Friday, 10 June 2016

Small charities deserve greater recognition for the work they do

Courtesy of Sussex Post
We all know that charities do some great work and are much appreciated and supported by us all. Next week is Small Charity Week, a campaign which focuses on those small local charities that do so much, on usually so little, and make a real contribution to West Sussex communities.

We are all aware of the big established national charities, yet it is small charities that have an equal or sometimes bigger part to play since settling in their communities. In some cases, this is where it all started for one or two people who identified a need and have done something about it. There are many fine examples in West Sussex which is home to approximately 2,600 small charities.

Small charities often need a helping hand in order to start up or begin to expand. I am delighted by the fact that West Sussex County Council has been able to financially support 2,000 community groups, charities and organisations through our Community Initiative Fund since launching in 2006. In that time the County Council has awarded £3.2 million in CIF funding.

This year’s national Small Charity Week runs from 13 to 18 June and is set to devote each day to a different aspect of small charity management, including the Big Advice day on Tuesday 14 June. Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester are coinciding with the campaign to host appointment-only advice sessions for charities in both districts. This is a great chance for small charities to receive free advice on any topic of its choosing whether it be fundraising ideas or ways to attract volunteers.
CIF funding is managed by our network of County Local Committees (CLCs). During Small Charity Week, five CLCs will celebrate successful recent CIF applicants in their meetings from 13 to15 June. I think it is very fitting to recognise the achievements of CIF applicants at the very place where they received the funding.

Over the last few weeks we have been out and about around the county conducting interviews with three of our most recent CIF recipients who have invested the funding to great effect. I visited community interest company My Sister’s House, in Bognor Regis, this week to see their work for myself.

For me it was a reunion with founder Julie Budge, who I first met at a ‘CIF in the South’ event last year. Julie is very ambitious about the direction in which she is taking My Sister’s House and has proved that already by giving opportunities to young apprentices and maximising her equipment’s use. The charity used the CIF grant to purchase two industrial sewing machines for its apprentices and have since gone on to offer sewing classes to visitors.
After having a tour of the charity’s upcycled clothing boutique and newly expanded drop-in centre, I was introduced to apprentices Holly and Jade – who have both gained valuable experience since joining the charity.

Jade has learnt the trade from scratch under Julie’s guidance, meanwhile Holly has been able to build up an extensive clothing portfolio which has ultimately helped her to secure a university place on a textiles course. I think this is a fantastic example of a forward thinking community interest company which has encouraged the development of young employees.

What is particularly great about My Sister’s House is that women of any age are able to drop in and have a chat. This is particularly helpful for women in an abusive or coercive relationship who feel very isolated. The featured kitchen table allows people to sit and have a cup of tea or coffee with the volunteers who are happy to chat – no ties, no judgement just a willing and friendly ear which is how it should be. This small charity really does do a very important job. 

Best wishes,

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