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Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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Parenting, the Funpact way

When her children approached the pre-teen years, Elise Pacquette became concerned that she knew nothing about what it was like growing up in today's society. How could she lead children into independence in a world very different to the world she grew up in?

“Parenting is tough, really tough. While some think that once kids start to become more independent it gets easier – well, in some ways it gets harder.

So the parents/carers go to parenting classes, teens go off to PSHE classes at school. But they are getting different information, at different times. As a parent myself I just couldn’t understand that there were no courses for parents and young people to attend together.

It didn’t make sense to me that this didn’t exist, so I set it up myself. Now Funpact enables parents/carers and their children to come together, have fun and learn about independence, forming a firm foundation for further discussion at home together.

We run transition to secondary workshops for year 6s and their parents/carers, helping them both feel ready for the next chapter in their lives. Our course, Bridging the Gap, focuses on the social, emotional, financial and practical aspects of growing up. Ambition 2 Success is run as a one-day workshop in schools for both parents/carers and pupils to attend. It helps them create a positive trajectory for their lives and learn strategy and problem solving skills.

It’s not been at all easy – the learning curve to get Funpact to where it is now has often been pretty much vertical. I am often self-medicating on chocolate under my duvet! My background – as an illustrator, painter, stage manager, sign language interpreter, prop making tutor – didn’t help me much when setting up Funpact. I had no idea what I was doing but I was driven by an unrelenting passion to see change in how families are supported towards their children’s independence. And one thing I do know about myself is that I have grit.

And now there are so many stories of families who have come up to us and told us of the impact courses have made well after they have attended them. That the course helped the bond between them and their child, helping them better understand each other.

I remember one teen who was really struggling in school, and didn’t open up to his mum at all. Through our course that relationship started to grow and he started to share some of the stuff that was going on for him. The parent was then able to give him the support he needed and everything got sorted out.

There was also a father whose work shifts meant he hardly saw his son. But he managed to come to the first session of a six-week course and enjoyed it so much he changed his shifts so he could attend the course and spend more time with his son. So it’s not just what we explore during the courses but the relationships they help.

We are indebted to our youth alumni, who help us regularly update our sessions based on their expertise and lived experience. And I can honestly say that without Hammersmith United Charities’ funding we probably wouldn’t exist today. Hammersmith United Charities gave Funpact our first ever grant and have supported us ever since as we have grown. Through this funding we can now support year 6 pupils in over 20 schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, run Bridging the Gap in five schools and three community venues and Ambition 2 Success in five schools.

Up until now, I have been working alone in the back room, but this year because of our Hammersmith United Charities grant, I will have two new team members to join me for a few hours a week to help us grow. This is incredibly exciting!”


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Picture gallery – Funpact at work:
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“My new home is a gift”

It was a big life change for Lorraine when she retired and moved to Sycamore House a few years ago. But her lovely flat and its newfound security has ‘changed her life’, she says – and she’s busier than ever.

“I came to Sycamore House two years ago, having lived in Barons Court for about 16 years. I’d been having all sorts of problems with tenants, drugs and dealers. There were lots of stairs, and my flat had been broken into. It just felt like time to move.

I found out about Sycamore House via a friend. It’s absolutely amazing. I just love the flat; it’s bigger than the one I was in before. There is a wonderful garden at the back – the place absolutely shone in summer time. It’s lovely to go out and sit, and enjoy time with others you’re friendly with. I think I can name nearly all of the 50 or so people who live here now.

There’s lots on socially here at Sycamore House so I involve myself in that as much as I wish – I usually go to the coffee morning and catch up with everyone on a Thursday. I’ve made some very good friends here. We have lots of celebrations and parties, including a yearly fundraiser where family friends can come along, and the local mayor visits too.

The best thing about Sycamore House is the security and safety, and having the help there whenever you need it. Because my family is in Northern Ireland, I don’t have any immediate family nearby. So this community is perfect, because as and when I need support, it’s there.

Chris, Sycamore House’s scheme manager, is an excellent support – he helped with the paperwork that had to be done when I moved in, and now we keep in touch every day via Whatsapp. I know I can go and see him in person if I need particular help with something.

Chris helped me with getting housing benefit, which I qualified for after I retired a couple of years ago. I’d never been on benefits in my life so I was a complete novice and didn’t know anything about it. But Chris helped me navigate the system which was a big relief.

I was very apprehensive when I retired and moved out of my old flat to come here. But it’s changed my life. My eyes have been opened by all the new volunteering I’ve done in the local area: I work at the food bank, Charing Cross Hospital chemo ward, and have applied for work at Maggie’s too.

This flat is a gift; I thank God every day that I made the move. Life is good.”


Find out more 

We provide safe and affordable sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful, award-winning gardens.

 

Lorraine with Sycamore House scheme manager Chris
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5 minutes with…Lisa Da Silva, Head of Housing and Property

We’re really happy to welcome Lisa to Hammersmith United Charities. Lisa is responsible for ensuring our almshouses are of the highest quality and meet the needs of our residents.

What’s involved in your new role?

My role as Head of Housing and Property is to lead the sheltered housing operations for the charity. I will be responsible for delivering a safe and high-quality housing service meeting statutory and regulatory requirements. I will also be responsible for ensuring that the support services provided to residents meet their health and wellbeing needs.

What are you looking forward to most about your new role?

I am looking forward to working as part of a smaller team and bringing my experience and knowledge to the table. Continuing in an almshouse charity setting is advantageous as I feel I will be able to hit the ground running to continue to deliver homes that are safe and well maintained, as well as a high-quality service on behalf of Hammersmith United Charities to the residents.

What sort of work have you been doing previously?

I have over 25 years’ experience of working in the housing sector, the majority of which has been spent in supported housing for older people. I have experience of managing both sheltered and extra care properties and I am keen to share my knowledge and experience as well as continuing to learn myself.

What do you like about the area?

It has been several years since I worked in an urban, vibrant setting with dispersed sites, so I am really excited about this aspect. I am very keen to familiarise myself with the wider community as the setting should lead to lots of opportunities which will be beneficial to the residents.

What sort of things bring you joy outside of work?

I really enjoy spending time with my family and socialising with friends over dinner or a catch-up coffee. I have to be honest though, I can often be found with my nose in my Kindle – there is nothing as relaxing as a good book.


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In pictures: out and about

Our team took part in the Wormholt & White City Community Festival in September, which celebrated our vibrant community.

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5 minutes with…Our community gardeners

Meet our community gardeners, India and Lucy, who nurture the award-winning green spaces at our almshouses.

What do you both do and why do you enjoy it?

We are the community gardeners for Hammersmith United Charities’ two sheltered housing schemes (almshouses), John Betts House and Sycamore House.

The gardens are an unexpected highlight at both almshouses. Visitor, residents and staff alike often comment on the beautiful surprise of the gardens as they discover them for the first time.

We manage, maintain and improve the gardens while also providing activities and workshops for residents. A big part of our role is to encourage the residents to use the gardens, and advise and support them with their own plots and pots displays.

At both the almshouses, we love the diversity of personalities, activities and events – and how each day is different from the last. The kindness of the residents to the staff and each other is a daily joy.

How would you describe the gardens?

The gardens provide a space for all residents to enjoy in a variety of ways. Groups of residents meet in the gardens for a chat and a cup of tea, others sit alone and immerse themselves in the sounds and sights of nature, or simply read a paper or have a chat on the phone.  Some residents get their daily exercise by doing laps of the gardens, while many residents have their own small plots and pots, getting involved in the practical nature of gardening, planting, watering and weeding.

Currently residents are preparing for spring by planting bulbs in pots and looking forward to the next growing season following the dark and quiet winter months.

How do the residents help you with the gardens?

We work closely with the residents and many of them assist us in maintaining the gardens by watering and weeding, sweeping paths, leaf clearance and dead heading the beautiful roses.  We appreciate all the work the residents do and could not maintain these award-winning gardens without them.

What are some important gardening jobs you’ll be doing as we head into the autumn and winter?

Seasonal jobs include leaf clearance and ensuring all pathways are safe, bulb planting and compost turning. We manage all our green waste so that it returns to the gardens for the health of the plants and trees. We are currently preparing areas in both gardens to create wildflower meadows for next summer.

What is your favourite local green space to visit and why?

India has recently introduced Lucy to W6 Garden Centre on the edge of Ravenscourt Park.  It is a beautiful oasis of indoor and outdoor plants, garden supplies and has a gorgeous cafe. Many of our residents enjoy it too!


Find out more 

 

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Almshouse living may boost life expectancy by up to 2.5 years

New research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost”.

On average, the lower a person’s socioeconomic status, the lower their life expectancy. But new research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost” compared to their peers of the same socioeconomic status from the wider population.

The new research is based on analysis of many decades of records from 15 English almshouses. The life expectancy of almshouse residents was compared to people of similar gender and socio-economic background from the general population and was generally found to be longer. Giving an example, the authors estimate that a 73-year-old man entering the almshouse with the highest longevity boost in the study today could live 2.4 years longer than his peers from the same socioeconomic group.

Almshouses, which have traditionally provided affordable community housing for older people, are usually designed around a communal courtyard or gardens. Residents live independently and there are plenty of opportunities for social connection and support when needed.

Professor Ben Rickayzen, report co-author and professor of actuarial science at Bayes Business School, said: “More research is needed to ascertain exactly what factors cause almshouse residents to have a longer life. However, we postulate that it is the sense of the community that is the most powerful ingredient.

“For example, a common theme… is that [almshouses] encourage residents to undertake social activities and responsibilities on behalf of their fellow residents. This is likely to increase their sense of belonging and give them a greater sense of purpose in their everyday lives while mitigating against social isolation.”

Hammersmith United Charities Chief Executive, Victoria Hill, said: “It’s great to hear some evidence for what we’ve always felt to be true. Community means different things to different people, but usually it’s more than just the opportunity to socialise and be active. It’s often things like feeling safe and welcome among your neighbours, knowing there’s always someone nearby to help or being able to help others. It doesn’t surprise me that this feeling of belonging in your community may help you live longer and, we hope, happier lives.”


Find out more 
  • The full report: ‘Almshouse Longevity Study: Can Living in an Almshouse Lead to a Longer Life?’
  • Bayes Business School news release with a summary of key findings
  • Find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’s almshouses
  • Find out more about almshouses and their history

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Minds United football team in front of goal

Football for mental health

Minds United started with seven people, some balls and a whistle. Now they're playing in European mental health tournaments and helping Hammersmith people turn their lives around.

CEO Tarik Kaidi shares the Minds United journey:   

“I’m not going to lie: when I was sectioned 10 years ago, it was a bit mad. I’d never had a mental health problem before. It just came out of nowhere. I didn’t have a good experience in the hospital, and became homeless after I was discharged. I eventually found a home in north Hammersmith in 2016.

Playing football really helped my recovery; I also took my FA Level 1 coaching course, funded by Fulham FC Foundation. There’s just something about playing the beautiful game in your own community. It’s a great way to socialise, it releases endorphins and makes you feel good – and playing as a team builds all sorts of other skills too.

I just couldn’t get this vision out of my mind. I wanted to start a football club to improve mental health. I didn’t have any funding – just a big dream and a big idea.

So in 2019 I started a Saturday club for people recovering from substance abuse, seven people to start with. And just me, with a bag of footballs, bibs, cones and a whistle. It was a hard surface pitch in North Kensington. Pretty brutal if you slipped and fell.

Small steps

Then we got our first grant: £300 from the London Football Association. That helped us set up our first mental health ‘turn up and play’ sessions. These casual, small-sided games are all about lots of touches on the ball and plenty of exercise. They’re also a great opportunity for people to socialise and share experiences about mental health.

When we first entered the mental health league, we got absolutely battered. But we got more funding near the end of 2019 which was a real turning point: we got a minibus so I could drive the team to league fixtures. That meant more players, and then we started winning! We were invited to other leagues, and became a Football Association accredited club.

A big opportunity came when I had the chance to bid for funding from the Grenfell Projects Fund. I’d expected that it would be done online, but at the last minute I had to go in and speak in front of 150 people. I wasn’t feeling confident at all. There was me – big beard, a cast on my arm, hat on, bad hair… But I went in there and did it. And I got the highest vote!

That was a real dream fulfilled. We were finally able to play on a nice astroturf pitch with padding, so we could tackle properly and our goalies could dive without too much damage. It was a bit more central so people started noticing us as they walked past and would come and join us.

Kicking off for community 

After that we set up as a community interest company, and it became about much more than football.

Our community football programme is now going from strength to strength – our mental health ‘turn up and play’ football sessions are now available for young people, men, women and mixed. We also have small-sided teams in mental health and community leagues.

One of our team, Joseph, is a chef, and after our Wednesday sessions he cooks Caribbean food which everyone enjoys: he does lovely meals and buss up shut (Trinidadian rotis). Joseph also provided the catering at our 4th annual awards ceremony last month.

We’ve also started helping people access Football Association qualifications in refereeing, coaching, safeguarding and first aid, which broadens employment opportunities.

We also now have a clubhouse which is open throughout the week: people can come to just chat, colour, play pool, Xbox, whatever. It’s a safe place where people can express themselves and feel they belong, whatever they’re into – no pressure.

We recently received a donation from the Stewart family along with a grant from Hammersmith United Charities. This has had a great impact because it’s allowed us to employ two women from north Hammersmith who were previously in volunteer positions. They run the women’s only football session, and also the tea and chat session in the clubhouse each week where people can get together.

One of these people, Myra, joined Minds United a few years ago. She was drinking really heavily at the time. She was very nervous coming along, but she had a go at goalkeeping. She said that she loved everyone instantly, and felt supported to get out of the rut of drinking – she says that being part of the club has changed her life. Being on hand to share her experiences has also helped other people going through the same thing.

A big moment for me was going back to the hospital years after I was sectioned there. It felt strange. But this time I was there to offer them a free service to help in-patients join the Minds United community. So now, people who have been sectioned are allowed to come along on escorted leave with a nurse and play football with us. I think it speeds up their recovery. It’s something I would have loved at the time: there are so many other forms of therapy, apart from medicine.

What we’ve found is that, so far, anyone who’s regularly engaged with Minds United has never been sectioned again.

And me? Running this organisation, as stressful as it can be at times: it gives me real focus and purpose. And we’ve come so far! Now we go to Italy every year to play in the mental health football tournament. We’ve won it the last two years. Little old Minds United!” 


Find out more 
  • Minds United have been supported by a donation from the Stewart family and a grant from Hammersmith United Charities. Find out more here: ‘Lasting legacy for John’
  • If you’re experiencing mental health issues and would enjoy a cup of tea and a chat, play pool table, table tennis or other games, you can drop in to the Minds United Clubhouse between 12-3pm Monday to Thursday (opposite Tesco West Kensington). Find out more about the Clubhouse here
  • Minds United is looking for volunteers to join their free FA coaching course: for more information contact info@mindsunitedfc.com
  • Find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’s grants programme. Our next grant application deadline is 18 January 2024.

 

Image of football team in front of goal
One of Minds United’s teams
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Mary-Lou and John smiling at camera

Lasting legacy for John

When Mary-Lou Stewart’s husband John passed away in 2021, she was keen to donate to a local cause in his memory.

We linked Mary-Lou up with Minds United, whose football community helps improve mental health. It’s a project that John would have been proud to support, says Mary-Lou.

Although he was born and grew up in Coatbridge, Scotland, Hammersmith was always close to John Stewart’s heart; he lived here for 50 years. “He loved this area – it’s such a good part of the world,” says Mary-Lou. “He was always keen to make a difference to his community.”

Football, in particular, was “very special” to him, and he enjoyed going to local matches with friends and family, Mary-Lou remembers, which is why she was so keen to make this donation to Minds United in his memory.

Despite lifelong mobility difficulties due to the effects of tuberculosis on the bones of his left leg when he was a child, John loved to play football himself and was a welcome addition to the local street team from his early teens. “He was always the goalie,” says Mary-Lou, “and what he lacked in speed he made up for in skill – he used to use his crutches as a bit of a weapon!”

“I think being able to enjoy football, in spite of his disability, made him realise he was capable of doing whatever he put his mind to,” says Mary-Lou. “It’s lovely that there’s a place like Minds United where people can just be themselves and leave their baggage behind. Making this donation feels like a wonderful way to honour John’s life.”


Find out more 
Mary-Lou and John smiling at camera
Mary-Lou and John Stewart

 

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May 2023 Grantees

Each year Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups providing services or creating positive change in  area of benefit. In our last grants round in May 2023, we awarded grants totalling £99,593 to 13 local organisations based in Hammersmith.

Among those 13 organisations receiving our community grants were Bubble & Squeak  funding towards a stall manager for community surplus food stall. BLINK Dance Theatre funding towards developing their performing arts programme. Shepherds Bush Families Project funding towards running core activities and The WILDE Foundation funding towards developing and running a community hub and hall.

Who is eligible for a community grant?

Community Grants: A grant of up to £15,000 towards one-off or ongoing projects, or core costs. There are three grant rounds in February, May and October. More about Community Grants

Your project can be one-off or ongoing, but we’re most interested in the difference you will make to local people. We are particularly keen to fund smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their beneficiaries and a good knowledge of the local area.

Please do get in touch with us for a chat before you make a full application for either grant programme, even if you’ve been funded by us in the past. We’d love to find out more about your work and answer your questions.

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February 2023 Grantees

We invest in the future of our local community through our grants programme. We give grants to organisations supporting people who live in our area of benefit.

Each year Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups providing services or creating positive change. In our last grants round in February 2023, we awarded grants totalling £129,400 to 17 local organisations based in Hammersmith.

Among those 17 organisations receiving grants were Solidarity Sports towards their two-week Easter Holidays project. The Invisible Café  funding towards five different classes held per week, these classes are all aimed to enhance wellbeing and promote positive mindful actions. Simple Therapy CIC funding weekly face-to-face counselling with a qualified counsellor for a period of 6 weeks for local residents, and the local branch of Citizens Advice H&F to part fund an Assessor role to provide more support to local people.

Who is eligible for a grant?

Your project can be one-off or ongoing, but we’re most interested in the difference you will make to local people. We are particularly keen to fund smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their beneficiaries and a good knowledge of the local area.

Please contact us to tell us about your project. We like to talk to applicants to develop a better understanding of what they are doing and answer any questions you may have. 

 

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Taking control of money worries

Local people are getting to grips with their personal finances with Crosslight Advice

Lorelei Freeman, Crosslight’s Financial Capability Lead, tells us about the support on offer and some practical steps people can take.

How can people get started with taking control of their finances?

With the current cost-of-living crisis, many people are feeling the pressure like never before. Personal finances can seem confusing, overwhelming and complicated.

Start by putting together your own budget. Begin by figuring out exactly what you do spend, and what income you are getting, and then use that to help decide what changes you could make to either reduce your spending or bring in more money. Both of these are easier said than done, of course!

Some other ‘quick wins’ you could try to reduce your outgoings: Check through your subscriptions. Do you actually go to that gym any more? Did you forget to cancel that service after your free trial period expired? Use an online price comparison service like USwitch or MoneySavingExpert to see if you could save money on your phone, internet or insurance payments.

What does Crosslight Advice do? 

Crosslight Advice, which received a grant from Hammersmith United Charities in 2022, is a debt advice and money education charity which works to lift people out of poverty and help them to build a better future. We have local branches in Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush and Fulham, and support some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society through our work. We provide comprehensive debt and benefit advice, as well as free money education and budget coaching programmes to build financial resilience.

People often tell us they feel stressed, anxious, afraid or embarrassed at the start of their time with us.  We work together to address these emotions and aim to equip people with some practical ‘money skills’ to navigate everyday life, as well as helpful ways of thinking about our money.

Our free Money course runs twice a month online (daytime and evening). We teach skills to help people understand and manage their money. This helps them gain more control over their finances, and apply tools and ideas to their situation so they can take action in areas where they can make changes.

We also organise regular face-to-face courses in our branches. Our next Hammersmith course will begin on 23 January, running at lunchtime over three weeks, with a meal included. Our St Dionis branch in Fulham will also be running a face-to-face course in the spring.

For one-to-one support, we offer a Budget Coaching programme. We work with people over a series of sessions to look at their money management goals, work out what would be most helpful in achieving them, and plan and take some practical steps together.


Find out more 
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Six tips for a top grant application

Do you need funding for your community project in Hammersmith? Find out what we're looking for

We give out around £400,000 each financial year in grants, mostly to small community groups – our next grant application deadline is 12 January 2023. Take a look at our tips first so you make the most out of your application. 

1. Don’t assume knowledge. 

The person reading your application may not be familiar, or that familiar, with your group and what it does. Don’t assume they have any prior knowledge about the group, its track record, how it delivers its work and the needs of the people you support.  

2. Be clear about who benefits 

Try and be as specific as possible about who you are aiming to support. Instead of saying: “Our sports club aims to reach young people from the north of the borough”, be more specific, such as: “We will engage young people aged 11-15 from White City who do not usually take part in sport.” 

3. Can you demonstrate your service or project is needed or wanted? 

It always strengthens an application if you can provide some evidence that your proposed project or service is wanted by the people who will benefit from it. Have you done a survey or held some discussions with these people which you can summarise? What are the challenges locally you are trying to help address? 

4. Be realistic. 

Sometimes groups in their applications seem over ambitious about how many people they will reach or support. Similarly, sometimes newly-established groups apply to us for a lot of funding but do not have a track record of delivery. So be realistic about what you aim to achieve for the size and age of your group. 

5. Apply when it is the best time for your group. 

We have three funding deadlines each year (usually around January, April, and September) and we divide the funds we have between these three periods. We aim to let groups know the outcome within a month of the deadline. Apply when you are ready and have researched the needs of the people you are looking to help. 

6. Talk to us.  

We are always happy to speak to new applicants before they put together a grant application. Do leave plenty of time to talk to us in advance of the deadline so you have time to refine your submission.  


Find out more 

 

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Cost of living advice for communities

Some practical tips and signposting to help with our community's common money worries. By Natalia Perez, trustee, welfare advice specialist and White City Councillor

What are you hearing from residents about cost of living?

After the lockdowns we’ve started to run ‘surgeries’ for our constituents where they share the things that concern them. At the moment, residents are telling us that they’re worried that they won’t be able to pay for: food for their family; essentials like bread and pasta; and gas and electricity.

They’re also concerned about buying fresh food because of the electricity costs of keeping it in the fridge or cooking it, and about the costs of keeping medication in the fridge too.

What sort of advice are you giving them?

We’ve now set up a cost-of-living crisis team in Hammersmith and Fulham. The team provides advice about available services and support across the council and more widely. Residents can get in touch here, call 0800 917 6994 or email costoflivingteam@lbhf.gov.uk

Another good source of information is the Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s website where there is information about benefits, paying your council tax, help with food, help for families with children, paying for your gas electricity and water, improving energy efficiency, help with broadband and phone packages, paying rent, along with contact details of local organisations that can give further advice.

If residents need urgent support with food, medicine, loneliness or isolation and or fuel payments, they should call our Community Connect team on 0800 145 6095.

What advice can you give to small community groups or start-ups at this time?

It’s really important to think about good governance and leadership, making sure that your board represents the community that you serve and has a clear understanding of the changing needs of the community that you serve during the cost-of-living crisis.

Regularly listen and engage with your beneficiaries. Monitor services and seek feedback to see if there are gaps in service provision that can be improved.

Think of the strategy too – have a clear map of where you want your community group or start-up to be three years from now to help you develop clear achievable yearly plans after the cost of living crisis.

Finally, find opportunities for collaboration and partnership work with other organisations and council services.


Find out more:
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Meet trustee, Natalia Perez

Welfare advice specialist and White City Councillor, Natalia Perez, joins us as a new trustee. 

Passionate about the life-changing difference that good advice can make, our new trustee Natalia Perez is also a Councillor for White City ward. Dedicated to improving her community’s quality of life, she sits on our Grants & Partnerships Committee.   

Why did you decide to become a Councillor for White City ward?

I wanted to give back to the community that’s been my home for the last 22 years. I’ve dedicated much of my working life to the charity sector – organisations that give social welfare advice about things like benefits, housing and disability. I’ve worked with women and their families who’ve been struggling to make ends meet and threatened with homelessness. I found it so rewarding to see the huge impact good advice had on their wellbeing and quality of life. These experiences inspired me to get more involved with local issues and to directly help residents in our borough and White City ward.

Why did you decide to become a trustee?

I’ve always admired Hammersmith United Charities’ work: giving older people safe, secure, warm and affordable almshouses; supporting a great variety of grassroot community-based projects and charities through grant giving for much needed and impactful work.

This mission aligns with my own passion for supporting the charity sector and communities in need. I feel very grateful and privileged to be a trustee of an organisation that’s been at the heart of Hammersmith for 400 years. I’m very keen to be involved in future work and support local projects.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my daughter, partner and dogs. We have adopted two rescued dogs called Ziggy and Kusa. We all love going out for long walks and enjoying our local parks through the different seasons. Last year I started roller skating lesson in Hyde Park. I also enjoy exercising at the local gym and have a passion for dancing salsa and merengue in the kitchen.

 

Find out more:

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Calling for volunteer bookworms

Do you love reading and helping others? Do you have a few hours you can spare to help a child read?

Doorstep Library is a reading charity we supported with a grant in April 2022 – and they’re urgently looking for volunteers in Hammersmith & Fulham. Olivia Rawnsley, Doorstep Library’s Volunteer Engagement Manager, tells us more.

“Doorstep Library is dedicated to bringing the magic of books and the joy of reading directly into the homes of children who need our support.

We use books to fuel children’s natural love of stories, fire their imaginations, and encourage their appreciation of reading. Our home-based service means that we are there in person or online, finding the most appropriate books for every child we visit and building a relationship with the whole family.

We’ve supported 500 families across the Borough in Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush, East Acton, Fulham Broadway and Parsons Green. However, there a growing demand for families who need our support.

We are urgently looking for more volunteers to join our team so we can continue to provide support to local children.

Who we’re looking for

Our volunteers come from all walks of life, from university students to volunteers in full time work, as well as older people. They are all united in a passion for reading and believing in an education for all. This is something we look for in all our volunteers.

Working in pairs, volunteers visit five sets of families over the week to support with reading. You’ll visit between 4.30pm and 7.00pm every week on either a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday and in one chosen location in Hammersmith and Fulham. We ask for a commitment of at least an academic year, but often volunteers will stay with us much longer.

If you cannot make a weekly commitment, then we also have our stand-in role, where you can stand in when weekly volunteers are not available.

Benefits of volunteering:

  • It’s incredibly fun! You get to explore your inner child and share your passion for books and reading.
  • You will be a part of the Doorstep Library community of families, volunteers and staff members.
  • You can make a real difference to the lives of others.
  • You give back to the community you live in or the community you visit every week.
  • You can build your confidence and improve your self-esteem.
  • You will develop skills and enhance your C.V.

All volunteers are interviewed and trained and will need to complete an enhanced DBS check. You’ll receive continued support throughout their journey with us receiving regular check-ins from staff as well as development opportunities like additional training.”

**

“I normally always read with someone but today I read the whole page on my own…I really enjoyed this book and I would like to keep it so I can read one page every night with my mum” – young person in East Acton

“Whatever Doorstep Library is doing – they are doing it right! The children are happy, my Team Leader is lovely. I can’t fault it – five stars! I am enjoying it, everybody enjoys it!”  –  volunteer in Hammersmith   


Find out more 
  • Visit Doorstep Library or watch a short video for more information.
  • Register your interest: contact Olivia on olivia@doorsteplibrary.org.uk and find out how to become a volunteer.
  • Are you a local community organisation working in Hammersmith? If you need funding for your project, find out more about our grants programme. The next application deadline is 12 January 2023.
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Do you need funding for your community project? 

New grants for projects benefiting people in our borough.

We invest in the future of our local community through our grants programme. We give grants to organisations supporting people who live in our area of benefit.

Each year Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups providing services or creating positive change. In our last grants round in April, we awarded grants totalling just over £100,000 to a range of organisations in Hammersmith.

These included support for a charity which literally brings the library to the doorstep of children’s homes on the White City Estate, a festival in Hammersmith celebrating the borough’s Polish culture, and skills training for single parents to help them find employment.

Among those 13 projects receiving grants were Fulham Reach Boat Club towards the costs of running its summer holiday water activities for young people, Outside Edge Theatre Company for its recovery drama groups for people affected by addiction, Bassuah Legacy Foundation for its support services for single parents, and the local branch of Open Age to provide a range of activities for older people in Hammersmith.

Who is eligible for a grant?

Your project can be one-off or ongoing, but we’re most interested in the difference you will make to local people. We are particularly keen to fund smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their beneficiaries and a good knowledge of the local area.

Please contact us to tell us about your project. We like to talk to applicants to develop a better understanding of what they are doing and answer any questions you may have. 

The next deadline for applying for a grant is midday on Friday 16th September.


Find out more 

 

 

 

 

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In pictures: Open Gardens Weekend

We were delighted to show off our almshouse gardens to the public over the London Square Open Gardens weekend in June. Have a look at our gallery to see them in full bloom!


Find out more

Know someone who’s over 60, on a low income and in need of a safe and affordable home?
Find out about our sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful award-winning gardens.

 

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“I do believe that life is too short“

With a singing career which took him all the way to Elvis's studio, Sycamore House's resident quiz-master Del has performing in his blood - and is determined to make the most of every moment.

I was born in Fulham off Wandsworth Bridge Road, in Hammersmith Hospital. I was bought up with my grandparents and my mother and I lived with them, along with my aunt and uncle. When I was eight, we moved to Roehampton. I didn’t know what a bath was until I went there. Mine was a tin bath and I was always the last one in it.  

My grandfather would take me to a musical theatre show every Friday night and I used to see people like The Crazy Gang and Norman Wisdom. My mum would take me to shows at the London Palladium. So I did the same with my kids: we used to take them to Leicester Square and get half-price tickets.  

One Saturday night I went to a show and a lady was sitting on the stage singing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. It made the hair on the back on my neck stand up. I found out afterwards that it was Judy Garland.  

How did you get involved in performing? 

 My genre of music was a mixture of Engelbert, Elvis and Tony Christie, Tom Jones and Sinatra. It started when I was growing up. My friend’s dad was an entertainment secretary in a club in Roehampton. We used to go there on a Saturday night, and they would call people up to sing. I was around 18 years old. They would say “Del, come up! Can you sing this for us?”.  

I became the entertainment secretary at the Shepherd’s Bush Club, formerly known as the Goldhawk Social Club, where I currently organise their live music. I book the live music at Sycamore House as well, for residents’ birthdays or entertainment nights.   

I have performed in Tunisia, Portugal and Spain. My friend, a drummer, who I’ve known since I was 11 years old and I went to America and I recorded music in Sun Studio where Elvis recorded. It’s still the same: the instruments are there, and we went into the booth and recorded ‘My Way’, Elvis style. You can’t just sing some songs, you have to perform them. Somebody writes those lyrics, and it means a lot to them. My job as a singer is to bring that out. 

One of the best things I did was go to Monte Gordo in Portugal. I had time off from work and at the same time I had lost my youngest son. My wife said for me to go abroad as I found it difficult to stay at home.  

I found a random a bar and saw a guy playing the piano and I sat next to him. I said to him “Do you know this song?” and I sung it with him. Once I finished the manager of the bar said: “Can you come in tonight and perform?”. Nine years later I was going there a few times a year. I performed at bars, a casino and a country club. 

Tell us about your family. 

My son’s names are Steve, Scott and Simon. My youngest son was diagnosed at 9 with a brain tumour, and was with us for three years after his diagnosis. 

My middle son Scott used to take Simon to a place called ‘Phab Club’, which arranged for the children to go Buckingham Palace Mews to learn to ride a horse. It was run by Lady Joan Bader; she was the wife of Douglas Bader, an airline pilot who lost his legs during the war. The Queen would sometimes pop in and help with the riding lessons. 

Simon was a big Arsenal supporter. One of his physiotherapists was an Arsenal seasonal ticket holder and she spoke to the club to arrange if he could watch the player’s train. We went to the Highbury grounds, and we sat in the manager boxes. The team were fantastic with him and made him laugh when I showed them that I was wearing my Fulham football shirt. I have a photo of him on that day in my living room.  

We received a red and white football and letter from Arsenal Football Club. Fulham Football Club sent a black and white football and the Chairman of the club sent a Rolls Royce with a player on Simon’s funeral day.    

What’s it like living in sheltered housing? 

I have been here for around seven and half years now. It’s great having access to a garden right outside my living room. I originally came here for my wife’s benefit as she was in a wheelchair due to her health. We moved in here in the summer and I sadly lost her the following February. We only had a brief time living in Sycamore House together. My second son Scott and my granddaughter passed away last year.  

My eldest son lives in Belfast. I am only able to travel short distances, so I haven’t been able to see my family as much. But I have WhatsApp and we talk, share photos and videos with each other and my son always calls me on the weekend. 

The scheme manager at Sycamore House, Chris, has been fantastic. When Scott died, Chris checked up on me and made sure I was okay. He gave me the company when I needed it. 

They are lovely people here. The staff are great. The best thing is you have your privacy, but the company is there if you need it. I am the quiz master here every Thursday. The residents get together after our coffee morning, and we have a good laugh.  

 


Find out more

Know someone who’s over 60, on a low income and in need of a safe and affordable home?
Find out about our sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful award-winning gardens.

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Meet our Trustee Hugo Sintes

With experience of supporting communities all around the world, Hugo joined us in 2021 and sits on our Grants & Partnership Committee.

Trustee of Hammersmith United Charities, Hugo Sintes, is currently Director of Corporate Partnerships at The Big Issue Foundation. He has 20 years of experience supporting small businesses and local communities in different parts of the world from Africa to Latin America. 

As well as being a trustee, what do you currently do? 

I have spent the last 20 years or so supporting small businesses and local communities in different parts of the world, first with Oxfam in Africa and Latin America, and most recently with various housing associations in different parts of the UK. My current job is with The Big Issue Foundation. As their Director of Corporate Partnerships, I work with companies that will support our mission, which is to enable vendors, typically people who have experienced homelessness, rebuild their lives by selling the magazine and developing new skills and local connections.  

What is your connection to Hammersmith?  

I grew up in Spain, but came to the UK to study in 2001 and have lived in Shepherd’s Bush for most of that time since. My partner and I love it here, and we connect with our community in different ways, through the local schools that our kids attend, local associations, sports, and restaurants! We love the buzz and diversity that Hammersmith offers.  

Can you tell us why you decided to become a trustee in your local area?  

I wanted to know more about my community and try to use my experience and skills to give something back. It’s also an opportunity to gain new skills and grow professionally. 

Since joining Hammersmith United Charities, what’s something you found out about the area? 

I’ve loved visiting and meeting residents in our two almshouses. More generally, I’ve been impressed with how many people and organisations try to support Hammersmith to be a vibrant and inclusive place to live.  

What do you see in the future for the Hammersmith community? 

I love it when communities build links and bridges, and businesses and people with different talents join in to help. There’s a lot of that in Hammersmith, and since joining HUC, I’ve seen a lot more than I knew existed! This gives me hope we have strong values and skills at hand. The expert advice provided by organisations such as H&F Law Centre, Citizens Advice or Crosslight is essential, and initiatives such as Barons Court Project and the Upper Room key for people at risk of homelessness. Also, H&F Giving is helping build even stronger connections and support in our community. There’s a long way to go still, but I think Hammersmith can become an example for London and the whole country, and I’m proud to be part of Hammersmith United Charities as we try to do our bit.  

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

When the working day is over, I spend time with my kids, but I would not call that relaxing! When I am on holidays, I love listening to the sound of the sea. I’d advise anyone to sit in a garden or park nearby and watch and listen to nature. At Hammersmith United Charities, we believe the gardens in our almshouses are very important to our residents.  My two boys and I love playing football. They train on Saturday with a club in White City and you’ll see us often in any of the local parks kicking a ball. I grew up in Minorca, and we also love going back whenever it’s possible to see my family.  

What is your favourite book or film? 

I’ll watch any James Bond movie and re-read Tintin and Asterix comics in any new language I’m trying to learn! I also enjoy listening to music.  

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a trustee for a local organisation? 

My advice is that you research organisations which work on topics that matter to you, then  write to them to ask how you can help, it might be as a trustee, or in other ways.   


Find out more 
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Investing in the future of our community

New grants for projects benefiting people in our borough.

Trips for older people who are visually impaired, wellbeing coordinators to help families living with mental health problems, and a cultural festival for local Iraqi, Syrian and Somalian families – these are just some of projects we’ve funded in our latest round of grants to benefit people in our borough. 

Nomad Radio, the UK’s only radio station for the Somali community, has also received one of Hammersmith United Charities’ grants. According to Abdul, general manager: “Our listeners are some of the poorest and most marginalised in the borough. It’s never been more important for us to reach out to these families. So we’re delighted to have received funding from Hammersmith United Charities. To be honest, it has helped us keep the lights on.”

In January 2022 we gave over £111,000 to 14 local organisations; with grant rounds in October,  January and May, we award a total of £400,000 each year. Our grants go to local organisations delivering services or creating positive change in Hammersmith.


Find out more 

The next deadline for grant applications is 16 September 2022.

 

 

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A right royal celebration

Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee at our almshouses with festivities and friendship.

Residents, community partners, trustees and local councillors and the Hammersmith community came together to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at our almshouses in May. With two garden parties held at John Betts House and Sycamore House, we celebrated in style with live music from local groups, food, drink, conversation – and a few tricks from a local magician. 

“We were delighted to see so many local people celebrating the Jubilee at our sheltered housing schemes,” said Victoria Hill, CEO. “It was great to see so many familiar faces and some new ones. We believe Hammersmith’s best asset is its local community. So many people worked so hard to support others over the pandemic and we hope our small celebration helped acknowledge some of them.”  

On Twitter… 

“Early start for #jubilee2022 with John Betts and Sycamore House in good spirits and voice. Thanks to @HamUnited for asking me, Mayor @EmmaApthorp and Dep Leader @BJ_Coleman for jubilee tea.” Andy Slaughter MP  

 “Great time at John Betts celebrating together. Huge thanks to our residents and staff for putting on a lovely party. What a pleasure to meet the new mayor @EmmaApthorp @lbhf. Excellent work by @hammersmithandy and @BJ_Coleman, Dep Leader of LBHF, helping us eat all those cakes.” Vivienne Lukey, Hammersmith United Charities Chair. 

“Thank you @HamUnited for inviting me to your #PlatinumJubilee Party. A lovely event. Highlights meeting a 91 year old resident who loves living with you, the beautiful gardens and the fruit juice, which was most definitely punch.” Barons Court Project  

 

 


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Meet an Agent of Change

Eurydice runs a community organisation dedicated to making our borough dyslexic-friendly.

Eurydice Caldwell is a dyslexic-friendly life coach who runs GENER8TE, which helps create dyslexic-friendly work environments. She’s also a recent graduate of the Agents of Change leadership programme, which she says has been “transformational”, giving her new skills and community connections to help her projects thrive.   

What does your business do?  

One in five people in our community are dyslexic. GENER8TE creates working environments which are friendlier for dyslexic people: I am passionate about people fulfilling their talent. Our mission is to make Hammersmith & Fulham the first dyslexic-friendly borough in London. We’ve been working towards that goal since 2013.  

I teach people how to make content and ways of working more dyslexic-friendly. I am so passionate about getting this integrated throughout the borough. It would change the face of our community, not just for dyslexic residents and workers but economically and socially. If people can engage in the accessible materials you are sharing, then you have reduced the barriers to them engaging.

I’m dyslexic myself. In 2007, I completed a course which helped me realise that my dyslexia was a strength – it really ‘flipped my script’. The training I deliver now is a consolidation of the skills I have learned.  

As well as my work with GENER8TE, I’ve also worked as a dyslexic-friendly life coach in the community since 2013. I’ve helped clients implement strategies to complete their degrees, authors publish their books, and teachers with methods to support dyslexic students in the classroom. It’s those real-life moments when you meet people on the road who say to me: I am now working, or I am studying this.

I currently also work in adult education at a local community centre called Urban Partnership Group at the Masbro Centre – I’m a qualified teacher specialising in special educational needs. I run a dyslexic-friendly IT & Employability course and an English course primarily for people with English as a second language. 

Why did you join Agents of Change? 

When we started GENER8TE, we began by going to every community event possible but didn’t really gain any traction. I went to the Agents of Change networking events, and I realised this was the place to build contacts in the local community and to upskill myself.    

What did you learn? 

After joining the Agents of Change leadership programme, I received two training sessions delivered by an in-house trainer once a month. The trainer taught us how to run our business, upskilled us in leadership and provided fundamental training in creating a business, motivating ourselves and helping us and our projects become successful. You also have a designated mentor.  

Having been on the leadership programme, I’m in the position to push my business forward. It’s been transformational – I have learnt a lot. There are two unique things about Agents of Change. First, it’s local, so everyone has a relatable experience of living in the area. People may think London is one place, but it’s not. I have lived in different areas of London and it’s different from Hammersmith and Fulham.  

The other fact is that we are all women – it feels really important to have this space. It feels like we’re levelling the playing field. I have built friendships and a network of ladies whom I am able to connect with on a local level.  

What would you like other community organisations to know about dyslexia? 

Harness the strength of your workforce and the one in five people with dyslexia by becoming dyslexic-friendly. You will become more communicative, powerful, and heard. You will become more inclusive as an individual, organisation and community.  

What is coming up next? 

I am looking to work with bigger businesses. I have just launched training on how we want business to become more dyslexic-friendly and the impact it makes. 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 


Find out more 
  • Agents of Change is a six-month free accredited community leadership programme based in Hammersmith & Fulham. It is a network for women who have an active interest in making a social change in the north of the Borough.  The programme mentors and supports women to overcome barriers in delivering community and social based projects by equipping them with the tools and skills to tackle local issues. It’s delivered in partnership with Imperial College London, Hammersmith United Charities, Lyric Hammersmith, and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.
  • If you’re interested in joining the Agents of Change programme and network please find out more here or register here. If you would like to find out more about the Agents of Change Leadership Programme, please contact the Community Engagement Team at whitecity.community@imperial.ac.uk 
  • To access Eurydice’s dyslexic-friendly coaching and training contact her at caldwelleurydice@hotmail.com 
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Leslie, Head of Housing

Meet our head of housing

Leslie Morson has been managing housing for over 20 years. He started his career in Hammersmith and has recently returned to the borough as our Head of Housing. Find out about his biggest vice and who he thinks is the best James Bond.

What do you like about Hammersmith?

It’s a really vibrant borough and there’s always a lot going on. I like the mix of communities – I live in Haringey which enjoys the same kind of mix. There’s also a lot of support in the borough for older people which is important.

What does your job involve?

I manage Hammersmith United Charities’ sheltered housing making sure that the buildings are safe and well maintained and also that the residents are being looked after and we can meet their needs. We help them with things such as completing forms and also provide a programme of social activities. We have two sheltered housing schemes just off Goldhawk Road – John Betts House on Rylett Road and Sycamore House on Sycamore Gardens. We are fortunate that we offer large flats decorated to a high standard. What is very special about our housing is the large communal gardens which both our schemes have and these gardens are enjoyed and highly valued by the residents. We are so lucky to have two gardeners who work with the residents to maintain them and keep them looking so beautiful.

You mentioned activities for the residents, what are those?

We have coffee mornings every Thursday. There are also exercise classes and game nights. Local specialists and community groups come in to talk to the residents and there are occasional trips, such as afternoon teas and outings to the seaside. In addition, the residents organise their own social events. For example, at John Betts House the residents arrange a film evening once a week. One of the things that I am looking forward to is to see how we could develop these activities even further. We’re starting to think about what we might do to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June.

What’s the best thing about the job?

The people. We are a really nice staff team here – almost like a family. I’m starting to get to know the residents and they are great too.

In your free time what do you get up to?

Free time? What is that? I like travelling and I love to get away, even if it is just a short trip at weekends – we were in York the other weekend. My last big trip was going to China and I really like going to the Far East such as to Thailand and Cambodia.

What’s your biggest vice?

I think my wife would tell you it is wasting money, particularly buying electrical things and gadgets that I shouldn’t. I am what’s called an early adopter when it comes to technology and really like my gadgets. Last year I bought a new shower head which has a demister which somehow helps the environment, but I still haven’t installed it after about nine months!

Which do you prefer film or theatre?

That’s difficult. My wife trained as an actress and we often go to the theatre. I’ve been at least three times since the theatres opened up again. However, I do enjoy film as well and pay far too much money for streaming services such as Netflix and Sky. The last thing I saw at the cinema was the latest James Bond movie – I’m a huge James Bond fan. Daniel Craig is without doubt the best Bond we have ever had.

Eat out or take away?

I am a terrible cook, but my wife is an even worse cook than me and she’ll admit to that. I am the one who prepares Christmas dinner. Eat out would be the preference but my wife is a really fussy eater so I enjoy going out for a meal with friends rather than with my wife!

Reading a book or watching the tv?

I’m ashamed to say it but it’s going to have to be TV. I asked for a couple of books for Christmas which I got and I haven’t even picked them up yet. I used to be an avid reader, but I just don’t do it now. One of the books I got for Christmas was Vic Reeve’s autobiography but reading takes concentration and instead you can just stick the TV on and zone out.

Tea or coffee?

I’m not really a big tea or coffee drinker. I never have been. If I was to drink tea, I prefer a Darjeeling with a slice of lemon than a builder’s tea.

If someone is interested in Hammersmith United Charities’ housing, what should they do?

First, check our eligibility criteria. Then just give me a call on 07470 793 565, I would love to show you around.


Find out more
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film image

Local Black history – in film

Local charity Urbanwise.London’s new film celebrates the rich Black history of Hammersmith and Fulham – and encourages you to explore your community.

Urbanwise.London is an environmental and educational charity working mainly in west London. It encourages people to go out to explore the history and nature of their local area, working with schools, families and community groups.

To celebrate Black History Month 2021, Urbanwise.London created a film, funded by Hammersmith United Charities, which brings to life the people and places at the heart of Hammersmith & Fulham’s Black history.

The aim is, says Carlos Izsak, Urbanwise.London’s education officer, to “tickle the imagination – there’s a lot of research and information in the film, but we wanted to keep it snappy; the animations make it quite dynamic too.”

The film uncovers the area’s rich local history, sharing vibrant stories about Black people from the area.

We learn about Mary Seacole, who “we could talk about for days”, says Carlos. A skilled nurse who was born in Jamaica in 1805, Mary wanted to travel the Crimean War to treat injured and ill soldiers with Florence Nightingale. She was rejected, so she arranged her passage independently and got to work. George Lawson, a British medical officer wrote: “She did not spare herself if she could do any good to the suffering soldiers. In rain and snow, in storm and tempest…  Sometimes more than 200 sick would be embarked in one day, but Mrs. Seacole was always equal to the occasion.”

Mary was buried in west London in 1881, lying there unknown for nearly a century. Bringing “some justice to her”, as Carlos puts it, there is now a beautiful sculpture to celebrate her achievements in front of St Thomas’s Hospital. It’s believed to be the first memorial in the UK to a named Black woman.

We hear too about William and Ellen Craft, former African American slaves turned fugitives, who met in Georgia, USA. They escaped from the plantation they were on, with Ellen dressing up as a white man. As she had light skin, she pretended to be travelling across the USA with her enslaved servant, William. By 1850 they had reached Hammersmith, where they became well-known as lecturers about slavery. They published a memoir about their experiences.

There are many more characters and places to find out about in the film. Bringing these stories to light isn’t always a straightforward process, says Carlos. “There is no such thing as being neutral, you’re always biased – that’s how history works. It’s subjective, but we really tried to portray things as they were, and to get a balance. We wanted to feel that the stories are fair to community.”

Carlos wants the film to be the start of something, not the end. “We’d like to develop some educational resources in the future. I’d love to think of some Year 6 children watching the video in class, asking questions, learning more.”

“I hope the film spurs everyone to find out more, and to get out and explore their area. This way, your local area will feel closer to you; you’ll have a greater sense of connection to the place you call home.”

(more…)

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Supporting those who support others

Among the first tasks of Gerard Darby, HUC’s new Head of Grants & Community, was to oversee the distribution of our wellbeing grants.

I recently joined Hammersmith United Charities as Head of Grants & Community. Many years ago, I taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in Hammersmith, but the borough has changed quite significantly since then. However, I feel it hasn’t lost its exciting vibe and wonderful diversity.

The last couple of years have been very challenging for us all and particularly for those working or volunteering in community and voluntary groups.

Although it is now a cliché to say it, these have been unprecedented times – a global pandemic did not feature in any organisations’ risk register.

Despite the pandemic coming with little warning and upsetting the pattern of our lives so significantly, Hammersmith’s voluntary sector responded to it with immense ingenuity, resilience and compassion.

Almost overnight, some groups switched the delivery of their services from in person to digital to avoid a break in their service; others extended their services or created new ones to meet the needs of the borough’s most vulnerable residents. To do this, many had to ask their staff and volunteers to work additional hours, often in the evenings and at weekends. At the same time, like us all, they also had to contend with their own anxieties and difficulties which the pandemic brought, such as family members losing their jobs or contracting Covid and children needing home schooling.

Several groups told me that the physical and emotional demands of the last couple of years have understandably taken their toll on those working in their organisation. In response to this, and the extraordinary efforts made by voluntary groups in the borough, we offered our existing smaller grantees the opportunity to apply for wellbeing grants.

These were small grants of up to £500. We did not stipulate what the grants should be used for except the broad purpose of supporting the wellbeing of staff, volunteers and trustees / management committee members.

Quite a number, such as Hammersmith and Fulham Foodbank, and the Lumi Foundation, a charity which aims to make yoga accessible to all, are using their wellbeing grants to provide celebratory events to acknowledge the efforts of their volunteer teams.

Cristina Nikolov, Lumi Foundation’s Chief Impact Officer, says: “As a very small organisation, we do not have the resources to celebrate the great work our teachers do in the community. Moreover, the impact of Covid-19 and various lockdowns have meant that we have chosen to use our funds to offer free yoga classes online for the community we serve, greatly reducing our budget for other activity. This grant will enable us to celebrate our teachers and create a renewed sense of connection within our organisation. A rare opportunity to enjoy some fun as a team!”

Some groups, such as the Community Interest Company For Brian, are looking to the future and bringing together their staff, volunteers and directors to think about what aspects of their new ways of working they might look to sustain post-pandemic. Clare Morris, Director, explains: “The grant has given us the first opportunity to bring our team together face-to-face since lockdown. Half are full time carers who have felt the impact of Covid-19 disproportionately. We are in the process of planning an away day, and looking forward to being able to take stock and elaborate plans for 2022 and beyond. Although virtual meetings are practical, zoom is no substitute for the support and creativity that arises from meeting in person – for some of the team it will be the first time.”

At Hammersmith United Charities, we recognise the importance of both acknowledging and supporting those who support some of the most vulnerable in our local community. We hope that our wellbeing grants go some way to demonstrating this.

I have been so impressed with the creativity and commitment of Hammersmith’s community groups. I am really looking forward to meeting you all over the coming months.

Go to the grant-making pages of our website to find out about our other grants. Next deadline for applications for our grants to community organisations is midday on Friday 29th April.

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“We’ll tackle anything”

Our housing scheme manager, Chris, is on hand to help our residents with anything that makes their life easier.

“I look after every resident as if they were my own mother or father. I think, if you stick to those principles, you can’t go wrong.

We help them feel safe and secure, to have the best life they can. They have someone on hand to deal with everyday problems – both physical and mental. This country is in the grips of a mental health crisis, which the pandemic has made 10 times worse, and support services are at breaking point. But I say to our residents: if you have a problem, no matter how big or small, come and find me. We’ll tackle anything.

Recently one of our residents, Mike*, who some years ago suffered a stroke, came to me with a letter from his bank. For the past five years they’ve been charging him every month for insurance for an address he no longer lives at. So I spoke to the bank, and they are in the process of giving him a full refund of £600. I’ve been working with another resident to get his electricity account and meter readings up to date, and he’s now had £450 in over payments refunded. We also arranged a case worker from the RNIB to help another of our incredible residents, a 91-year-old lady who has severe eyesight problems. She’s now feeling a bit more independent in her home, with some specialist aids that help her.

All sorts of things come up every day, and it’s really rewarding to be able to help.

We check in with residents every day to make sure they’re ok, which sometimes means supporting them with their health. Once I called a lady, Jenny*, on the phone, who said she was feeling a bit weak that day and was in bed. It didn’t sit right with me, so I made my way over to her flat. She didn’t look well, and her breathing seemed a bit shallow. I never like to take any risks, so I called the paramedics.

When they came, she was sitting on the sofa, and her heart rate was perfectly normal. But then suddenly it shot up to 200 bpm. They discovered that she had a heart defect, and now lots of things have been put in place for her, linking in her GP, community health services, along with home assessments. The ambulance team told me that they were glad that I’d made the 999 call, as it could have gone a lot worse.”

About our sheltered housing

We provide welcoming sheltered housing, with award-winning gardens, where residents can live safely and independently. Our lovely, affordable flats are available now for people from Hammersmith who are over 60 and on a low income.

 

*Resident names have been changed

 

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New October 2021 Grantees

We gave £135,000 to 13 local organisations in October 2022.

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“Everyone can be open, rather than hidden”

Building skills, confidence and wellbeing, the Bassuah Legacy Foundation has created a compassionate community to help single parents thrive.

“I was a single parent for 30 years – I know how it feels,” says Christina Konadu, CEO of the Bassuah Legacy Foundation (BLF). “I have lived the challenges. Back then, there was no support around me. Through BLF, I wanted to build a safe space for single parents and offer the support that I missed out on,” she says.

Making up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children, there are nearly 2 million single parents in the UK. With part-time nursery places now costing over £7,000 per year, single parents are much less likely to be in employment than parents living together. “Single parents often have to give up their studies or their employment when they have children, and then never go back,” says Christina. “After being at home for a long time they often lose confidence,” she says.

Formed in 2019, BLF aims to ‘promote social inclusion and relieve the needs of single parents and their children’. Funded by Hammersmith United Charities, BLF offers basic education programmes including literacy and numeracy, money management and digital training, along with employment support like CV writing and interview techniques. There are also volunteering opportunities through the BLF’s much-loved community shop – “a great way for our members to give back to the community and make new friends,” says Christina.

“Single parents also often don’t have time to do things to help with their own wellbeing,” she says; the BLF provides a wellbeing programme which includes yoga, mindfulness and other activities, along with signposting to other local services that can help with mental health.

The team works hard to get to know each person and find out exactly what support they want. “We try to get to the bottom of every member,” says Christina. “Getting people to open up is a challenge, but we take it slowly. We celebrate each and every one of our parents to help empower them.”

She believes that there is still a lot of stigma about single parenting. As well as the practical support BLF provides, it’s also a supportive place where its members feel understood and can find their voice. “We’ve created a community where together we are a family rather than individuals. Whether you’re a single mum or a single dad, you know that you’ll be understood – everyone can be open rather than hiding themselves.”

The team has recently worked with someone who has been a single parent for a while. She had lost her job because she couldn’t afford childcare. “She had lost her confidence – lost everything – because she wanted to be there with her son,” says Christina. “It took her a long time to rebuild. But through BLF she regained her confidence. We gave her employment and wellbeing support. And now she is one of our trainers on the health and wellbeing programme, and has another job as well. We’ve been there throughout everything.”

It’s rewarding to see people go back to employment or education: “When they leave us and you see these big achievements – it feels amazing. We are so grateful for the support of funders like HUC, which helps us make such an impact on single parent families in the borough,” says Christina.

And as well as supporting the community in Hammersmith and Fulham, BLF also has a branch in Ghana, which is where Christina was born. “It is a different environment – there is more privilege here in London. In Ghana, a priority was getting a clean water supply for the community we wanted to support. After we’d helped organise that, then we could help people with basic education, finances and building our petty trading programme. Although the work we do in Ghana is slightly different, we are responding to the same need. Single parents need support wherever they are around the globe.”

________________________________

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“Finally I have some inner peace”

When he’s not making candles for the Queen or delivering NHS prescriptions to locals, Martyn is making the most of his tranquil new home for life at Hammersmith United Charities’ almshouse, Sycamore House.

“I’ve lived in West London since the 80s, not far from Sycamore House, in fact. I used to work in adventure tourism – I was a tour leader, taking people for trips all around the world. I hung up my Indiana Jones hat when I was 55. I started doing walking tours in central London and to tourist destinations like Stonehenge and Bath.

It all came to a shuddering halt in March 2020. All the tourists were gone. And I was sitting at home, wondering what to do.

Then I found a role with a hospital in Notting Hill, delivering prescriptions to people who had to stay at home during lockdown. I still do that for four hours every afternoon. I just feel like I’m doing my bit in the war, you know? Helping my local community. People are usually really happy to see me. It makes me feel very validated and blessed every day.

I’m also a candlemaker to the Queen – I’m based in a workshop in Shepherd’s Bush which has a royal warrant. It’s something I’ve been doing for 40 years. We make candles for events at Buckingham Palace, and also for television. If you’ve seen a candle in a BBC production it’s most likely one of ours. We often make them intricately out of beeswax, to keep them historically accurate. Sometimes we’re asked to make them burn brighter to help the cinematography, things like that.

For 30 years I’d been living in ‘short-life’ accommodation. That means you’re allowed to stay with other people in a property that would have otherwise stayed empty. Cheap, temporary accommodation in things like old houses, pubs, run-down mansions, old fire stations – all sorts. They weren’t in good condition and eventually it would go back to the owner when they wanted to refurbish or demolish it. It was very uncertain. You wouldn’t know if you were going to stay somewhere for five months or five years.

It was great fun when I was young and winging it. But for some reason, earlier this year, I just thought: I can’t do this anymore – 61 and living like a student. It’s not fun when you are older, moving everything into storage over and over again. My current place was coming to an end, with no guarantee of anything else. The last three times I’d been moved out there had been a gap of several months, so I stayed on sofas, or with my parents, which drove me crazy after 48 hours. When I first started with short-life, there was so much property to choose from. Now, there’s very little empty property left in London.

A while back I was delivering some medication to one of Hammersmith United Charities’ sheltered housing schemes. I was struck by how peaceful it was, and the gardens! I asked the tenant – what’s the story with this place? He said, well, if you’re over 60 and you’ve lived near here for over five years, you should get in touch – you might be eligible.

So that’s what I did.

The process to apply wasn’t daunting – right from the word go the staff at Hammersmith United Charities helped me along every step. They were kindness itself.

No stress exists in Sycamore House. People are nice and helpful, and I can be as independent as I want, commit to the activities as much as I like – there’s no pressure from anyone.

I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It’s a beautiful flat, with wonderful gardens. And it’s got one thing you can’t buy in London, even if you’re rich: it’s quiet. All you hear in the morning is birds. No traffic, no shouting.

To have been winging it for 29 years and then to have home security. For the first time in my life I have a grown-up flat. Not having eviction notices through my door; not having to share my kitchen and bathroom. For the flat to be all mine. Finally I have some inner peace.”

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The London Funders’ perspective

Find out how London Funders supports funders in Hammersmith and Fulham and its wider membership to meet the needs of London’s communities.

By Geraldine Tovey, Membership, Communication and Policy Manager at London Funders

Some charities in Hammersmith and Fulham may have heard of us, but I know that we’ll be unfamiliar to many. London Funders are the network for funders and investors in London’s civil society. We’re the place where funders come together to connect and collaborate, where ideas are generated and acted on, and where people work to ensure that resources are channelled to the right places. Over 170 funders – from across independent, public and private sectors – are members, and they provide support to thousands of organisations across the capital.

London Funders supports the funding community in every borough, and we run specific activities to help our members in Hammersmith and Fulham. We are strong advocates and supporters of UNITED in Hammersmith and Fulham who are members of our London’s Giving initiative. UNITED in Hammersmith and Fulham (fundraising partner of Hammersmith United Charities) is part of a network of local place-based giving schemes. These schemes work collaboratively with other groups in the community to provide funding and support to local groups, and deliver activities to promote a strong sense of togetherness in the borough. Over the past few years this network of place-based giving schemes has gone from strength to strength. You can read more about the impact of these schemes across London in our latest report.

We also connect our members who fund in the borough more informally, through our wider programme of events and by providing the results of our annual member survey of who funds ‘what’ and ‘where’. We recently increased our capacity to support local funder forums, as part of our place-based work. While we’ve not yet established a group in Hammersmith and Fulham, we are always keen to hear from funders – so get in touch if you’d like to find out more!

We also work hard to help London’s wider civil society sector. Most notably, London Funders has convened major funder collaborations following the Grenfell Tower Fire and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic through the London Community Response Fund. Both funding rounds got money out of the door incredibly quickly. For example, over the pandemic, we were delighted to work with 67 funders to get £57.5m out in grants through to over 3,600 amazing organisations.

By working together through these collaborations, funders could share intelligence, ensure that funding matched the immediate needs of the community and minimise due diligence and the reporting burden for charities.

We have written reports on our learning from both the funding in North Kensington and the London Community Response – and are using these to influence the sector to keep some of the positive changes that have occurred in funding over the past year.

These are not the only collaborations that we have worked on. Outside of an emergency, we have also convened smaller, more bespoke funder collaborations on civil society infrastructure and Deaf and Disabled People’s organisations.

Furthermore, London Funders provides lots of feedback to members on how they can be the best funders they can possibly be. We host member networks on wide reaching topics such as children and young people, culture, and health, and we put on loads of one-off meetings on specific policy issues too. We also send a weekly briefing email to our members, and publish reports on best funding practice.

We have curated a resource hub to influence our members’ thinking as we navigate the recovery from the pandemic. The resource hub is also really useful for other people working within the community sector – the research, articles and think-pieces give a clear sense of the wider world we’re all working in.

And in the past year and a half we’ve been disseminating our learning from the London Community Response as we’ve gone along, and have made sure that civil society organisations can see who received funding, and what our processes were.

As we come out of the other side of the pandemic, we’re revisiting our strategy and looking at what more we can do to support all of the capital’s diverse communities. In the short term, it means that we will be bringing back our monthly bulletin to the sector on funding opportunities and member news, and we will be working with IVAR on the Flexible Funders programme.

In the long term, we’d like to hear from you – do get in touch with me if you’d like to find out more about membership and our wider offer to the sector.

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‘It’s not rocket science…it’s about properly listening’

Throwing out the rulebook to support people with dementia and their families, For Brian has helped its members take a more active role in shaping support.

“For Brian grew from the idea that people with dementia and their families needed the opportunity to creatively shape support, rather than being ruled by a manual,” says Clare Morris, founder of For Brian. Launched in 2018, it’s a community organisation with a fresh approach to supporting people with dementia and their families.

With 30 years’ clinical experience in working with people with cognitive impairment, Clare was passionate about empowering people with dementia. She joined the Agents of Change leadership programme, which is part funded by Hammersmith United Charities. The programme, which enables female leaders to drive social change locally through skills building, networking and mentorships, helped Clare to get her idea off the ground in Hammersmith and Fulham. “The Agents of Change Leadership Programme has been such a brilliant source of collaboration,” she says. “It’s great to be part of such a supportive community of like-minded people with complementary aims.”

For Brian has now been running for three years. It’s working within the dementia community to find out what’s truly supportive, and then facilitating people to make it happen. “Co-production is a very popular term at the moment,” says Clare. “But we’re experimenting with it so people shape the services themselves. It also helps practitioners be more creative, without the constraints of a big organisation,” she says. Everyone has a voice; some of the directors at For Brian will have dementia themselves.

Underpinning this is ‘personal construct psychology’, which helps Clare stand in the shoes of people with cognitive impairment. “It’s not rocket science,” says Clare. “But it helps to think through what it’s actually like to struggle to communicate. How it feels for people to speak about you rather than to you; to feel disinhibited and then be socially excluded; to not know where you are. It helps us to remember to ask those important questions: Can I help? How can I help? And to listen carefully. People with dementia just want the same things as the rest of us.”

When designing activities for her members, Clare tries to encourage “anything that helps people with brain health,” unlocking the things that people can do, rather than what they can’t do. That’s brought into being things like dementia-inclusive cycling on adapted bikes, which gives people an immense feeling of freedom, she says. Other activities which have got people out enjoying themselves include dementia-friendly yoga, art, horse therapy and street parties.

In the true For Brian spirit, the members taken these initiatives and given them a life of their own. For example, online art sessions started with the concept of doodling together with peers. Projects gradually got more elaborate and as people got to know each other, they started to meet outside and talk about bigger issues and giving each other advice. “And projects important to members have begun to flourish – one person has started making bespoke ‘discovery bags’ with objects to provide sensory stimulation, comfort and intrigue,” says Clare.

Inclusion is a thread that runs through everything at For Brian. “I’ve met so many people with dementia – particularly from minority communities and younger people – struggling to find appropriate support,” says Clare. “In fact, For Brian started with Mike, who’s one of our directors, and Tom, a gay couple keen to raise awareness about LBGTQ+ people living with dementia and the prejudice that’s still prevalent.”

Connecting with empowering funders has been key to success. “Hammersmith United Charities funded us right at the beginning to help us get off the ground, and with them, I found people who understand what I’m talking about,” says Clare. “They’ve allowed us to use their funding really flexibly to meet the needs of people in a timely, tailor-made way. This helps For Brian to deliver with continuity and survive, and makes the funds go further.

“Hammersmith United Charities let us hold onto our funding over the pandemic as For Brian was awarded several Covid-related grants – now those projects are completed we have had that money in hand to provide a seamless service. This support between project grants is key to delivering the continuity people with dementia need, and has nurtured the relationship between For Brian and Hammersmith United Charities.”

Clare believes that if you get it right for people with dementia you tend to get it right for everyone in the community. “I feel proud that For Brian has helped grow an inclusive dementia community, where people have an active voice in their own lives.

“One local lady I know usually comes to the door in her nightie. With regular doorstep interventions throughout lockdown we managed to get her to come to our street party. She sat listening to the music, socialising and tapping her feet for three hours. That sort of thing makes my heart sing.”

Find out more:
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8 tips for launching your community project

Clare Morris, founder of For Brian CIC, gives some tips for getting your community idea off the ground.

  1. Go around, not through
    You will come up against brick walls. Try to go around them, rather than knocking your head on it.
  2. Start with baby steps
    Identify the smallest change that would make a significant difference and start with that.
  3. Be patient
    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient. Throw things out there and see what germinates.
  4. Consider formalising the organisation
    Becoming a company gives you access to funds sole traders cannot apply for. For us, becoming a Community Interest Company (CIC) has opened doors.
  5. Be open with funders and be ready to learn
    Be honest about what you know but also what you need help with. I had a lot of support from the London Community Foundation to help me learn about applying for grants. Go to funders’ fairs and workshops and gather as much knowledge as you can.
  6. Talk about your ideas
    It helps you formulate and hone your ideas.
  7. Be resilient
    Learn to live with the fact that it isn’t going to be plain sailing all the time. We all start with varying skill sets. The penny will always drop in a different order for different people.
  8. Don’t be afraid of working with others
    No one is an island, and no one is the answer to everyone’s dreams. Together people are stronger.
More information

Do you need funding for your community project? Hammersmith United Charities’ next deadline for grant applications is 24 September 2021. Find out more about our grant programme here.

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“Some will benefit, but some will lose out”

Recovery from the pandemic is beginning, but it’s not straightforward and is particularly unequal in London.

By data analyst Christabel Cooper, Labour councillor and Hammersmith United Charities trustee.

The success of the UK’s vaccination program has meant that after 18 long months we finally can start thinking about a return to a (relatively) normal life after the Covid pandemic. Despite the deep recession caused by the restrictions needed to contain the virus, most economists are predicting a fairly rapid return to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

Yet Covid has financially impacted different people in very different ways, and the recovery is also likely to be uneven. Millions have seen their income fall. That might be because they accessed the furlough scheme, which only paid part of their wages, or because they have lost their jobs altogether.

Despite this, the pandemic has increased the wealth of many who carried on working. That’s particularly true for higher earners, who tend to spend more of their money on non-essential services such as eating out, entertainment and holidays. Opportunities for these activities have been limited over the last 18 months, saving households across the UK £150m, the Bank of England estimates.

In London, the impact has been very unequal. Around 50% of residents have been able to work from home during the pandemic, and a significant amount of wages will have been translated into savings. This makes post-pandemic economic recovery much easier as residents with accumulated wealth start to spend (at least some of) that surplus with local businesses.

But according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the city also lost the biggest number of jobs of any UK region last year, unsurprising given the capital’s disproportionate dependence on hospitality, entertainment and tourism – all sectors decimated by Covid. By November 2020 London had both the highest percentage of claimants for unemployment-related benefits, and the highest percentage of workers furloughed anywhere in the country. London’s unemployment rate has now fallen back as restrictions have eased, but remains above the UK average.

Nevertheless businesses and residents are generally optimistic about the future. According to the most recent London Intelligence survey from the Centre for London think tank, 50% of the capital’s residents thought their personal finances would improve over the next 12 months, versus 19% who thought they would get worse.

But even a strong economic recovery may be unable to help those who are already in an unsustainable amount of debt. 48% of Londoners said they wouldn’t be able to meet an unexpected expense of £500 from their own money, up from 44% in September 2020. 21% would have no way of meeting an unexpected expense of £500 even if they borrowed money. Private tenants in particular will face problems. The eviction ban has now ended, and the government still plans to withdraw the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit which will hit the poorest.

Meanwhile Covid cases are still high. Around 30,000 people are day are testing positive for the virus and (at the moment) this shows no sign of dropping significantly. This has had the knock-on effect of requiring millions of people to self-isolate because they had come into contact with an infected person.

Changes to the requirements to self-isolate following contact with a Covid case may ease this ‘pingdemic’. But this comes on top of a continuing reluctance to return to previous behaviour patterns. The London Intelligence survey reveals that although residents feel increasingly comfortable about going out in Central London, over a third remain hesitant including 45% of those aged above 65. For some businesses a combination of self-isolation requirements and persisting public reluctance to resume normal activities means that they may run short of both staff and customers. That’s just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer starts to withdraw financial support in the autumn. London is set to face a difficult few months.

In the longer term, the pandemic will have an impact on the way we work and the way we shop. Undoubtedly workers will eventually return to offices, but almost certainly not in the same numbers as before. As a borough which contains both large numbers of both offices and residential areas, the impact of these changes on Hammersmith and Fulham is uncertain. Local businesses which depend on providing office workers with food, drink and other services may be badly affected. The pandemic has accelerated the decline of bricks and mortar shops in favour of online retail, and many of our retail businesses will remain vulnerable. Yet, at the same time, greater numbers working from home mean that some of our residents will end up spending more time in the borough rather than travelling into an office in Central London.

It is important that the overall economic figures do not mask the fact that while some people and businesses will benefit from the changes brought by the pandemic, others will lose out. The structure of London’s economy and population is likely to go through some painful re-adjustment, and within our borough there are still large numbers of residents who have been hit hard by the pandemic and may struggle to recover in the short term.

As a grant-making organisation, Hammersmith United Charities will continue to support local people in need as we recover together from the pandemic.

More information:

About Christabel Cooper
Christabel is a Trustee for Hammersmith United Charities, and a member of the Finance Committee. She’s also a local councillor in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, representing Fulham Reach ward. She’s an Assistant to Cabinet with responsibility for running a project to improve and to publicise the role of analytics within the council. Follow her on Twitter @ChristabelCoops.

About Hammersmith United Charities’ grant-making
We invest in the future of our community through our grants programme. We give grants to local organisations supporting people who live in our area of benefit. Find out more about our grants programme here

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Remembering Stuart Sessions, MBE

We were very saddened to hear of the recent death of Stuart Sessions MBE, a previous Chief Executive of Hammersmith United Charities and the driving force behind the creation of our community grants programme.

In his own words, Stuart was “an actor and voiceover artist who started young, took 20 year diversions into the armed forces, overseas emergency relief work and the charity world before finally returning to my first love: acting.”

Stuart’s summary of his distinguished career is typically understated. Prior to working with Hammersmith United Charities he served as a senior officer in the British army for 20 years, followed by spells as a UN Military Observer and as an Emergency Programme Coordinator for Oxfam. After a successful stint in business, Stuart joined Hammersmith United Charities in 2005 and was with us for 9 years.

Under his leadership the Charity was able to stabilise its finances and build new flats at Sycamore House – sheltered housing for older people just off the Goldhawk Road – as well as create the community grant programme. The grant programme now funds around 60 local charities each year supporting a diverse range of causes from assisting young people at risk of serious violence, to art classes for older people and the widely enjoyed H&F ArtsFest.

Mike Smith, previous Chair of Hammersmith United Charities, worked with Stuart for 7 years: “Stuart has left a lasting legacy for the Charity and the community we serve. As a result of Stuart’s vision and direction the Charity is able to provide safe and secure affordable homes for an additional 20 older people and help and support for more than 5,000 local residents each year.”

Stuart is fondly remembered by many of the residents of our almshouses. Pearl Armstrong, resident of Sycamore House, often speaks of his kindness to her during difficult times: “Stuart was such a lovely man, he was so friendly and if you had a problem you could always go to him and he would help you sort it out. We used to love going to see him act, especially in The Woman in Black, it was a fantastic performance.  I used to love seeing his white German Shepherd (Rudi) out in the garden, I still miss him and Stuart.”

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Let’s talk about race: starting conversations

We’re working on a new project with our partners Nova New Opportunities to find out how racism affects local people, and our charity’s role in creating a more equal society.

By Victoria Hill – CEO, Hammersmith United Charities

I was surprised by the recent report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which concluded that whilst impediments and disparities are experienced by people from ethnic minorities very few of them are directly to do with racism. Some of the findings were at odds from the evidence of our work and it was disappointing to see how such an important report appeared to downplay the experiences of many of the people who live in our community.

So what role should Hammersmith United Charities take to tackle racism?

We don’t know yet, but we are working with our new partners, Nova New Opportunities, to find out.

Over the next few months, with Nova’s support, we’ll be spending time talking openly about racism and racial inequality with a wide range of local people, the organisations we support, their beneficiaries and other local strategic stakeholders.

We want to find out how racism truly affects people who live in our area of benefit in their everyday lives. We want to understand what work is being done by other local institutions to address racial inequality in the area. And we want to know what meaningful role our charity should play.

Some members of our community feel – and often are – unheard. We hope that the Let’s Talk About Race project will help bring their views and experience to a wider audience. Our discoveries will shape everything we do in the future, like our approach to grant-making, and how we work with local partners to create a more equal society.

At a board level the project will be sponsored by Adam Matan OBE, one of our Trustees and local resident. Adam came to the UK from Somalia as a teenager and until recently led the local charity Anti-Tribalism Movement which promotes fairer and more equitable societies.

We don’t have all the answers yet, but we have plenty of questions – and we’re ready to start asking them. We’ll be sharing our findings over the coming months.

In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about the project or share your views we’d love to hear from you – contact info@hamunitedcharities.com

Nova New Opportunities’s Director Lizzie Cho
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Writing a funding proposal that shines

Find out about local funder John Lyon's Charity and how to make your proposal stand out from the crowd

By Anna Hoddinott, Senior Grants & Communications Manager – John Lyon’s Charity 

John Lyon’s Charity believes in transforming the lives of children and young people by creating opportunities for them to learn, grow and develop through education. We support organisations that deliver services to children and young people from birth up to age 25, or 30 for those with special educational needs or disabilities that are based in nine London boroughs: Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, H&F, Harrow, K&C and the cities of London and Westminster.

While we have a focus on education, we see this in its broadest sense so will fund a whole range of activities for young people from opportunities within the arts, sports programmes, youth clubs and youth services, emotional wellbeing initiatives as well as projects that support children to access academic learning.

We are about opportunity rather than disadvantage and see our role as enabling all children and young people throughout the Beneficial Area to access things that they normally would not be able to. We can give grants to registered charities or those with automatic charitable status as well as directly to state schools. More information can be found here.

 

Children at the beach

How to apply

Most of the grant funds operated by John Lyon’s Charity have a two-stage application process which involves an initial proposal letter followed by an application form. The exception to this is our School Holiday Activity Fund, which has a single stage application form process, to enable funding to be accessed quickly.

The initial proposal letter is your first opportunity to engage with the charity and it is therefore important to get this right. A good proposal doesn’t have to be long – we recommend about two sides of A4, but this is not a hard and fast rule and we don’t stop reading at the end of the second page!

Here are our top tips of things to include in a good proposal letter:

      1. Summarise your organisation clearly and concisely:
        If you have not applied to John Lyon’s Charity before, the best place to start is in a brief introduction to your organisation – what you do, why you do it and who your beneficiaries are. If you have applied to us and have received funding, you could provide a brief synopsis of developments and changes within your organisations since your last funded programme.
      2. Be specific about your request:
        The best proposal letters are very specific. We cannot respond to general charitable appeals, so the more specific your request is, the better understanding we will have about what your needs are.  The first place to start is explaining what you need the funding for. If it is for a contribution towards core costs – say this. If it towards a specific project, please provide information about what you intend to do eg activities at a youth club, arts activities etc.
      3. Demonstrate the need:
        Why do you think the project needs to happen and how do you know this? What gap is this project going to be filling and what do you expect the outcomes to be? How will it benefit children and young people?
      4. Paint a picture of who will benefit:
        Who exactly will be participating in your project or engaged with your organisation? Is it an open-access programme for anyone to attend? Are you targeting your work to a specific group of children and young people? Is it a mix of ages? Will you have a focus on young people with special educational needs and disabilities?
      5. Explain where your activities will take place:
        It is important for us to know where you will be delivering your activities, especially if you do not have a permanent place to work from. It is also particularly important for you to tell us where the young people are from as we have a very specific Beneficial Area and can only fund activities for children from that area. We are happy to provide partial funding in proportion to the numbers of children and young people that will be from our Beneficial Area.
      6. Be clear about costs:
        We would like to know how much the project costs in total – or if you are applying for core funding, what your organisation budget is for the year – and how much you are requesting from the charity. It is always useful to supply as much financial information to us as you can at this stage. If you are applying for funding for more than one year, please supply a budget for each of those three years.
More information
  • About John Lyon’s Charity grants: John Lyon’s Charity accepts applications for funding throughout the year, but funding decisions for larger grants are made in June, November and March. It can take up to six months for an application to be considered so for the November round, proposals should be with the charity by July at the latest. For more information, please see our website or you can contact info@jlc.london if you have any questions.
  • About Hammersmith United Charities’ grants: Our next deadline for grant applications is 24 September 2021. Find out more about our grant programme here.
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Investing in our community

We've invested £400,000 over the past year to benefit 6,000 people living in Hammersmith

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“There is a real beauty in humans connecting through music”

Passionate about the “endless possibilities” of disabled and non-disabled artists dancing together, Turtle Key Arts is bringing our community back together again.

With life slowly getting back to some sort of normality, many community organisations are relishing the thought of more in-person time with their beneficiaries at last. As Kelly Bray, Turtle Key Arts producer, puts it: “I am so thrilled to get back out there. Most of our projects this year are about getting people back together – they are so desperate to perform again.”

For Turtle Key Arts, creative producers based in Hammersmith and Fulham, that means helping disabled and non-disabled people find expression and connect through dance and music. Dancing can increase physical fitness but can also have other benefits for people with disabilities, like improving motor skills, building friendships and boosting self-esteem. But with 11 million people with a disability in the UK, many find themselves locked out of the world of performing arts. “People with disabilities are often put ‘in a box’ and given little chance of mixing with people creatively,” says Kelly.

Making dance accessible to all is at the heart of Turtle Key Arts’ work; it celebrates the power of ‘integrated dancing’ with both disabled and non-disabled artists. Kelly believes that this kind of dancing creates all kinds of creative and social opportunities. “Our approach is to bring down the barriers. We highlight abilities, rather than disabilities. There is a real beauty in humans connecting and exploring in different ways to music. They might be working with a wheelchair, or crutches – it makes you realise how much people can do. It feels like the possibilities are endless,” she says.

This year the team is bringing back two in-person summer projects, the Joy Festival and the Young Amici Summer School, which are funded by Hammersmith United Charities.

Joy Festival
The Joy Festival is a disability arts festival and is on track to run in real life this year. It’s a celebration of disabled and non-disabled artists through a programme of visual art, music, theatre and dance. The festival includes a week-long programme of integrated performances at Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre in September. There will also be 3 big family fun day in August, with dance, circus and art sessions, along with creative workshops in the community.

Joy was founded in 2018, says, Kelly, “because there is just not enough celebration of disabled artists in the borough, and not enough networks for them to connect with others. We really needed to create a community where we can share stuff.”

Young Amici summer school

Another project is the Young Amici Summer School by Amici Dance Theatre Company which Turtle Key Arts produce, is for disabled and non-disabled people between age 11-25. This free summer school in August is for any young people interested in dance and developing their skills in a fun and safe space. The programme aims to deepen young people’s experience of participation in dance and spark curiosity and creativity.

Throughout the week, young people can pick and choose which classes they join and then take part in improvised dancing with props. The idea, says Kelly, is for dancers to use their ability as their strength. Then the dancers share their piece at the end of the week. Pastoral care is part of the creative process, so there are chill out spaces and experts who can support where needed.

The positive impact on young disabled people in this creative environment is striking, says Kelly: “I remember a young person who had learning disabilities – they were so nervous and thought everyone was judging them. Now they are doing solos and making friends so easily. It’s lovely to watch – they just enter the room so confidently and start dancing. One of our dancers says that taking part is the most free she’s ever felt.”

More information

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7 ways to improve your visual storytelling 

Want to make a film about the amazing work your community organisation does? Keep some of these visual storytelling ideas in mind to make your message unforgettable. 

By Carolyn Defrin, artist and Hammersmith United Charities collaborator. 

 

  1. Be specific
    Charities often have a similar remit to each other, working within the broad themes of ‘care’, ‘community’ and ’support’. To stand out from other organisations, consider a particular aspect of your work to bring the broader theme to life in an original way. 

    ‘The power of bicycles’ is a specific, meaningful story which shows how the project impacts many lives more broadly: watch here
     

  2. Be personal

    A great way to get specific is by telling personal stories from your staff, the people you serve, or both. This can be through an interview or someone telling a story. These stories open your audience up to emotional connection, allowing you to humanise your work.

    ‘An introduction to StoryCorps’ is a conversation between the founder and his young nephew that shows how you can be personal, emotional and humorous while clearly telling the story of your organisation: watch here
     

  3. Experiment with content

    How we tell stories visually doesn’t always have to be literal, especially when subject matter might be difficult (in the context of charitable work). Seeing a bird’s eye view of cakes being made or a close-up of a child’s green-painted hand – these images and perspectives invite us in emotionally, personally and memorably and enable us to engage with complex content in a new way.

    West London Death Cafe’s short film focuses on making cakes. This choice offers an unexpected and welcoming view of a charity focused on bringing people together to discuss a delicate subject: watch here 
     

  4. Consider all the senses 

    When we talk about film, we usually think of just sight and sound. But what about texture – how can you suggest how something feels to the touch? How can you suggest taste and smell, too? 

    ‘At home with: Carolyn Defrin’ is a short film demonstrating how close-ups of food can create a multi-sensory experience. Through opportunities to look at the texture of cabbage, hear the boiling of water and see the bright purple, orange and green vegetables together, we can be immersed in a new view of the story of migration being told: watch here
     

  5. Play with different points of view 

    Different camera angles and points of view will help you convey different emotions. For example, what might bird’s eye view or worm’s eye view help communicate? How might you share a perspective from a chair, or a building, or a specific person? 

    ‘Suspending Home’ is a film made by artist Khaled Barakeh that reflects on a project he made called On the Ropes where he suspended his studio as a way to reflect the groundlessness he felt as a migrant artist. He films from many different points of view to help capture this feeling: watch here
     

  6. Still photos can be just as effective

    You don’t always need live action footage – still photographs can offer a powerful tool in your film. When combined dynamically with thoughtful voice over, text, and/or music they can have just as much impact. 

    ‘Universality’ is a simple and effective use of pictures and voiceover: watch here
     

  7. Consider who is telling the story

    Consider who is telling the story of what you do. Can you engage those you serve to tell their own stories or offer their own points of view? Is there value in staff sharing their personal perspective on the work? Always stay mindful to the ways you ask those you serve to share their stories. 

    ‘Real Heroes’ is a great example by Rainbow Collective of children sharing their view of heroes during the pandemic. Through their voices, drawings, and music, we get to know their perspectives through a fully
    dimensional and creative lens: 
    watch here 

 


Find out more

Artist Carolyn Defrin worked with Hammersmith United Charities on our film project community@hammersmith, which provided a free workshop for local community organisations to learn about visual storytelling and filmmaking. Read about community@hammersmith. 

 

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National Compost Week

15 - 21 March 2021

Composting is the recycling of plant and food waste material into decayed organic matter. This can then be used in various forms in the garden and when applied, enriches the soil and plant health.

This week a layer of garden compost has been added to the allotment plots at John Betts House garden, in preparation for the growing season ahead. This ties in with National Compost Week, a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the many benefits of using compost in our gardens. Please see some key tips below for reasons to compost in your garden:

  • The organic matter in compost is a source of food for the organisms in the soil.
  • The organic matter in compost opens up the soil, creating bigger gaps for air and water to move around – this is good for soil structure.
  • As the organic matter decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil.
  • Adding a layer of mulch to beds, borders and allotments suppresses annual weeds and weakens perennial weeds.
  • Composting is an environmentally friendly process using organic materials.

Composting is recommended for most sized gardens, and can be done in a number of ways to accommodate the size of the garden. We highly recommend this gardening activity and have put together a list of websites that provide useful further information on how to compost:


Find out more about our sheltered housing

With award-winning communal gardens, our friendly and affordable sheltered housing helps residents live independently for as long as possible.

We have flats available now for older people from Hammersmith. Talk to us on 020 8600 0650 / 07733 842 574, email info@hamunitedcharities.com or read more here.

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Fundraising for our community

How you can support campaigns for local people in need, from our fundraising partner United in Hammersmith & Fulham

Tech4Kids in H&F: Finding laptops for 1,500 children

1,500 pupils in our borough have been identified as being in urgent need of computers or internet connectivity at home. United in Hammersmith & Fulham has partnered with Hammersmith & Fulham Council and local group Ready Tech Go to launch an ambitious appeal to get every one of them connected.

Whilst the coronavirus crisis has highlighted that many children and young people have been unable to participate in online schooling during periods of lockdown or isolation, they are also less likely to be able to catch up with missed lessons or to complete homework in ordinary times. It also means they are highly unlikely to develop the vital digital skills needed to prosper in later work and life.

We’re aiming to get 1,500 laptops and 500 data SIM card for internet access so all local children have a chance to thrive digitally. You or your organisation can give any amount today:

  • £1500 can ensure 10 of a school’s most disadvantaged pupils do not lose out on digital skills
  • £150 can get a quality laptop to a young person in need of catching up with classes and for homework
  • £20 can get an essential data sim card to a child struggling with internet access
Have any unused tech your organisation would like to donate?

We are also working with Ready Tech Go who collect, wipe, and share old laptops and tablet PCs to get them to Tech4Kids pupils that have been identified as in urgent need. If you are an individual or local company with spare quality digital devices, please contact team@unitedhf.org

Find out more about the laptop campaign

Pedal Back Cycling: Looking for referrals – free refurbished bikes available

The pandemic has made bikes more vital than ever. Many people can’t afford to reach places of employment or safely get to interviews. Or they might be finding it hard to motivate themselves to access outside spaces to boost their mental health and wellbeing. That is why we have partnered with Pedal Back Cycling, to offer professionally refurbished bikes to those in need.

If you are from a local community group working with those on low incomes, you can refer adults including but not limited to:

  • Key workers
  • Care staff
  • Refugees
  • Delivery cyclists
  • Those out of employment

We only accept referrals from non-profit groups working in the borough, and not from individuals.

Find out more about Pedal Back Cycling  

Winter Covid Appeal: Raising money to support the community

Many people still need support during the Covid-19 pandemic, including those going through mental health crises, suffering from loneliness and isolation, and at-risk children in need of educational support.

United in Hammersmith in Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal, in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council, to continue to enable local individuals, businesses and foundations across the borough to support those most in need. 100% of funds raised will be donated to groups working with local people who face risk because of coronavirus this winter.

Donate to the Winter Covid Appeal

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“Covid-19 has exposed decades-ignored social inequalities”

Social activist Adam Matan OBE is one of our trustees, and he's passionate about engaging truthfully with the community to change things for the better.

Adam founded the Anti-Tribalism Movement in 2010, a non profit organisation tackling tribalism and inequalities within communities, and in 2020 went on to lead the Independent Policing and Crime Commission for Hammersmith and Fulham to examine the root causes of crime and anti-social behaviour in the borough.

What’s involved in your role as a trustee?

I have been a trustee for Hammersmith United Charities for four years. I really enjoy contributing to setting the direction and strategic priorities for the charity, and being involved in day-to-day activity like awarding grants. It’s rewarding to see our resources used for recreational and educational purposes for the community. I like visiting beneficiaries, to really see what impact small grants make to people’s lives.

As a trustee, I help to make sure the board is reflective of the communities we support in the north of the borough. I have a good understanding of what works well in the community sector, and which programmes and people we should be engaging with. I enjoy advocating for issues I’m passionate about, like disabilities, BAME organisations, and arts and cultural activities.

What’s shaped your work and values?

I came to the UK from Somalia when I was 13, following the Somali Civil War. In Somalia, children are often treated a little like adults, so I was very responsible when I came here – a bit more mature than a usual 13 old boy! We came here to improve our livelihood, and to help others, both at home and in the communities here. Those values were instilled in me at a young age by my family, so as soon as I finished university, I wanted to help other young people to achieve their potential. I went on to start the Anti-Tribalism Movement in 2010 – the aim was to fight tribe-based discrimination and promote peace and tolerance. Since then it has grown into an international force with 140,000+ members, which feels like one of my greatest achievements.

What changes do you want to see in your community?

Covid-19 has exposed deep-rooted, decades-ignored social inequalities in our community. It’s unfortunate that it has taken such a world event to bring it to the surface. There is no way we will be able to ignore it now – so many people will be even poorer by the end of lockdown.

There is a family I’m working with on Lime Grove in Shepherd’s Bush. There are seven children, and mother and father living together in a two-bed flat. Imagine that under lockdown rules? Some of the children have underlying health issues. Both of the parents are key workers, so they can’t stay away from work – the family will literally starve to death if they do. But they always know they might be bringing the virus back, with no space for anyone to self-isolate.

Many fear that it’s just lip service when decision/policy-makers say that there will be change due to the lessons learned from Covid-19 There is a level of discontent and unsettledness amongst many BAME communities and their leaders. I don’t think it will be long until we see social unrest if there is no real response to some of these issues.

It’s something we’re beginning to work on at Hammersmith United Charities, with a programme called Let’s Talk About Race. We want to find out how we can engage with communities in a more meaningful way, to truly understand what our grantees and their service users think we should do to counter deep-rooted social inequalities. It has got to be led by the people.

What’s special about Hammersmith & Fulham?

I’m biased, but Hammersmith & Fulham is the greatest borough! It’s a city within a city. We have everything you can admire: three football clubs; the biggest shopping mall in Europe; beautiful, historical parks; the river; a flourishing business hub in Hammersmith; the ‘Silicon Valley’ of London at White City; and Uxbridge Road, one of the most diverse streets in London, running through the heart of the borough.

And through the pandemic we have seen how generous and supportive these communities have been to each other: the number of spaces opened for homeless people, food distribution, individuals been supporting each other, and businesses giving free food and other supports.

When there is a disaster, when there are members of the community who need support, the residents of this borough really pull together.

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“I clean everything I see”

Our cleaner Oksana has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep the staff and residents of Hammersmith United Charities safe.

 

When it all started, it was a bit scary being a cleaner. Everyone was staying at home, but I was going in to work. Putting on the gloves and the mask, wearing them all day, every day. It was hard at first, but now it’s just normal. I want to go in to work every day – it’s a nice place to be. I’m very happy to have a job, and to see different people.

I clean everything I see. All the time, it’s door handles, doors, tables. Everything. We try to be very safe all the time.

Residents like to speak with me whenever they can, because other people aren’t allowed to visit, and they can’t really go anywhere. I’m one of the people they see most regularly, along with the scheme managers who check in on them every day.

At times like this, you can feel exhausted. So you have to try to think about something good. I try to be nice to people – it gives you more energy. I enjoy spending time with the residents. They are very, very good people, and they always say thank you to me for the job I do.

I haven’t been able to go home to Ukraine for two years. I really miss my family. I speak to them three times a week, but it’s not the same. People there are a little bit scared too. I really want to go this year, but I don’t know. How things have changed.

When I had my vaccination, I was a bit scared. At first I thought, I don’t want it. Then I was thinking, I should get it, because I’m working with old people, and travelling in to work on the tube. And it was fine – very quick and easy. Plus it’s better for all of us, because it will help us all get back towards normal life.

 

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“It’s an opportunity to rewrite the future”

We find out how Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Covid-19 emergency response has relied on partnership working and the creativity of the third sector.

“I can remember when we saw the first deaths in a residential home. That was a particularly low moment. It was traumatic for everyone – a terrible tragedy,” says Linda Jackson, director of Covid-19 Response and Recovery for Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Now everyone has been touched by this crisis, one way or another. It’s been really difficult, seeing the devastating impact on families and businesses.”

The crisis over the past year has brought together everyone living and working in the community like never before, Linda says. “There has been an extraordinary partnership response between the council, fire, police, NHS, businesses, community organisations, residents – with camaraderie at every level.”

Early days of the pandemic

After recording the very first case on 22 January 2020, the council could see what was coming on the horizon and knew it needed to act quickly, Linda says. By the beginning of March, a structure was put in place to get some control and respond quickly. The team has always tried to be intelligence-led in its response, she says, and closely monitored how the pandemic was progressing in Hammersmith, London, the UK and the world.

It became clear in March 2020 that hospitals were discharging residents into care homes without first testing them for Covid-19. With an absence of national guidance or support, the council team forged ahead, linking up closely with health partners to close the homes to new admissions and test everyone to bring the virus under control. And in November, Hammersmith & Fulham became the first borough in London to launch lateral flow testing initially at residential care homes and then at three fixed centres making tests much more widely available. The council has also been facilitating the NHS-run vaccination programme, helping to set up centres and supporting GPs with systems and process.

For organisations providing sheltered housing with high numbers of older people, the speedy roll-out of these programmes has been game-changing. “With both testing and vaccinations, I always felt that the council was doing its best to bring any single benefit to the community as quickly as it could,” says Victoria Hill, chief executive of Hammersmith United Charities, which provides almshouse accommodation for older people on lower incomes.

“When we started being able to test our staff on site in December, it was a really big deal. It became a huge part of our infection control process,” says Victoria. “Before that, we were constantly worried that we could be infectious without knowing it and bring the virus on site.”

“All of our over-80s were vaccinated before Christmas, followed by staff in January. Now nearly everyone is vaccinated. It is such an incredible relief. Every single health and social care worker in the world has been weighing this up, every day, for a year: am I going to bring coronavirus into work? Am I going to take it back home with me?”

Working with the third sector

The council and the NHS are pushing out vaccines and testing to every corner of the borough with the help of the voluntary sector, Linda acknowledges. These organisations have a unique ability to wrap quickly around the thousands of people in the borough whose lives have been turned upside down by coronavirus.

“There is a quite breath-taking amount of skills and abilities in the local third sector,” says Linda. “These organisations move silently within communities and activate community capacity a lot quicker and better than a council officer could.”

Over the past year, the council and grassroots organisations have worked together to provide support where it’s been needed most. Early on the Volunteer Community Aid Network (CAN), along with street-level mutual aid groups, galvanised hundreds of people to volunteer their time to help vulnerable people. There has also been a 150% growth in donations to the food bank in the borough to support the surge in families who now can’t afford to put food on the table. “Some of the people using food banks were looking forward to a holiday a few years ago. Now they have no income and no money,” says Linda.

In partnership with fundraising organisation United in Hammersmith & Fulham, the council set up the Covid Appeal in March 2020, and local businesses and residents have now donated over £144,000 to fund organisations supporting people affected by the pandemic.

Community organisations are powerful because they have an intimate, inside-out understanding of the borough, says Victoria. “Hammersmith United Charities also provides grants to local organisations, and when I look at the organisations we’ve funded throughout this crisis, I see a strong movement of charities run by people who live here. They know the people most in need personally and over the crisis have worked together at speed to provide whatever is needed – whether it’s food, laptops, phone data, toilet paper, or a cheering phone call.”

“Throughout the pandemic, community organisations have stepped up very quickly, without thought to their previous agenda or outside pressures like funders’ targets. They just changed what they usually did to meet the immediate need, because their first priority was getting their community through this crisis. I hope funders now have a better understanding that it’s crucial to trust community organisations and give them the flexibility to respond to needs as they see them changing.”

Green shoots

So what does recovery in Hammersmith and Fulham look like? “I can see the green shoots of spring,” says Linda. “We’ve launched our ‘Shop Local, Shop Safe’ campaign to help businesses open safely as lockdown is eased. And we’ve got to build on the connections we’ve made with the third sector. After 12 months of working really hard together, how do we keep the capacity we’ve gained? We want to develop the recovery plan in co-production with the third sector, so that it’s an integral part of what the council offers, rather than working around the outside.”

The pandemic has shifted health and social care priorities. “Before, the focus was on specific diseases, like diabetes and cancer. Now? It’s on basic needs like food, employment, housing,” says Linda. “Some say it’s a backwards step. I say it’s an opportunity to rewrite the future. But we absolutely need the community sector to write it with us.”


Find out more
  • Find out more about coronavirus, latest guidelines, testing and vaccinations in Hammersmith and Fulham on the council’s website
  • Read more about Hammersmith United Charities’s grants programme and other community projects
  • Find out about our sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful award-winning gardens.
  • Linda and her team are reaching out to the community to understand why people may be hesitant to have the COVID-19 vaccine and put support measures in place to improve vaccine take up in the borough. If you would like to contribute your views please join their online meetings held on Tuesdays at 6pm – 7pm which can be accessed via Microsoft Teams using this link.
Linda Jackson, director of Covid-19 Response and Recovery for Hammersmith & Fulham Council
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A home to be proud of

One of our Sycamore House residents, Kitty, reflects on what truly makes a home, and how she’s finding her way through lockdown.

“I was born in Limerick, Ireland, but my husband and I came to London in the 1950s to try and get a start in this country.

We didn’t have a great way about things to begin with – we lived in a few different places, but it was hard to save for somewhere decent. We started off the two of us in a little bedsit in Chiswick; when we had two children, one of our first family homes was the matter of one bedroom and a kitchen in a shared house. Another place had a bath in the kitchen, which doubled as something to sit on at meals. They were tough times, but you have to make the best of everything, don’t you?

I often think back to 1972, when we were offered a council property: a flat in Trellick Tower on Golborne Road. It was brand new – with 14 cupboards in the kitchen! But it was the height that got me. We were on the 21st floor. People told me that there was a picture postcard view out of the windows, but I just could not look down. I should have gone with my instinct. We were four years in that flat, and I hated every minute. It became known as the ‘Tower of Terror’. A lot of bad things happened there. I just kept my head down with children, but we felt really cooped up.

One winter someone flooded the lifts with thousands of gallons of water from the fire hydrant. We were all without power, heat or electricity between Christmas and new year. Everyone was going up and down stairs in the dark, falling, getting ill. And the postman couldn’t come up to deliver.

Once there was a fire on the 15th floor, right below us. We were told to stay in our flats, but of course there was no ladder that would have reached us in the top levels. My husband was working that evening, and I had the four children by then, with my son a couple of months old. We were just watching the blaze. I went to the neighbour so we could be together; I was so frightened. No one died in the end, but the 15th floor was completely gutted.

After that I went to social services to see if we could move somewhere safer. We got offered a beautiful house on St Elmo Road. There was a big garden, a double garage – and four bedrooms! I couldn’t believe it.  It was the happiest time of my life; it was a lucky house.

37 years, I lived there. But my husband died in 2010, and my children were making their own way in life. I stayed two more years in the house, but I didn’t feel safe rattling around on my own. It broke my heart to leave it – I had put everything into my home. But I knew that people with a young family would benefit from it. I think they’ve kept some of it the same – my little lamp is still outside the front door.

Moving to Sycamore House

At that time I was thinking along the lines of sheltered housing as I was coming to that age where I knew I’d benefit from a little care. I looked around such a lot of places, but nothing would do. I was giving up so much, so I had to feel really sure.

In 2012 I came here to Sycamore House. That feeling when you come in – you felt it was going to be a place you could feel proud to live in. I liked the care that came along with your flat, that someone came to check on you in the morning, and a cleaner tended to the place. Everyone was very kindly and the gardens were lovely. My daughter described the communal lounge as something you’d see on a cruise ship!

I do like the social side of things you get here, in normal times – the trips out together. We used to have live music and celebrate birthdays. It can be overwhelming to begin with when you move into sheltered housing, with so many people to get to know. I try and have nice conversations and learn what makes people tick – eventually I find my way.

Life in the pandemic

Lockdown in the summer wasn’t too bad – at least we could go into the garden and see people when the weather was fine. Bless them, they even purchased an outdoor heater for us. It was a walk in the park compared to the lockdown this winter. But staff have done well by us – they are doing their very best. The scheme managers are always there, and always have a happy word to say to us.

It has been a trial, not seeing family. The only time was when I had my 80th birthday and my daughter had her 60th. They came with some balloons and sandwiches and we celebrated on the pavement.

There has been hardship for everybody. A down-side of living so closely with other people is that you have to get your head around losing them when they pass on. I lost the man who lived next door to me, and I lost another friend very recently. We would ring each other, and we were there for each other. It put me down a bit. I really take it to heart when a person goes, I’m afraid. I can’t see how I will get used to it.

But I go downstairs, look around me, and it does me good. Prayer does help me immensely. If you have a religion, it doesn’t matter which, it’s something to turn to. I try to be there for people, and stop and listen – that’s the important thing, listening.

What I’m looking forward to most of all is meeting one or two friends for a pub lunch. I’ve been on my own cooking, cooking, cooking – all the time. What I wouldn’t give to have a meal and then just push the plate away. And go to the shop, go to Marks, have a look around.

But I’ve had both of my vaccinations now, so things are starting to change. I think spring is bringing a new hope for us.”  (more…)

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Celebrating the value of community organisations through film

Helping community organisations bring their extraordinary work to life through visual storytelling and film-making.

To help community organisations bring their extraordinary work to life, Hammersmith United Charities has launched a project called community@hammersmith. Story-telling and film-making experts have been sharing their knowledge with local charities, giving them the skills to create a dynamic film that demonstrates their impact.

“Community organisations form the backbone of social change in Hammersmith,” said Hammersmith United Charities Chief Executive Victoria Hill. “They work in the most deprived areas, are run by local people and are particularly good at reaching people who are isolated or disadvantaged who may not be able to seek help from the state or a larger charity. But the work they do is sometimes difficult to explain, perhaps because it is complex or involves a subject matter that people find hard to talk about.

“The aim of community@hammersmith is to help some of the local charities we support to tell their story to the people that matter to them – potential beneficiaries, volunteers, funders or staff – by making a short film about their work.”

Eleven local organisations expressed their interest to be considered for this project by answering “What difference does your organisation make in the community?” with a 90-second video, showing the essential services they offer. From this pool of inspiring submissions, five were selected to join the film-making workshop: Anti-Tribalism Movement, Crosslight Advice, Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre, Shepherd’s Bush Families Project, West London Death Café.

Artist Carolyn Defrin and Dan Massie from creative studio els.tv guided these organisations through the process of creating a professional film. They covered everything from the basics of visual storytelling to bringing storyboards to life with simple filming equipment.

“How we tell stories visually doesn’t always have to be literal,” said Carolyn Defrin. “I love close-ups and colour and alternative angles. Seeing a bird’s eye view of cakes being made or a close-up of a child’s green-painted hand – these images and perspectives invite us in emotionally, personally and memorably.”

The five groups faced this creative challenge with enthusiasm and resourcefulness, and Hammersmith United Charities is delighted to present the first short film born from this project from West London Death Café, where people gather together for cake and tea and to discuss death to help make the most of life. “Making the film during total lockdown was challenging”, said Emily Engel from West London Death Café, “but interviewing people on Zoom and hearing their various reasons for appreciating the Death Cafes was fantastic.”

“We hope that everyone in Hammersmith will enjoy these films and feel the same pride we do in the good work being done in their community,” said Victoria.

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Find out more  

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Valentine

A poem by resident Kitty

My little Valentine, my funny Valentine

You make me smile

You bring with you glorious spring time

When the air is fresh and new

Buds are peeping through the earth

As if to say, hello

Spring is such a special time

The birds are singing so sweetly

The evenings are getting a little longer

So let’s look to the future

With hope in our hearts

That COVID-19

Will be an episode in our past

Have a smile and a cheer

Each and every one of us

Now that Valentine’s day is here

Like the little Robin

Appearing on my balcony

As if to say, all will be well

Spring is in the air

And hope is in our hearts

Now that Valentine’s day is here

Happy Valentine’s day to you all

 


Find out more about our sheltered housing

We provide beautiful and affordable sheltered housing in our almshouses, with award-winning communal gardens. Email info@hamunitedcharities.com or go to have a look at our sheltered housing pages.

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“Some people haven’t seen another person in months”

Connecting people with learning disabilities, dating project Happily has been busier than ever throughout the pandemic.

Connecting people with learning disabilities, dating project Happily has been busier than ever throughout the pandemic. But it’s meeting a need that’s been pressing for years, says founder Helena Reed. Hammersmith United Charities has funded 10 memberships to support the project.

“My daughter has always felt ‘different to everyone else’, says Alison,* mother of Lucy,* who has a learning disability. “She went through months of non-stop crying – she was so down. It was very sad to see.” Lucy desperately wanted to meet new people and build relationships, but she didn’t have the confidence or skills – and didn’t know where to get help.

According to Helena Reed, founder of Happily, a Hammersmith-based dating and friendship project for people with learning disabilities and autism, new members often talk about this sense of helpless isolation. “Members often feel stuck between two worlds. They don’t want to be stuck in a box labelled ‘learning disabilities’. They just want to feel cool and have fun with their friends.”

Helena knows this first-hand. Her younger sister has learning disabilities, and growing up Helena tried to help her arrange dates and acted as a chaperone. “But it was really hard to find the right environment for my sister to meet people,” says Helena. “The mainstream dating apps just didn’t feel safe or appropriate, and there wasn’t anything tailored to people with a learning disability.”

It’s a common problem: over the age of 25, people with learning disabilities stop getting support from their local authority’s special educational needs system. Many finish college and find they are too old to access free services they had relied on for social interaction. The sudden loss of this network can be devastating.

With 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spending less than 1 hour outside their home on a typical Saturday, research suggests that people with a learning disability are also seven times as likely as their non-disabled peers to be lonely.

“Although there are some amazing charities in each borough supporting adults with learning disabilities,” says Helena, “it can be a small world. If you don’t fancy someone in your local group, you are quite stuck.”

Bringing Happily to life

Seeing a pressing need for something to connect vulnerable young adults – and with her little sister in mind – Helena took the plunge and launched Happily three years ago. The project creates a safe place for making new friends and starting relationships. The focus is on dating, but Happily believes that helping friendships along is just as important. The service operates across nine boroughs in west London, and free annual memberships have been funded for ten people by Hammersmith United Charities.

So how does it work? First of all, the Happily team get to know members, their family and support staff. They find out about the member’s hopes and interests, relationship history and support needs. Practicalities are considered in a social way, like understanding whether members can travel independently, manage money and read menus. Goals are set to revisit later on: “New members often feel nervous; many haven’t had relationships before,” says Helena, “so it’s all about working on confidence.”

After being matched with another like-minded member, they might go to a park or café with a chaperone – although during the pandemic these meetings are usually online. Afterwards, the process is managed by Happily, so no one shares phone numbers until they’ve both decided they want to meet again. “It’s a supported situation where people can have a good time,” says Helena. “It takes the pressure off. Our aim is to remove risk and make sure everyone is safe.”

“If a relationship does develop, we still keep in touch,” says Helena. “Adults with learning disabilities often need support to nurture relationships, and things can change. We help at each stage – with the struggles and the break ups. We’re there for all of it. And if relationships progress to being physical, we make sure they’ve got the right information at the right time,” she says.

For some people, sex education in school can feel like a distant memory. Happily explores this with members in an appropriate way, working with parents and support staff to enable healthy relationships. Collaborating with experts like SASH and Respond, they provide 1:1 support and workshops about sex and relationship, boundaries, consent and sexual health.

Connecting over lockdown

Covid-19 has changed the way Happily provides its services, but the need for human connection is greater than ever. It can be even more difficult for people with learning disabilities to know how to keep in touch when they can’t meet up in person.

“We’re checking in now more than ever,” says Helena. “In the first lockdown, we got in touch with a couple who had been together for a year. They just didn’t know what to do or how to connect. So we got them up and running on Zoom and helped them have a birthday celebration online, which got the ball rolling for them.”

“It’s difficult to reach people and get new members at the moment,” says Helena, “but we know how much need there is. When we do manage to connect with new people, they are desperate for contact. Some haven’t seen another person for months. So we try to link them up with online group socials as quickly as we can. It’s good for people to see some smiley, happy faces on the screen – so suddenly they aren’t sitting at home alone. There are people out there who can give support.”

Life beyond Happily

Happily has been life changing for Lucy. As Helena says: “Before she joined us, Lucy hadn’t really met new people and was very nervous. Through her new experiences her friendship group has grown so much. Now she’s had two relationships, and she’s been to the seaside with her friends. Her mum says that she’s is a different person, and that she’s so much more confident.”

It’s not always an easy journey. “It’s a rollercoster. You want to be there for members as much as possible, so you can get very emotional. If there is a break-up, I feel involved. But sometimes I cry with happiness. It’s such a nice feeling, when someone becomes more confident. I get very touched by the responses of family members,” says Helena.

“I try to take things day by day. But sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about what we’re trying to achieve with Happily. I just threw myself into the project without really considering the scale of what was involved. I was just thinking about my sister being lonely. But she isn’t now.”

————

Happily – free memberships available now

Happily has free memberships for people over 18 with a learning disability available, and is as active as ever over the pandemic. If you know of anyone the scheme may help, please share.

Happily is particularly keen to reach women with learning disabilities or autism, to keep the gender ratios equal. The team are also searching for LGBT+ members.

Happily supports people living in Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Richmond upon Thames, Wandsworth, Hounslow, Westminster and Harrow.

Contact hello@happilydating.co.uk for more information or sign up here

Find out more

 

*Names have been changed.

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The almshouse movement: As vital as it’s ever been

With the average house price in Hammersmith at more than 25 times a nurse's salary, almshouses like ours are as vital now as when the movement began hundreds of years ago.

With the average house price in Hammersmith at more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, it is no surprise that many workers are reaching retirement without the safety net of their own property. That’s why almshouses like ours, providing older people an affordable home in the community where they belong, are as vital now as when the movement began hundreds of years ago. 

By Victoria Hill, Chief Executive – Hammersmith United Charities

The coronavirus has seen an outpouring of appreciation for key workers who leave the safety of their home to work keeping their community safe, fed and well. In the frightening early days of the first lockdown, we stood in the street and clapped for healthcare workers, carers, shop assistants, cleaners and more – all the people who put themselves at risk for the sake of others.

The contribution of key workers is rarely highly valued in monetary terms and these are often the very people who struggle to find an affordable home near their families and vital services as they grow older and become more in need of care themselves.

The average house price in Hammersmith is more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, and so it is no surprise that increasing numbers of workers are reaching retirement without their own property to fall back on. And with the average rental cost of a one-bedroom flat at two and a half times the state pension, it is easy to see how so many older people are also priced out of the private rental market.

With one in four older people in our area now living in poverty, the mission of almshouses like ours is as relevant as it was 400 years ago when Hammersmith United Charities was founded.

The almshouse movement has been around for hundreds of years but the Almshouse Association and the Charity Commission have only recently created a formal definition of what it means to be an almshouse. It describes exactly what we do here at Hammersmith United Charities.

Our charity was founded in 1618 with a gift of £100 to provide housing for the relief of the ‘elderly poor’ of Hammersmith. This gift has been added to and grown by generations of trustees and we now have an endowment and 92 flats on two sites just off the Goldhawk Road. These properties are highly protected and cannot be sold or used for any other purpose. Our residents must be over 60, have lived in Hammersmith for at least five years, be of limited means and in need of sheltered accommodation.

In human terms, our status as an almshouse means that the Charity can provide housing to the people who have often contributed most to our community but feel valued least. We believe that no one should be denied the opportunity to live in a decent home simply because they were never given the opportunity to climb the property ladder. The cost of our flats is regulated by statute to ensure that anyone can live here without causing hardship.

For us, almshouse living is about much more than just affordable housing. We know from research by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing that where we live and our relationships also have a significant impact on our wellbeing. For Hammersmith United Charities, what defines us is our ability to provide a home where people feel safe, in the place where they belong, surrounded by a community who values them for life, not just for lockdown.

***

More information:

Over 60 and looking for a new home in Hammersmith? We provide beautiful, welcoming sheltered housing with award-winning communal gardens. Flats available now from £870 per month.

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Nomad Radio: a lifeline for the Somali community

How one of our grants is keeping the station on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

The UK’s only radio station for the Somali community, Nomad Radio broadcasts here in Hammersmith and Fulham. Community-led and bilingual, it’s just received a grant by Hammersmith United Charities to keep it on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

(more…)

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Get ready for Halloween!

Pumpkin carving tips and ideas

Pumpkin carving

 

You will need: Pumpkin, a marker pen/pencil, a sharp knife, a container to collect the insides.

 

1.       Health and safety! Make sure you have a steady non-slippy surface, a good hold of the pumpkin and always carve away from yourself.

2.       Use the marker pen to draw a line around the crown and mark the pattern you want to carve.

3.       Use the knife to carve, collect the insides in a container to make delicious pumpkin goodies such as soup, pie and hummus.

4.       Place tealights inside your pumpkin, put the top on and add to your Halloween display! This is John Betts House resident Bryan with his final pumpkin.

5.       If you do not want to use knives, there are some fun alternatives.

 

 

 


We’d love to see your pumpkin creations: take a picture and follow and tag us on social media!

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V with roses

Five minutes with…our community gardener

Victoria helps residents enjoy our gardens and keeps them looking beautiful.

V with roses

It’s difficult to sum up what I love about gardening. It’s everything. How different plants grow, the seasonal and weather changes (even rain!), seeing others enjoy the flowers that appear and how it invigorates all your senses.

I have always loved flowers, trees and plants. I previously worked as an NHS speech and language therapist and before that in education. Over time, I found myself increasingly turning to outdoor work. The more I did, the more the enthusiasm grew, until I was certain that gardening was the career path for me.

I have seen the proof that gardens can be restorative. I encourage our residents to enjoy the gardens as much as possible, whether that’s sitting and looking, or participating in tasks. During the tighter lockdown, they were a safe space for people to sit and relax. Residents said they felt lucky to have them.

Talking to the residents is lovely. It’s great to learn what plants people like in the garden, or what they are doing with their container gardens outside their flats. I love listening to tales from their lives – many people have such interesting stories. It’s quite inspiring and sometimes very funny.

It was a really hot spring and summer but we watered mostly by hand. I could not have done it all without the residents helping me. They were completely brilliant. They often help me with plant names that are new to me (there are so many!), and do daily tasks like open and close the greenhouse and check on the barrel pond at weekends. It really helps. Heading into winter, there will be many jobs to do in the gardens. One of the biggest is mulching, which is adding an enriching and insulating layer of composted material to every bed in the garden. We have lovely things on show, like winter flowering shrubs. The residents often stop to chat about what they can see on their way through the gardens.

There is always some colour throughout the year. Jackie, the head community gardener, has used succession planting. So when certain plants fade, others begin to pop up. There are lots of lovely surprises as the weeks go by. You have no idea the gardens are there from the busy London roads outside. You step into a peaceful, natural space you’re not expecting. When I first visited almost a year ago, I felt the ‘wow’ factor, and I still get that now.

 


Find out more about our sheltered housing

With award-winning communal gardens, our friendly and affordable sheltered housing helps residents live independently for as long as possible.

We have flats available now for older people from Hammersmith. Talk to us on 020 8600 0650 / 07733 842 574, email info@hamunitedcharities.com or read more here.

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Bill

“I’ve got everything to live for”

Meet Bill, one of our sheltered housing residents.

Bill

He’s had a singalong in an air-raid shelter, played a giant gorilla on the big screen and been around the world eight times. Now one of our residents Bill is happily settled in a quiet Hammersmith haven with everything he needs (plus a few new grandchildren to keep him busy).

I used to live in a bedsit just around the corner from here in Rylett Avenue. I’d walk past John Betts House every day and think, “That looks like a nice place to live.” I never dreamed I’d live here myself.

I happened to meet a lady who lived at John Betts in my art class, and she told me there were units available. And that was it. I can’t believe I’m living in such a comfortable place in my old age. This is the centre of London, but it’s so peaceful. You can hardly hear a sound.

Where I began

I can remember when London went through the Blitz. I was living in Scotland at the time. We never saw a single plane, but if an air-raid siren went off in London, a siren would go off in Brechin as well. If the Londoners were hurrying into their shelters, then off we’d go too – quick march. We’d have a good singalong, and even lessons if a teacher was in the shelter. And you’d be in trouble if you were caught without your gas mask. It’s a bit like today. Now, I think: if we all pull together like we did back then, we’ll win this war too.

I got my first taste of cinema in those days. Every Saturday afternoon we went, and it was always packed solid. Two pennies to get in. I loved ‘cowboys and indians’ sorts of films like the Lone Ranger. Since then, acting has been my life. I’ve been in about 100 films. I started at 15, and one of my first roles was playing one of Fagin’s boys in Oliver Twist. Eventually I made a bit of a name for myself as an arch-villain, I think because I was tall, had black wavy hair and a deep voice. I played Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster on stage. It was fun; everyone likes to be scared, from a safe distance.

My most famous role was Konga, a 1961 sci-fi horror film directed by Herman Cohen. It was about a giant gorilla which ran riot and I had to wear an ape suit for six hours a day, 10 days straight. I did most of the scenes on my own against a blue screen, chasing people, bending over houses, causing mayhem. Jess Conrad was one of the stars of the film. He was terribly good-looking and all the girls were mad about him. I had to kill him, which didn’t make me very popular.

Film-makers find it pretty hard to get 80-year-old actors, so I was still doing about a day a month on films up until last year. The last one I did was Stan and Ollie. But I’ll be 90 soon and I’ve had enough now. I’m quite happy just watching.

There were a few breaks from acting: I was called up for national service and sent to Egypt around the time of Suez Canal troubles. I worked in the Forces broadcasting service. I quite enjoyed it, but all that sunshine and sand! It was like being on a beach for a year. There wasn’t much to do.

I was also an entertainment officer on P&O cruise liners and I travelled around the world eight times. I organised cabarets and dances – and yes, of course I got involved too! I saw Rio, Sydney, New York… But do you know the place that I found most exciting to sail into? Southampton. Coming back home.

A peaceful haven

I never imagined that I’d finish up in such a lovely place. John Betts House has got everything you could want. When I wake up in the morning, the sun comes streaming in through the big windows. There are huge gardens right outside, and you can smell the flowers in my room.

I always say that when you get past 60, you develop a personality – everyone here is really interesting. People are friendly and happy to chat if you want, but they also mind their own business. There are always things to do, if you want to: social activities, coffee mornings, quizzes. I’ve been on trips to Bath and Winchester, and up the canal on a boat. I’ve also taken up painting in the last 10 years and that has kept my artistic juices flowing.

Things are a bit different at the moment. But this feels like one of the safest places in London. We are in an enclosed community, so there is no need to go out if you don’t want to. Occasionally I get up very early and go for short walk, when nobody’s around.

I’ve got three children but up until a few years ago there were no grandchildren. Now I’ve got two, with another one on the way. It’s like waiting for the number 7 bus. But it’s absolutely thrilling – I’ve got everything to live for.

 


Find out more about our sheltered housing

We provide beautiful and affordable sheltered housing in our almshouses, with award-winning communal gardens.

Call Leslie, our Housing Manager to find out more or to come and visit: 07470 793 565, email leslie.morson@hamunitedcharities.com or go to have a look at our sheltered housing pages.

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Trustee profile

Amir Sadjady is a local entrepreneur, housing expert and a trustee for Hammersmith United Charities.

I grew up in neighbouring North Kensington and now live and work in Hammersmith and know the area well. I had visited a resident of one of the almshouses before and was very impressed with the beautiful gardens – you would never know they were there from the outside – and so when I saw the ad for new trustees I was really keen to get involved.

I love helping to improve people’s lives through my role at Hammersmith United Charities. As a trustee I have responsibility for the future direction and vision of the organisation. I attend regular board meetings, ask questions when needed and contribute with opinions when direction or decisions are required.

I bring a particular specialism in business, housing and property to the team – I own and run a new launderette in White City called Wash Launderette 2.0, which I designed and built myself. Most of my customers are residents in Hammersmith United Charities’ area of benefit – since joining HUC I’m much more familiar with the struggles they face. I also have several properties that I own and manage as a landlord, with many private tenants. I’m constantly improving my properties, filling voids and doing refurbishments.

This experience has been really helpful in my role as trustee; I sit on the housing and property committee and it’s been really rewarding to oversee the refurbishment programme, keep track of empty flats and help deal with any issues the residents may have.

I have found out two things since joining the board. The first is how much help the charity gives to the wider community through the grants programme, I had no idea how many people the Charity supports outside of the almshouses and it feels great to be involved in that. The second is how much I like working with Labour councillors, as a former Conservative and then Liberal Democrat activist this was a surprise! The Council nominates four trustees, three from the Labour party and one from the Conservatives so I’ve had to work closely with ‘the other side’ and I can honestly say I’ve really enjoyed it.

 


Find out more
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man in mask giving package to children

£100,000 donated to help local people hit by pandemic

Find out about the crucial community projects supporting vulnerable people impacted by coronavirus.

man in mask giving package to children
Nikos from Ready Tech Go delivering a tablet to support education at home (photo by Thomas Evans).

£100,000 has now been donated to crucial community projects supporting vulnerable people impacted by coronavirus.

The Community Coronavirus Response Appeal was launched in March to support local people who are at a higher risk of complications from coronavirus, feel particularly isolated or live in poverty. The appeal is being led by UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham, a charity we created in partnership with Dr Edwards and Bishop King’s Fulham charity to raise funds for local projects and strengthen our community.

The micro-grants, raised by the combined generosity of people, businesses and foundations in Hammersmith & Fulham, are already making a real difference. Activity boxes are being delivered to children living in poverty; more telephone befriending services are being offered to people feeling isolated; shopping, prescriptions and nutritious meals are reaching more vulnerable, elderly and homeless people; extra support is on hand for families and children with special educational needs; there are more first responders for people at risk of suicide and with other mental health problems – and much more.

“A huge thank you to our local community for donating money to our appeal, which will go a long way to helping vulnerable people get through this crisis,” said Savraj Kaur, director of UNITED. “But everything is still very uncertain in this ongoing pandemic and we still need to raise funds to help the people in our community who are most at risk. Please support your community and make a donation.”

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Let’s Talk About Race

CEO Blog October 2020

One in three people living in the community served by Hammersmith United Charities is Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority community. Despite this, Hammersmith United Charities has never had a conversation about race and our role in tackling racism.

We started thinking more explicitly about racism earlier this year when the Black Lives Matter movement made headlines. We ought not to need to be reminded that racism exists in the UK. Studies repeatedly show that there are persistent and systemic racial inequalities leading to people from ethnic minorities being more likely to experience poorer outcomes in health and education, being disproportionately represented in the youth criminal justice system and prison, or being more likely to suffer from an “ethnic penalty” in earnings.

Coronavirus made these inequalities more visible locally. Feedback from our grantees highlighted how people from black or other ethnic minority communities were far more likely to be seriously affected because they disproportionately occupy key worker or other manual roles; are more likely to live in crowded accommodation without easy access to outdoor space; more frequently suffer existing health inequalities and are less likely to have a financial buffer to help them ride out the financial consequences of the pandemic. Hammersmith United Charities trustee, Adam Matan, CEO of the Anti Tribalism Movement, published a report in April spelling out how the Somali community was more adversely impacted by the pandemic. As the situation goes on these inequalities will continue to be exacerbated.

Over the summer we asked local children to share their hopes and dreams as part of a lockdown arts project. One young person answered simply “Justice for Black Lives”, another wrote “Equality for All”. It is dismaying to think that children growing up in the 21st century in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, in our own area of benefit, are already living with the knowledge that for them equality is a dream not a reality. This was the last prompt we needed to make this a priority for the Charity to address.

It is notoriously difficult to talk about race and racism and so we called on local experts NOVA New Opportunities to facilitate a discussion between staff and trustees at this month’s board meeting to start the conversation.

They encouraged us to bring down any fear factor by talking frankly about times in our lives when we might have experienced, witnessed or even exhibited racism, how we responded at the time and how we might respond differently now or in the future. We explored our individual positions further by considering our response to phrases which are very visible in the national conversation about race such as “white privilege” and “All Lives Matter”. It was an uncomfortable session at times, but an important first step to get over any initial discomfort and have an open conversation about racism.

Of course, it’s not enough just to have a discussion, we have a duty to take a stand against racism too. NOVA provide a toolkit to help organisations like us think through the steps we can and should take and we will be using this to shape our next discussion in October the outcome of which we will also publish.

The pandemic has made it difficult to meet the young people who shared their dreams of equality and justice with us but I very much hope that when at last I do, I will be able to demonstrate to them what Hammersmith United Charities is doing to help make their dreams come true.

Victoria Hill
CEO

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100 Hammersmith children reach out to local older people in lockdown arts project

Over 100 children in Hammersmith have reached out to local older people through the coronavirus lockdown, in an uplifting intergenerational arts project called Dreaming Forest. Children and older people have been sharing their hopes, dreams and memories by decorating wooden birch leaves and posting them to each other. The leaves will be shared with the wider community in an art installation in October.

“It was a joy to bring together two generations who have had to stay apart for so many months,” said Victoria Hill, chief executive of Hammersmith United Charities (HUC), which provides local sheltered housing and led the project. “We wanted people – old and young – to enjoy the magic of unwrapping a parcel to find a unique message from someone reaching out to them.

“It’s so important to us that our residents feel happy, fulfilled and connected to their community. It’s been very difficult for them during lockdown, as we’ve had to restrict visitors to keep our residents safe,” Victoria said. “This was something small we could do to help. The leaves are made of birch, which symbolises hope and the promise of new beginnings – and we could all do with some of that.”

“Receiving something like this from children, it means a lot. It just lifted me from the lockdown – we have all been feeling low,” said Kitty, who lives at Sycamore House in Hammersmith and hasn’t been able to have a visitor all summer. “That the children at school and teachers were thinking of us: it went a long way. The whole thing is a lovely gesture,” she said.

“Our children loved receiving their leaf packages through the post and taking part in the Dreaming Forest project. Using water colours was a new experience for some of our little ones!” said a Year 1 teacher from Old Oak Primary School.

Dreaming Forest was a collaboration between Hammersmith United Charities, artist and researcher Carolyn Defrin along with Wendell Park and Old Oak Primary school, Solidarity Sports and the LIDO Foundation.

Hammersmith United Charities provides quality sheltered housing for people over 60 and offers grants to community groups. For more information about the Dreaming Forest follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’ sheltered housing click here.

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community@hammersmith

HUC Film Project

Hammersmith United Charities presents community@hammersmith, a film project to celebrate our grantees’ work and hopefully help bring some fun and light into 2020. Our aim is to build a video picture of the enormous value of local organisations, provide an insight into what community means in Hammersmith and help our grantees build their capacity to use film as a medium to tell their story to the people that matter to them.

If you are a grantee of Hammersmith United Charities, please find more information about the project and how to take part in this document.

If you have questions about the project, please email film@hamunitedcharities.com.

community@hammersmith is also supported by Electric Light Studios and Community Switch Sports.

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The City Bridge Trust awards £180,000 for the development of UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham

The City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, has awarded £180,000 to Hammersmith United Charities for the development of UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham as a place-based giving in the diverse London borough. The project links those who want to support the community with local causes in-need that will best use their investment.

The grant will be released over five years (£47,000; £43,000; £37,000; £31,000; £22,000) with a focus on core funding.

Dhruv Patel, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said: “At a time when public finances continue to be under significant strain, place-based giving schemes like UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham are playing a really important role in tackling disadvantage in London.

“By using their grassroots knowledge of the issues which matter to local people and matching those who want to  help their community with causes in need of support, they’re doing a fantastic job of building stronger communities and helping to make the borough a fairer place in which to live and work.”

Victoria Hill, CEO of Hammersmith United Charities said “We are grateful for the support of the City Bridge Trust to further our mission to revive the spirit of local philanthropy in partnership with Dr Edwards and Bishop King’s Fulham through the creation of UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham.

“It will help continue the work that has already reached tens of thousands of people in need and bring people together to make Hammersmith and Fulham a borough where everyone thrives.”

Kevin McGrath DL OBE, Chair of UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham, said “This grant from the City Bridge Trust means we can further important work to make our London borough a fairer place in which to work and live.

“We call for local individuals, businesses and institutions to partner with us through our activities, to ensure that local causes which are most in-need, such as homelessness, isolation, health inequality and racial disparity, are recognised and responded to in the most effective way possible.”

The City Bridge Trust, which was founded in 1995, gives £25m a year to charities fighting inequality and disadvantage in London.

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Black Lives Matter

We stand in solidarity with those making their voices heard in the fight against systemic racism.

Hammersmith United Charities stands in solidarity with those making their voices heard in the fight against systemic racism.

As a community charity in one of the most diverse areas of the UK, valuing equality and diversity is central to the way we work and we are committed to the fight against racism and prejudice.

We have a duty to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people living in our Almshouses or working alongside us in our staff team, board and community partners to speak up. We want to let them know that we stand with them and against injustice and intolerance.

We believe that to be silent is to be complicit and so Hammersmith United Charities says with one voice that Black Lives Matter.

 


June 5th 2020: Tonight at 10pm Hammersmith & Fulham Council will be lighting Hammersmith Town Hall purple as H&F takes the knee and says with one voice that Black Lives Matter. Full statement from H&F Leader Stephen Cowan:

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Mural Project at John Betts House

After the Mosaic Project, our residents are back to work! This time they’re painting a series of panels to form a Mural for a wall at John Betts House – and of course they are helped again by local school children. We can’t wait to see the final result in a few months!

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Grants awarded January 2020

And May 2020 deadline

Find below our new grantees for January 2020.

The Grants Committee will meet again in May – to be considered for a grant, please send your application no later than Wednesday 29th April 2020.

Click here for more information and to download the application form.

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Warmer Together Winter Giving Campaign Begins in Hammersmith & Fulham

UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham’s Warmer Together campaign is now live. It calls for local older people who can afford to do so, to donate all or some of their Winter Fuel Allowance to help their less well-off older neighbours this winter.

Winter can be an especially difficult time of year for older people in our borough; of the 19,000 residents aged over 65, over half have a long-term health problem or disability. 25% live in poverty. 43% live alone.

Last year, 278 isolated older people in need were supported, through grants to local charities including Fulham Good Neighbours, the Iraqi Association, Lunch Club for the Blind, and the Somali Development Network.

“Most of the services catering to our community focus on young people, and the elderly are usually forgotten. It’s a great change.” – Resident with no family (83) who attended a social club launch.


Can you give a gift?

Are you someone who received a Winter Fuel Allowance that you don’t feel you need? A local business looking for a Christmas incentive to give locally? Or a younger person who also wants to take part in giving?

Visit unitedhf.org/warmertogether for details on how to give.

“This campaign is a wonderful way to bring people together to support our neighbours. One hundred percent of funds raised will go to local community projects that help older residents.” – Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of H&F Council.

Many thanks to LBHF Council for their partnership in this initiative.

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Hammersmith Reflection – Artists in Residence

Encouraging creativity and participation in the arts is an important part of our work at Hammersmith United Charities. Cultural events help to improve wellbeing,  remove barriers to social inclusion and contribute to safer and stronger communities.

In June 2019,  we held “Artists in Residence”, an exhibition of work by local artists, including residents of our sheltered housing at John Betts House and Sycamore House. The exhibition was part of HF ArtsFest, an annual platform to celebrate the exceptional artists living in the borough, and we were proud to showcase the breadth of talent within the residents of our Almshouses and enable members of our local community to display their work.

The exhibition was kindly opened by Andy Slaughter MP at a fun evening at Pekoe Mellow Tea House jam packed with our friends and neighbours.

We are very grateful to the artists who allowed us to exhibit their work: Bill Forbes Hamilton, Bryan Payne and Pat Carey-Willis from John Betts House; Betty Dwyer and Joan Hurrell from Sycamore House; Carey Whitley, Dickon Reed and Jamik Wilkins from the Grove Neighbourhood Folk Art Group and local artist Layne Wyatt  Thank you also to Zena Zialor for photographing the opening night, our colleague Nora Laraki for curating the artworks and everyone who attended the exhibition.

Many of the artists have enjoyed attending the Grove Neighbourhood Fold Art Group run by Rachel Leach, a project supported by Hammersmith United Charities. Everybody is welcome regardless of their experience so if you think you could be Hammersmith’s next Picasso please take a look!    

For more photos, click here.

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National Housing for Older People Awards 2019

We won Silver and Bronze!

We’re delighted to announce that Sycamore House and John Betts House have won respectively a Silver and Bronze – Regional Awards category – in the EAC National Housing for Older People Awards 2019!
Thank you all for voting!
Next year we’ll aim for the gold!

All the results for London here: https://eacawards.org.uk/results-2018/london

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

This month we continued our celebrations of the charity’s 400 (more…)

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Hammersmith Reflections – Thoughts from a New Trustee…

Every one of us has the capability to contribute to society, and to those less well off (financially, socially, physically etc), than ourselves. Having been involved in the running of businesses for a little while I was keen to donate my skills and knowledge. I had been involved with one local Hammersmith charity and having “done my time”, was keen to find another opportunity within the locality. The people and environment in which I live are important to me. Hammersmith has numerous problems and issues – and to contribute to solve a just very few of them gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.

Shepherds Bush Market

Hammersmith United Charities as we all know has been around for a long time (400 years to be precise). But what attracted me was the vision for the future. HUC has listened to the people of the Borough, through its “Big Conversation” and from that set out a real plan. This is a charity that has a long term vision for the future, is run and organised by some very professional people – and one that I wanted to be involved in.

Housing is a massive problem in our Borough. Hammersmith United Charities already provides really lovely sheltered accommodation to over 90 residents – all of whom would be at the mercy of private landlords without our apartments. But to be involved with a project to increase our stock and offer long term housing solutions to even more in the borough is an exciting prospect. Giving something back, no matter how small the contribution, that will last for many decades is a satisfying thought.

Two Residents at Sycamore House

But the charity isn’t just about providing sheltered housing. Over the four centuries of its existence the financial resources of the Charity have grown. This means that in 2018 we will be donating over £400,000 of our income to other local charities and support groups. Making real contributions to real people in borough and helping to improve their lives – whether it be through nutritious meals for homeless people; music for toddlers with language delay; counselling for people who have experienced domestic abuse; or opportunities for entrepreneurs to support older people Hammersmith United Charities makes a real contribution to people’s lives in the Borough – something that I am very proud of. And with the setting up of the combined UNITED charity something we want to do even more with the support of the local community.

W12 Festival 2016

Hammersmith United Charities is an exciting organisation with real plans, to make an even bigger contribution, to our local community. Something that excites me – and something I am proud to be part of.


David Bailey
Trustee
June 2018

 

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Irish Enigma Event

Serenaded by footstompingly enjoyable traditional Irish musicians, we enjoyed the hospitality of the new Irish Cultural Centre for our third Enigma lunch.

The hall was full for the occasion with guests drawn from the Cultural Centre, our residents, friends of the charity and neighbours who found out about the event from Next Door.

As hoped, the conversation flowed, sparked to some extent by responses to our republication of the reminiscences of Irish migrants first published in the 1980s. Guests were delighted to read the stories; some remembered the original project and, for others, the stories newly discovered, very much tuned in to their own memories.

We ended the event with a riveting and entertaining story by a professional story teller who had the whole hall enthralled and entertained with her tale of her life as the daughter of a small town shopkeeper  – and more seriously with her thoughts about “community”  – very much the theme of our Enigma lunches.

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Aunt Esther’s Story – Enigma Event

Last Saturday we had our second Enigma Event in partnership with “Women Make Change” who put together a great event for International Women’s Day. Women Make Change is a charity that promotes and protects the health and safety of women and girls affected by domestic violence.

Melanie Nock took the chance to introduce Aunt Esther’s Story. Esther Bruce’s autobiography written by Stephen Bourne tells the story of a black London Seamstress from 1912–1994 and provides a first-hand account of the life of a black Londoner in the pre-Empire Windrush years. When Esther Bruce was born in Fulham in 1912 only small black communities exited in Britain.

Another big announcement was the launch of the “Agents for Change” Women’s Leadership Programme that we founded in partnership with the H&F Council, the Imperial College and the Lyric Hammersmith.

Applycations are open now, find more information here: http://www.agentsforchange.wixsite.com/agentsforchange 

 

 

 

 

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Hammersmith Reflections

A blog written by our Trustees - Julian Hillman

February can be a sad month, fortitude tested by continuing winter, with summer still a long way off.  Sad for me personally, because I have to stand down as a trustee of Hammersmith Unite Charities (HUC) after 12+ years and also because Oxfam (more…)

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My Home Sycamore House

A Poem by Kitty

Every Monday, from January to March 2018, our residents at John Betts House and Sycamore House are enjoying a Relaxation and Mindfulness course organised by Open Age.

This course of simple relaxation techniques helps slowing heart rate, improving sleep quality, digestion, mood and concentration as well as reducing stress and much more… like, for example, increasing creativity! This definitely happened to Kitty, one of our residents at Sycamore House, who wrote this lovely poem inspired by one the sessions. We just had to share it with all of you!

If you are interested in more activities organised by Open Age, you can have a look at the list (link on the right) or visit their website.

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Enigma Lunches — What it is…

“As well as the 456,976 possible starting positions for any set of four wheels, this Enigma machine offers further variations in settings which means that there are 4,134 million possible ways in which it could be set up.” Alan Turing Institute, The British Library (more…)

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The Enigma Lunches

“As well as the 456,976 possible starting positions for any set of four wheels, this Enigma machine offers further variations in settings which means that there are 4,134 million possible ways in which it could be set up.” Alan Turing Institute, The British Library

Throughout 2018, in honour of Hammersmith United Charities’ 400th anniversary, we are celebrating the rich diversity of the local area through a curated monthly lunch series called “The Enigma Lunches.”

Inspired by a cross-communal lunch we hosted last year as part of our PhD student, Carolyn Defrin’s research, and Alan Turing’s WWII Enigma Code-cracking (that transpired as a result of a casual chance encounter with a secretary);  we are excited to see what might emerge when different people come together around food, art and casual conversation.

Each month’s lunch will be hosted by different cultural community centres throughout the borough, and showcase associated food and arts activities. Additionally, each lunch will coincide with the republication of a memoir originally published during the 80s and 90s from the Hammersmith and Fulham Ethnic Communities Oral History Project.

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Oral History Project

The Ethnic Communities Oral History project ran from 1987 until 1994, and published fascinating insights in to the lives of the diverse communities that make up Hammersmith.

“If English is not your first and most fluent language, how do you share your life experiences with others, not familiar with yours… ‘ordinary people’s’ life histories deserve as wide a readership as possible.”  (Sav Kyriacou, former project coordinator, The Ethnic Communities Oral History Project 1987 – 1994)

In the late 80s/early 90s, the Hammersmith and Fulham Ethnic Communities Oral History Project published a set of 12 memoirs chronicling the collective experiences of the communities that make up our very diverse borough through the specific stories of individual members of them.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  (Philip Pullman)

Nearly a quarter of a century later, as part of our marking 400 years of bringing this community together, Hammersmith United Charities is republishing these stories. Each will be launched at a special lunch held in a venue which also reflects the community in question.

We can think of no better way of celebrating the depth and richness of the heritage of our Area of Benefit nor of showcasing the range of talents and experiences from which it benefits than through the republication of these stories.

He who is different from me ….enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in Man… For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.”  (Antoine de Saint- Exupery)

This is the full list of publications, we hope you enjoy them as much as we have

  1. The Irish in Exile – Stories of Emigration
  2. Passport to Exile – The Polish Way to London
  3. In Exile – Iranian Recollections
  4. The Motherland Calls – African-Caribbean Experiences
  5. The Forgotten Lives – Gypsies and Travellers on the Westway Site
  6. Xeni – Greek-Cypriots in London
  7. Ship of Hope – The Basque Children
  8. Aunt Esther’s Story (with Stephen Bourne)
  9. Somali Sailors
  10. Asian Voices – Life Stories from the Indian Sub-continent
  11. Sailing on Two Boats – Second Generation Perspectives
  12. Such a Long Story! – Chinese Voices in Britain
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Remembering the Future

Carolyn Defrin, our Phd researcher, collaborated with  Levitt Bernstein architects and artist Paul Burgess to create a film and architecture installation featuring Sycamore House and John Betts’ residents sharing memories of living in Hammersmith and their perspectives on housing. 

This project featured in the June 2017 London Festival of Architecture as part of the ‘Where do you think you are?’ exhibition at St. Paul’s Centre in Hammersmith. It explored how the residents’ memories and perspectives on home and housing might impact architects’ designs for a new intergenerational housing scheme. 

 

Residents featured in the artwork visit the exhibition with housing scheme managers, Jill and Cathy. 

 

As residents share their stories, their memories fill the architectural models of their flats. 

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Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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Parenting, the Funpact way

When her children approached the pre-teen years, Elise Pacquette became concerned that she knew nothing about what it was like growing up in today's society. How could she lead children into independence in a world very different to the world she grew up in?

“Parenting is tough, really tough. While some think that once kids start to become more independent it gets easier – well, in some ways it gets harder.

So the parents/carers go to parenting classes, teens go off to PSHE classes at school. But they are getting different information, at different times. As a parent myself I just couldn’t understand that there were no courses for parents and young people to attend together.

It didn’t make sense to me that this didn’t exist, so I set it up myself. Now Funpact enables parents/carers and their children to come together, have fun and learn about independence, forming a firm foundation for further discussion at home together.

We run transition to secondary workshops for year 6s and their parents/carers, helping them both feel ready for the next chapter in their lives. Our course, Bridging the Gap, focuses on the social, emotional, financial and practical aspects of growing up. Ambition 2 Success is run as a one-day workshop in schools for both parents/carers and pupils to attend. It helps them create a positive trajectory for their lives and learn strategy and problem solving skills.

It’s not been at all easy – the learning curve to get Funpact to where it is now has often been pretty much vertical. I am often self-medicating on chocolate under my duvet! My background – as an illustrator, painter, stage manager, sign language interpreter, prop making tutor – didn’t help me much when setting up Funpact. I had no idea what I was doing but I was driven by an unrelenting passion to see change in how families are supported towards their children’s independence. And one thing I do know about myself is that I have grit.

And now there are so many stories of families who have come up to us and told us of the impact courses have made well after they have attended them. That the course helped the bond between them and their child, helping them better understand each other.

I remember one teen who was really struggling in school, and didn’t open up to his mum at all. Through our course that relationship started to grow and he started to share some of the stuff that was going on for him. The parent was then able to give him the support he needed and everything got sorted out.

There was also a father whose work shifts meant he hardly saw his son. But he managed to come to the first session of a six-week course and enjoyed it so much he changed his shifts so he could attend the course and spend more time with his son. So it’s not just what we explore during the courses but the relationships they help.

We are indebted to our youth alumni, who help us regularly update our sessions based on their expertise and lived experience. And I can honestly say that without Hammersmith United Charities’ funding we probably wouldn’t exist today. Hammersmith United Charities gave Funpact our first ever grant and have supported us ever since as we have grown. Through this funding we can now support year 6 pupils in over 20 schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, run Bridging the Gap in five schools and three community venues and Ambition 2 Success in five schools.

Up until now, I have been working alone in the back room, but this year because of our Hammersmith United Charities grant, I will have two new team members to join me for a few hours a week to help us grow. This is incredibly exciting!”


Find out more 
Picture gallery – Funpact at work:
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“My new home is a gift”

It was a big life change for Lorraine when she retired and moved to Sycamore House a few years ago. But her lovely flat and its newfound security has ‘changed her life’, she says – and she’s busier than ever.

“I came to Sycamore House two years ago, having lived in Barons Court for about 16 years. I’d been having all sorts of problems with tenants, drugs and dealers. There were lots of stairs, and my flat had been broken into. It just felt like time to move.

I found out about Sycamore House via a friend. It’s absolutely amazing. I just love the flat; it’s bigger than the one I was in before. There is a wonderful garden at the back – the place absolutely shone in summer time. It’s lovely to go out and sit, and enjoy time with others you’re friendly with. I think I can name nearly all of the 50 or so people who live here now.

There’s lots on socially here at Sycamore House so I involve myself in that as much as I wish – I usually go to the coffee morning and catch up with everyone on a Thursday. I’ve made some very good friends here. We have lots of celebrations and parties, including a yearly fundraiser where family friends can come along, and the local mayor visits too.

The best thing about Sycamore House is the security and safety, and having the help there whenever you need it. Because my family is in Northern Ireland, I don’t have any immediate family nearby. So this community is perfect, because as and when I need support, it’s there.

Chris, Sycamore House’s scheme manager, is an excellent support – he helped with the paperwork that had to be done when I moved in, and now we keep in touch every day via Whatsapp. I know I can go and see him in person if I need particular help with something.

Chris helped me with getting housing benefit, which I qualified for after I retired a couple of years ago. I’d never been on benefits in my life so I was a complete novice and didn’t know anything about it. But Chris helped me navigate the system which was a big relief.

I was very apprehensive when I retired and moved out of my old flat to come here. But it’s changed my life. My eyes have been opened by all the new volunteering I’ve done in the local area: I work at the food bank, Charing Cross Hospital chemo ward, and have applied for work at Maggie’s too.

This flat is a gift; I thank God every day that I made the move. Life is good.”


Find out more 

We provide safe and affordable sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful, award-winning gardens.

 

Lorraine with Sycamore House scheme manager Chris
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5 minutes with…Lisa Da Silva, Head of Housing and Property

We’re really happy to welcome Lisa to Hammersmith United Charities. Lisa is responsible for ensuring our almshouses are of the highest quality and meet the needs of our residents.

What’s involved in your new role?

My role as Head of Housing and Property is to lead the sheltered housing operations for the charity. I will be responsible for delivering a safe and high-quality housing service meeting statutory and regulatory requirements. I will also be responsible for ensuring that the support services provided to residents meet their health and wellbeing needs.

What are you looking forward to most about your new role?

I am looking forward to working as part of a smaller team and bringing my experience and knowledge to the table. Continuing in an almshouse charity setting is advantageous as I feel I will be able to hit the ground running to continue to deliver homes that are safe and well maintained, as well as a high-quality service on behalf of Hammersmith United Charities to the residents.

What sort of work have you been doing previously?

I have over 25 years’ experience of working in the housing sector, the majority of which has been spent in supported housing for older people. I have experience of managing both sheltered and extra care properties and I am keen to share my knowledge and experience as well as continuing to learn myself.

What do you like about the area?

It has been several years since I worked in an urban, vibrant setting with dispersed sites, so I am really excited about this aspect. I am very keen to familiarise myself with the wider community as the setting should lead to lots of opportunities which will be beneficial to the residents.

What sort of things bring you joy outside of work?

I really enjoy spending time with my family and socialising with friends over dinner or a catch-up coffee. I have to be honest though, I can often be found with my nose in my Kindle – there is nothing as relaxing as a good book.


Find out more 
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In pictures: out and about

Our team took part in the Wormholt & White City Community Festival in September, which celebrated our vibrant community.

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