Chris Sandys reflects on his two weeks in and around Cam & Dursley

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“I’m super-encouraged by the rich community I experienced, the warm welcome I received and the wonderful people I met.”

Following two brilliant weeks at the GL11 Community Hub, I’m now back at BBC Glos HQ and missing you all.

Thank you SO much to the many people who recommended people and places, gave up time to meet me, shared their stories and added a lot of life to our radio airwaves.

Sadly there were dozens of people and places I wasn’t able to get round in the time I had, for which I’m sorry; I could literally only scratch the surface of the area in the two weeks I had.

Finally, if you’d like to take an interest in the lives of some of the people who bring life to Cam and Dursley, you’ll find a growing collection of audio interviews here – please do check ’em out:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p080pkx9

Thanks again, and please be encouraged – you live in a brilliant part of Gloucestershire 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽
Chris, BBC Radio Gloucestershire

BBC to turn spotlight on incredible work of Gloucestershire charity

Residents who use a much-loved community centre in Gloucestershire could be about to become the stars of BBC Radio.

A producer from the county wing of the national broadcaster is due to set up a temporary studio at the GL11 Community Hub, hoping to tell some of the amazing stories from centre users.

Chris Sandys (correct), a community producer at BBC radio Gloucestershire, is the man behind the near two-week stint at the charity, beginning on January 27.

“We plan to be there for two weeks. It is a really good place. It has a unique community offering and spirit. It is all part of our plan to get out and support and get involved in what is happening in Gloucestershire,” said Mr Sandys.

A note from a departing community police officer to the GL11 Community Hub points at just part of the reason the work of the charity is so vital and the wider impact it has on the quality of life of scores of residents.

From groups supporting those affected by bereavement or cancer to teaching English, maths, skills to help people find work and IT literacy or Family Friday, yoga classes, special needs and music groups – GL11 is thriving.

Its impact has not just been on people’s life chances, sense of belonging, mental health and wellbeing, but on creating genuine opportunities and communities, giving direction and hope.

“It has been a pure pleasure to meet you and your team and see the amazing support you offer. I dread to think where the community and our own service would be if you did not exist,” said the note from the aforementioned departing police officer.

What the outgoing police officer alluded to is the positive impact of the work done on all ages and how that has made the lives of everyone in the community, including those like the police who might otherwise be even busier, all the better.

“There is a lot of cross fertilisation. If he (the officer) has people he is concerned about, he will ask us to explore support for them, and check to make sure they are okay and what we can do to help,” said Indigo Redfern, chief executive at the community centre.

Which is all a long way from its creation in 2001 after transitioning from a children’s home to family centre before facing closure – only to be rescued by a group of local mums – and shows just how in-demand and sophisticated the service now is.

At its centre, the place to which everyone gravitates, is the GL11 café.

“A grant from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s fund makes the café possible. Total running cost is about £25,000 a year. The police commissioner gives us about £10,000 and we make about £15,000 to keep everything going,” said Ms Redfern.

“It is a really important centre. It is the heart of the hub. People can pop in and use it and just hang out, they might go there after they have done a course and it is where the important social bit that brings people together happens.”

To find out more about the GL11 Community Hub visit gl11.org.uk. The BBC would also like to hear from other groups for possible future broadcasts (chris.sandys@bbc.co.uk).

Ian shares his experience of GL11 at our AGM

On Wednesday 2nd October 2019 GL11 held its annual AGM.  Our Chair Annika Howard presented the annual report covering the previous years activities and annual accounts to a varied group of stakeholders consisting of staff, trustees, funders, participants and volunteers.  To make the AGM more engaging we asked some of our participants if they would be willing to share their stories and journeys.  We are delighted that Ian, one of our Garden Volunteers was happy to speak.  This is his story:

“Twelve months ago, I was in a bad place. I felt too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it. I had been drinking too much and it was affecting my work and personal life.  My line manager asked me if I was OK, I remember putting my head in my hands, I did not know what was wrong with me……  He referred me to Occupational Health who then refereed me to a GP. I was told I had severe depression and anxiety and was signed off work.

The GP told me I had 3 options: the first do nothing, the second was to take anti-depressants and the third was to go and have counselling.  I wanted to talk and looked into Listening Post and Let’s Talk but there were either fees or a long waiting list.  I had no confidence, self esteem or respect.

I didn’t know where to turn…. I was ready to give up.  A colleague at work suggested I try GL11, so I decided to pop in.  I didn’t know what to expect but as soon as I walked into reception, I knew this place was going to help me.  I was welcomed and supported. I was introduced to Sara, a Counsellor who said she could see me.  I began 121-hour sessions of counselling.  It was during these sessions that I gained the confidence to be able to talk openly and freely and it helped me immensely. I was not judged, and I felt comfortable coming in to have a cup of tea or read a book or just to chat.

As I started to come more often, I got introduced to Sandra, GL11’s Volunteer Co-ordinator.  She suggested me becoming a volunteer at GL11 and I decided to give it a go and help Miriam who runs the Gardening Club.  Helping in the gardens is not work, it’s a pleasure and a privilege.  GL11 provided a listening ear for me when I was at my darkest time so me volunteering is my way of giving something back to GL11.

I have found something here at GL11, it can’t be bottled, and it does not have a label, but I can honestly say that I am not the person who walked in here 12 months ago.  Looking back, I have suffered from depression and anxiety for a long time and it was coming here and being able to talk that has helped me so much.

I no longer drink, I’ve returned to work, I now run every day.  Before coming to GL11 I did not like myself, so how do you expect someone to like you if you don’t like yourself?  Having the opportunity to talk freely here at GL11 has been my saving grace.  I am now full of hope and ambition!”

GL11 Community Hub bags a share of Tesco’s bag fund!

Local people are benefiting from a warmer, more inviting work space thanks to funding from Tesco Bags of Help.

GL11 was one of three groups shortlisted to receive the cash award from Tesco’s Bags of Help fund where shoppers were invited to head along to Tesco stores in Cam and Wotton to vote for who they thought should take away the top grant. Voting took place at Tesco stores in Cam and Wotton over the two months of January and February with GL11 receiving considerable support for it’s project.

“We would like to say a big thank you to everyone that voted for GL11 Community Hub with their blue tokens in Tesco stores Bags of Help scheme” comments Indigo Redfern, CEO at GL11, “We are thrilled to be receiving the money we were hoping for. It was wonderful to have Antony Giuliano, Community Champion for Tesco, Cam, visit GL11 this week to present us with a cheque for £3,000. The money will make such a difference to the Men’s Shed project that runs here at the Hub every Monday 1-3pm. The session is free of charge and we welcome anyone who would might like to drop in and join us”.

Antony Giuliano, Community Champion at Tesco presenting the cheque to Colin Wright, Men’s Shed Volunteer.

The funds from Tesco will be used to make improvements to the shed, providing a place for a variety of members of the community to get together to make and mend, invent and create, meet, talk and share with each other. Due to significant demand, the shed needed to be upgraded so that projects and courses could continue to be offered and the space utilised more effectively. By improving the shed, GL11 will be able to offer more activities, especially in the colder months of the year.

Men’s groups

Two new groups aimed at men will start at GL11 Community Hub this month – Men’s Shed and Domino Club.

Men’s Shed is similar to a garden shed – a place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practice skills and enjoy making and mending. The difference is that garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature while Men’s Sheds are the opposite. They’re about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge, and of course a lot of laughter.

GL11 community Shed will be a place where men can come and learn new skills and share their own skills in a friendly, social setting. Initially there will be a focus on woodwork, but this will diversify according to what the shed members want to do. Members can work on individual projects or on group or community projects.

GL11 future plans include extending to Women’s Shed and Family Shed, offering the chance for even more people to get involved.

Domino Club will be an opportunity for some friendly competition with a selection of ever favourite traditional board games including dominos, shove ha’penny, bar skittles, backgammon and Scrabble.

Liane James, GL11 Wellbeing Delivery Manager comments:
“Men are telling us that there aren’t enough opportunities for them to socialize and do activities that are of particular interest to them. These new groups offer that for residents of the GL11 area. They are free of charge – under GL11’s Your Way to Wellness Project which is funded by The Community Fund.”

Men’s Shed will run every Monday, 1-3pm starting Monday 29th April. Domino Club will take place on Wednesdays 10am-12 noon starting Wednesday 8th May.