Croydon and the communities around the Broad Green area of Croydon have been my place of work for almost two and a half years; relatively new considering I have worked in community engagement projects for 19 years in total.
I have worked alongside all ages and abilities devising and running projects at around 25 schools, a maximum-security prison, nurseries, residential care home, a community of adults with disabilities, City offices, an AIDS and HIV hospice, major art galleries and public participation events.
The Big Local Broad Green Hub is our centre of activity and the focal point for many of our sessions.
This year on Saturday 11th December 2021, we were very proud to host the Winter Grotto for local children and their families. Between 11:00 and 15:00 we aimed to give away around 300 gift items to local children in need under the age of 13 years. The partnership that made this possible saw our project unite with: Start It Right cic, Playtime at the Pavilion, Asian Resource Centre Croydon and Pension Protection Fund in sourcing and wrapping new items as gifts for young people.
The Mayor of Croydon – Councillor Sherwan Choudhury was present to cut the ribbon and declare the event open. On the day we had many staff and volunteers on hand to help and support the delivery and promotion locally of this event.
Aroona Shaukat of Start It Right cic approached me with the idea for the grotto and we instantly discovered a shared passion for community work. It was clear if we pooled our contacts and experiences; we could do something vital for local people. The conversations and idea just grew from that into the event that took place on 11th December.
What makes us feel very proud, is that the whole community have pulled together, pooled resources and made contacts new and old come forward to donate suitable gifts to our project. In essence, the community are giving to the community and that feels very special and appropriate for this time of year. Especially when the young people we will reach would not otherwise receive very much, or in some cases anything at all; at the time of year when the emphasis is on giving.
People have given generously of their time and energy as well as presents and monetary donations. My hope for the day was that the relationships that begin and the local people who discover us via the event will continue to utilise our services and become a part of our bigger picture deepening and expanding the reach of our work for the betterment of the Broad Green area.