Awards Spotlight - Places of Welcome
At the time of the Walsall Community Recognition Awards, Walsall Places of Welcome included 24 Places of Welcome in 20 venues across Walsall, providing a local neighbourhood space where people can meet people, have conversations and share gifts and skills over a cup of tea and refreshments every week. Places of Welcome are part of a national network of local organisations and take place in a variety of locations including churches, community centres, mosques and temples. For more information, please visit https://www.placesofwelcome.org.uk/
As with many services during the Coronavirus pandemic, Places of Welcome were paused during the initial national lockdown. I was appointed to the role of Places of Welcome Facilitator in Walsall at the beginning of October 2020 (until December 2020), with the purpose of supporting the existing Places of Welcome through the current Covid restrictions and enabling them, and new venues, to reopen when it is safe to do so.
More information can be found on the Transforming Communities Together website https://tctogether.org.uk/
Why do you love what you do?
I love to see people grow, flourish and ‘move forward’.
At a Place of Welcome, visitors are very quickly able to feel that they have somewhere to belong; they can be signposted to other organisations where they can access further support, if necessary; and they can regain a sense of purpose and motivation if that was lacking before. I have seen individuals coming along to a Place of Welcome for the first time, feeling lonely, struggling with loss, debt issues and mental health problems, etc. Then, very quickly, these individuals are transformed by the new connections and support on offer; it is a real privilege to witness this.
What is your proudest moment from the work you’ve done in your community?
When I was involved in the Place of Welcome at The THOMAS Project, in Aldridge, a few years ago, a gentleman started to come along who had recently lost his wife. He came for several months and we saw him grow in confidence, enough for him to be able to share with us that he enjoyed singing. Eventually, we noticed that he was no longer coming to our Place of Welcome and several months later, when he did pop in, we discovered why. He had gained enough confidence to approach and join another social group where he had begun to sing and perform regularly; he was enjoying every moment of it and making more new friends.
The Awards are about bringing people together, can you tell us about some of the great things that are happening to bring people together?
As a result of the Places of Welcome being paused in Walsall because of the Coronavirus, Transforming Communities Together have launched a wonderful new pilot project, called Bringing People Together. This brand-new network for connection during Covid-19 connects people to others from the comfort of their own home, via online and telephone hosted meetings, through the shared principles of invitation, welcome and mutual respect.
New Bringing People Together groups are forming and launching, connecting people together from all backgrounds and areas.
Can you tell us about an individual/organisation in Walsall/nationally/globally that you admire and why?
There isn’t one person or organisation that I particularly admire; there are several individuals and groups that have inspired me over recent years. I always feel encouraged when I see others relating to and inviting those around them ‘in’, to receive contextual and holistic support, provided in a truly giving and sacrificial way.
Can you share something that you have learnt during the pandemic?
I have learnt just how fragile my own mental health is. I have, for the most part, always considered myself to be reasonably focused, driven and visionary. In a time of such uncertainty and change, I have discovered how it feels to lack hope and purpose; to have to adapt to working at home and feeling isolated, and to miss my family and friends. I can empathise and begin to imagine how much it must be affecting others.
Former Places of Welcome Facilitator in Walsall – Transforming Communities Together