The last few weeks have been very busy for all things ‘Connected Communities Fund’ – we’ve been in touch with groups hearing about progress with the activities they are providing, as well as discussing the way forward for a new round of the fund.
Looking back at the activity that has been supported we are learning from what has been strong, as well as where gaps have been identified, and this is all feeding in as we are finalising details for the launch of the Connected Communities Fund for 2023/2024.
Opportunities for meaningful connection
People have valued seeing the same people again when attending a group on a regular basis and befriending projects have allowed for relationships to be built over a period of time.
An attendee of a Warm Space programme in Cholsey remarked how the space created for people to get together was of particular benefit to them, “My financial situation has become more difficult, making it harder to go to cafes etc. with friends”. The activities in the community pavilion allowed for friendships to be maintained and expanded.
Mind, body, and soul
But, of course, engaging in local activities isn’t just about staying socially active; it’s about nurturing wellbeing more generally. Sports clubs, walking groups, and exercise classes have allowed for physical activity, at a range of levels. Art, crafts, workshops and talks have offered creative and cognitive stimulation. A new woodland walking group in Woodcote has offered sessions to promote wellbeing: “I wasn’t sure what to expect but felt it might help me give myself time to completely let go, enjoy nature and relax, and it certainly did.”
We are also hearing about benefits for people other than those attending activities. Organisers of a lunch club in Stonesfield have advised how it is “very rewarding for the volunteers to be part of this caring community”. A supporter of activities from Bullingdon Community Association told us, “I think volunteering helps my mental health”.
The stories we are hearing from older people who are engaging in local activities—be it tending to a community garden or playing a game of short mat bowls—illustrate how these groups provide a sense of purpose and community belonging that sprinkle each week with a bit of vitality and joy.
Community Development Programme Officer, OCVA
The Connected Communities Fund, is being delivered in partnership by OCVA and Community First Oxfordshire and has been made available by Oxfordshire County Council.