Hammersmith Reflections – Four hundred years of support, and counting!

This month we continued our celebrations of the charity’s 400year anniversary with a Grand Party at St. Paul’s. We also launched UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham with our sister charity Dr Edwards and Bishop King’s.

The theme of our celebration year is bringing people together, and our guests included representatives of many of the local groups and charities that we fund or partner with, as well as residents of our sheltered accommodation. Some great new connections were made.

Naturally I’ve been reflecting on our long history – what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, what it all means and what the future might hold.

The material and technological progress that has been made since 1618 would astonish our founders. Life expectancy has soared, and for the vast majority of us those lives have a comfort and a richness of experience that even the wealthiest people of the seventeenth century could not imagine. We take it for granted that we have a plentiful supply of drinkable water; that we won’t die of plague, smallpox or cholera; that we can communicate instantly with friends and family in other places; that we can travel quickly and easily not just across London but to other continents.

So when so much has changed, why is a charity that was founded to provide accommodation and food for the poorest people of four centuries ago still relevant today? For me the answer is that something that has not changed (and I hope never will) is the human desire to improve our lives – and to share the best things in life with others. I am sure our founders would have understood our ambition not to provide the bare minimum for our residents but to give them the best quality accommodation that we can. That means that we need a continuous programme of refurbishment and updating of our buildings.

And our founders would have understood why we strive not just to cater for people’s material needs, but to offer opportunities for people to enjoy experiences that bring happiness and fulfilment. That’s why some of our grants fund activities like dance, art classes and sports, both for older residents of Hammersmith and for some of the youngest.

As an accountant, business plans and budgets have played a big part in my professional life. But in the context of a 400 year old organisation how far ahead should we plan? At our celebration event, the oldest guests were in their nineties, the youngest still at primary school. By the time those children reach their nineties (round about the year 2100!) changes will have happened in politics, technology, society and the economy that I can’t begin to guess at. There will be many changes in the charity too, not least in successive generations of trustees and staff. It would be futile to try to plan in detail for that period, but since our ambition is to be there for those children (and their children and grandchildren) when they need us, we must try both to address today’s immediate needs and to leave our successors a strong and confident organisation.

In planning our 400th anniversary year we were determined that, as well as celebrating the Hammersmith community of today, we must create something for the future.  That will partly spring from the connections that we hope we’re making with and between local people. But we also hope that we’ll be able to see 2018 as being a milestone in our history for the launch of UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham. UNITED’s long–term success will depend on the hard work of many people, some not yet born, but if the past 400 years are any guide to the future then we will have plenty to celebrate at our 500th anniversary in 2118.

Mike Smith
Chair of Trustees
July 2018

Goodbye to Tim

We said Goodbye to our CEO Tim Hughes on the 8th November. We marked his transition into a life of unpaid work with a Tea Party.
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Hammersmith Reflections – Why we need art

Guest blog entry by Nora Laraki

 

Most of you know me as the Administrator of Hammersmith United Charities, the first point of contact when walking through our doors in Sycamore Gardens. But since 2017 I have also dedicated my time to do a PhD and dive with this research project deeper into the art world. (more…)

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Hammersmith Reflections – Solutions for an Ageing Society

Guest blog by Geoff Hands, business mentor

“Solutions for an Ageing Society” is part of Hammersmith United Charities’ programme of Social Enterprise Grants. Under the direction of Melanie Nock, HUC’s Head of Community and Partnership, it provides funds to launch new business ideas created by budding local entrepreneurs to enhance the quality of life of older residents in the Borough.

As well as offering grants, Hammersmith United Charities also provides a Business Mentor to help each entrepreneur work up a business plan and to support the successful launch of each new business. Coming from a background of law and business, I have had the good fortune to be that Mentor since the programme started in the summer of 2017.

The entrepreneurs are inspiring people, sharing a common characteristic – a fervent and infectious passion for their cause. All except one of them have been women; some young, most of them of a mature age, all of them coming from a variety of ethnicities reflecting the great diversity of cultures to be found in the Borough.

Their business ideas have been just as diverse, but they have mostly shared the common themes of combatting loneliness and enhancing community cohesion. One entrprenuer’s aspiration was to be an Energy Specialist for the Indoor Environment, bringing her career skills in energy efficiency and sustainability to enhancing the indoor environment of residential homes and day centres for older people. Another woman has been working closely with her daughter to establish an elderly persons’ care-at-home business embodying the cultural mores of her community particularly the love of older people and respect for their wisdom and experience.

Cooking and creative arts are well known antidotes to loneliness and insecurity. One very talented young grantee’s solution for an ageing society was “to lift people out of loneliness using food to create a community that meets regularly to talk about health, diet and cooking”. It was her belief “that inspiring people to cook for friends and family is a way to regain self-confidence and that giving the lunch participants new recipes and ideas to try at home will hopefully be an incentive for them to host more social gatherings on their own”.

A Solutions for an Ageing Society grant has been supporting another extremely gifted award winner in successfully testing her business idea in the local community – in sheltered housing, churches and community halls. Her scheme is to run “hands-on professional fun and creative Art &Crafts workshops with a focus on Textile Art and Felt Making for the elderly, in a safe and supporting environment” expressly with a view to “to fighting isolation, improving health and well- being and making friends by stimulating the senses and challenging minds to learn new hands-on skills”. She and I are currently working together on ways to take her idea to a new level and to grow it into a fully-fledged sustainable social enterprise.

These grants also extend to seed-corn funding an award winner intent on breaking down the taboos that prevent men from certain cultures talking about – and doing something about – the incidence of prostate cancer.

A Social Enterprise Grant from the charity is supporting a new organisation whose mission is the relief of domestic violence in the Borough particularly against immigrant women not able to speak English in isolation imposed by their violent partners. It teaches these victims that domestic violence is not an accepted norm in society, finds them a sanctuary and embraces them in a community of women with shared experiences but now assertive and independent in their own chosen milieu.

And a final “hurrah” for the one man in the scheme – a Life Coach seeking to establish a sustainable business providing a programme of Personal Development Workshops for elderly people. He hopes to introduce a pioneering ingredient – “cross generational mentoring” to integrate different generations working together and supporting each other in motivational life skills.

It is a privilege to work with these compassionate and dedicated people. One of the entrepreneurs wrote recently: “I must tell you that the time I spent with you and Melanie really did restore my self-confidence which had been knocked after almost a year of unemployment. I will be forever grateful for the confidence and belief HUC gave to me during that dark time.” An unexpected accolade for Hammersmith United Charities from an unexpected, unintended but nonetheless very welcome beneficiary.

Hammersmith United Charities has funded this programme in partnership with Unltd and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Geoffrey Hand
October 2018

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January Grants deadline

Apply for a grant by 7th January!

The next deadline to send your grant application will be the 7th January.

Find our application form and entry requirements here.

Contact Melanie Nock if you would like to talk to us about your idea or your application.

We look forward to receiving your application!

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