Voluntary Sector Focus: Andrew Atkinson, Finchfield & Castlecroft Community Association - Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council

by James Clarke
5 months ago
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Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?

Finchfield and Castlecroft Community Association (FCCA) has been in existence in one form or another for some considerable time, and was primarily set up to help with liaising with service providers regarding community issues.

About 10 years ago, we were starting to get enquiries from the community regarding the fate of St. Thomas’ Church in Finchfield, which had been abandoned by The Church of England and was falling into a state of disrepair. The FCCA committee started a campaign to buy the building and restore it as a possible community hub. We invited residents who would like to get involved to get in touch, and it soon became apparent to us that a section of the community had difficulty with IT and emails and so we explored the possibility of starting some sort of IT classes. We started our first lesson in St.Columbas’ Church hall and had two people turn up on our first day – which we took as a success!

Over the next few weeks the numbers did not increase and we found out that we shared the building with a mum and toddler group, which started 20 mins after our session, and they locked the door to stop the little angels escaping – and at the same time prevented anyone wishing to come to our group getting in!

We then moved to Bantock Park, which was a much better venue, excellent car park, cafe, and with good disabled access. Our attendance increased and we relied on volunteer tutors, mainly students, however we could never be sure how many would turn up.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Our first day of the new style sessions attracted about ten people and the numbers steadily increased week by week. Our one-to-one tuition classes were interspersed with short lectures by our tutors on subjects such as ‘how to stay safe on line’, ‘clearing unwanted files’ etc. and also outside talks from Barclays Bank on ‘online banking’, and Waitrose on ‘online shopping’. Other community groups wishing to start an IT group were directed by the Lottery to our door for help and advice – we took that as a huge compliment. The year went very fast and we became the ‘go-to’ place for help with IT.

What is your experience of support received from WVSC?

Our funds were starting to dry up and we managed to get a few local businesses to sponsor us, however this revenue source eventually stopped and so we had to suspend our classes.

We tried without success to find a sponsor and it was suggested we try WVSC for help. Our first meeting with Sharon lasted about two hours and proved to be our turning point. With her help, we re-designed the structure of the classes; instead of a session every two weeks and an uncertainty over how many tutors we had, we would have a session every week, alternating mornings and afternoons, with paid professional IT tutors and a local advertising campaign to attract more customers. This however, would cost money – an awful lot of it, which we did not have, or any idea how to get it.

 

And so, again with the amazing help of Sharon at WVSC we applied for £8000 from the Awards for All Lottery Fund. Unless you have ever applied for lottery funds, you will have no idea how detailed and time consuming the application process is, requiring a lot of attention to detail. We then had to wait for about six anxious weeks and eventually we had an email to say that our application had been approved and the money was on its way!

We were supported over the following years by WVSC and were lucky enough to be awarded funding by the Lottery for a further three years.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?

Over the last year with lockdowns, isolations, bubbles etc. we have all been forced to do many activities online and the need for help amongst the elderly especially has never been higher but the pandemic has stopped close contact tuition and our classes are greatly missed. Since we first started, it is estimated that around 1000 people have visited us for IT help. Our last session had 20 people, despite the atrocious weather at that time.

What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVSC help to support your organisation in the future?

We started January 2020 with increases in attendance on most weeks and we submitted another Lottery application with crossed fingers then Covid19 came on the scene and we held our last session on Wednesday 4th March 2020. As soon as restrictions on group face to face meetings are removed we will re-start our classes and look forward to working with WVSC again.

Where can we find out more?

To see FCCA’s Smart Device Yoga promotional video, please follow the link: http://smartdeviceyoga.uk/

For more information about attending a class, when it is safe to do so, please email your details to: fandc.ca@gmail.com

Would you like to be featured in our Voluntary Sector Focus? Contact Sharon Nanan-Sen on snanan-sen@wolverhamptonvsc.org.uk for more info!