beautiful thing and we are delighted with the way our new group at FC United of Manchester is taking shape.”

Care from Clare - 'Finally feeling that I was believed'

Care from Clare is a peer support group, aimed at female survivors of sexual violence who are aged 16 or above. The group meets on Wednesday evenings from 7pm-9pm in the city centre.

There are no counsellors as part of Care from Clare; it is a peer support group where the women all help and support each other. The immediate mutual understanding that is shared by female survivors of sexual violence enables this format to benefit all. Clare has managed the project for over a year now. After really seeing the benefits of a group environment whilst attending group therapy for survivors of sexual abuse, she decided to set her own group up. Whilst this is her own project, she is not ‘in charge’; she facilitates the group so that everyone can have their say.

The topics discussed by the group vary week to week because the group talks about what they want to. Common themes are an event about sexual violence, how society treats sexual violence and mental health problems that occur due to, or are enhanced by, experiences of sexual violence. Most of the women who attend the group have been judged, their cases haven’t been taken forward by the police and others don’t understand the difficulties faced daily in functioning with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). At Care from Clare, the women realise that there are other people “like me” who are feeling exactly the same way. The group often finds that everyone nods and quickly understands each other. Simple phrases like “that’s okay” help because they come from women who understand and recognise that feeling or acting a certain way is only normal, given their experiences.

Clare said, “I want to help empower these women so they don’t feel so alone” and she can see how beneficial the group is for the women. A huge part of this is giving the women their voices back. Care from Clare is a small group, with three to six women attending each week. This group size means that everyone can talk, which is incredibly important due to the nature of the group. Many of the women who attend previously won’t have been able to get two words in; here, each attendee is given at least 20 minutes of her own time. This is because the group recognises that everyone needs the time and space to tell their own story. This helps to give women their power back; they see that what they have to say is important. Even if women don’t turn up every week, several have commented that knowing that support is readily available really helps them.

One woman who regularly attends the support group said, “I began attending the group earlier in the year. After attending the group for around 6 months now I have never looked back. It is finally a place I feel safe and, as its peer support, you feel understood and not alone. My peers, which have now become my friends, have helped me through the darkest times, to see light in the dark and in fact there is a purpose to life again. Finally comprehending that sexual violence is not our fault and not feeling guilty anymore. But the most important aspect for me was finally feeling that I was believed.”

For more information about Care from Clare, please visit their website - http://www.carefromclare.co.uk/.

Action for Blind People - The Interactive Eye Pod

Have you seen the Interactive Eye Pod at Tesco and Manchester Fort in Cheetham Hill?

To support National Eye Health Week, Action for Blind People have been showing communities in North Manchester what it is like to experience the four most common causes of sight loss. The Interactive Eye Pod allows visitors to view the outside world on screens that simulate conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Around half of sight loss conditions are avoidable. Action for Blind People are working to increase awareness of this issue and promote sight care and screening, particularly amongst Black African-Caribbean and South Asian residents in North Manchester. Five staff members and volunteers from Action for Blind People welcomed over 200 visitors to the Interactive Eye Pod in Cheetham Hill on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st September.

A visitor to the Eye Pod said ‘ I visited the Eye Pod today and as a result booked an eye test for next week. Thank you Action for coming today’.

Mustard Tree - The Trees of Ancoats

Mustard Tree approached the New Islington Free School earlier this year about working on an art project which would brighten up the area surrounding their new building in Ancoats. Graham, Creative Programmes Manager, initially came up with the idea of fusing nature and city life together by creating an art installation called the ‘The Trees of Ancoats’. In collaboration with the school, pupils and teachers drew pictures of trees in class and at Mustard Tree which were transferred onto large wooden boards by Freedom Project Supervisor Anoushka, fellow participants Jayne, David and Granace and local artist Duncan.

Pupils and teachers also had a helping hand in painting some of the boards using their handprints to create the leafs of the trees. In addition to this, Graham talked to pupils about the importance of the environment, what trees do and why they are vital to every living creature on the planet. In total, 34 trees have been placed on the fences of the New Islington Free School which we hope will give Ancoats a fresh identity and encourage community spirit.

Europia - Our responsibility is to ensure the law has been correctly and fairly applied

On Friday 23rd September, a woman with three children, one of whom is disabled, attended a Europia advice session as she had been left in a difficult situation with the DWP when the private solicitor she had hired disappeared. She was left very distressed as she did not understand that she had unintentionally created difficulties for herself as she lacked an understanding of the legal system. Europia were able to explain to her how she came to find herself in her situation.

Europia support, educate, empower and represent East and Central Europeans in Manchester to prosper in their communities by providing advocacy, advice, information and guidance. This client had attended their Manchester advice service where they can provide legal literacy support and represent clients in tribunals at no cost. Through providing a friendly and professional service, Europia can give clients peace of mind by double checking advice given from other services and enable those of low income to access quality legal advice by providing travel expenses. This advice service is provided on the second and fourth Friday of every month after Europia was called upon by its users to expand its services. Europia relies on the pro bono work of four law students, four volunteers, a volunteer with legal experience in Latvia, and a solicitor from a local firm.

Norman is a Europia adviser and he explains:
"My role is to assist our clients to claim any social security benefits they are entitled to receive. This may be assisting clients to make a new claim for benefit, challenging a decision or preparing and representing a client at a first tier tribunal. In the case in question, I ensured the client had the opportunity, legal backing and confidence to appeal the decision made by the DWP. Our client believed the decision made by the DWP was wrong. I explained how a tribunal works and went through the bundle of paperwork with the client looking at the evidence. Then on behalf of the client, I put forward a submission, which outlined the legal argument and explained why our client believed the decision had been made in error. It’s paramount to remember that this is the client's case and the decision to challenge has to be the clients. My role is to ensure that the client fully understands the legal process and are as prepared as possible, for what is often an ordeal for the claimant. Whilst we may not always agree with a decision, our responsibility to the client is to ensure the law has been correctly and fairly applied."

The final Storify is available at https://storify.com/PolicyVoiceMacc/spirit-story-day-five