Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?
ConGens was established by a small group involved with their community to improve greater equality of opportunity for older people. We acquired charitable status in 2014. Our aims continued to include supporting those disadvantaged by factors such as ethnicity, older age and disability, into having access to resources and opportunities so people could be more independent and more actively involved in their local community. We work in partnership with a range of organisations large and small, who have shared objectives.
Currently, our principal activities include delivering:
- Seated exercise sessions for disabled and older people to improve physical fitness, health and wellbeing. These take place in a variety of community settings such as in day centres, independent living housing schemes and other community venues. In recent months our exercise classes have been delivered online via Zoom.
- IT Classes to help people develop their IT literacy. Beneficiaries are generally beginners or intermediary level who are taught how to use a laptop, tablet or smartphone to access information or for communication.
- Projects: we support organisations to deliver projects for the benefit of communities. These have included developing communal gardens and planning information events. Last year we aided an organisation to present an online Black History Month event which was a ‘first’ for all involved and was a great success.
- Community social events that bring together people from diverse backgrounds to help promote a better understanding of other people’s cultures. This has included cooking projects whereby people demonstrated to others how traditional dishes are prepared; a film project to record the experiences of first-generation Caribbean people and day trips for those who otherwise would not be able to go on such outings without support.
What has been your greatest achievement?
It is very difficult to identify a single achievement that we would consider our greatest. For a small charity, we are particularly proud of the impact of our community exercise programme. It started in 2014 and has been running ever since. Over 400 people have taken part in sessions held in community venues, at home or online. Many have reported how their mobility and general fitness has improved which has contributed to a greater sense of health and wellbeing. Many have also made new and enduring friendships which have helped tackle feelings of isolation.
Our exercise programme has enabled us to forge links with numerous organisations across Wolverhampton and Birmingham which has laid the foundation for partnership working in other fields. Knowing our work is having a real impact on the quality of life of individuals is the most important accolade.
What is your experience of support received from WVSC?
WVCS has been an important conduit for disseminating information. Their newsletters contain useful news on local events, training and job opportunities and sources of funding, some of which we have successfully accessed. During this period of Covid, they have provided PPE which we have been able to utilise to help our volunteers and people we engage with remain safe whilst undertaking our activities.
In the past WVSC has hosted Network events which have been beneficial. These events have made us aware of the work of other groups which has helped increase our understanding of issues affecting sections of our community and better approaches to addressing these.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?
Wolverhampton is a very culturally diverse city with a great mix of people with diverse needs. An important lesson I have learnt is that when engaging people one should do so with the correct mindset; develop the right perspective of self and what you can achieve; knowing that people and communities existed before you came along and will continue to do so after you are gone. People generally know what they need. A community worker’s role is to support groups to meet their needs. In light of this, I have learned that it is important to:
- Be humble – be prepared to learn and work with people in true partnership
- Listen – don’t engage people with a set agenda – take note of what people say, adjust accordingly and
- Be adaptable – individuals/groups have varying needs which can change according to outside factors so adapt to those changing needs.
What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVSC help to support your organisation in the future?
The main challenge we face is securing large scale funding so we don’t have to dedicate significant amounts of time applying for smaller grants to meet our needs. There are several organisations that write bids for groups, however their charges are often unaffordable for small organisations with limited if any unrestricted funds. Without guaranteeing success, there will always be a reluctance to commission a professional fund writer. Free or support at a nominal charge to write large funding applications would be of greatest help to us in the future.
Alternatively, WVSC could host an event that can involve groups who have successfully obtained significant funding, to share their experiences and explain the process they went through and allow others sight of their grant applications. This would be a very helpful ‘real life’ sample of the process that would help others new to writing large bids.
Where can we find out more?
Lead: Ian Peddie, Volunteer Project Coordinator
New Bushbury Triangle Resource Centre, 74 Stanley Rd, Bushbury, Wolverhampton. WV10 9EL
Website Address: https://localgiving.org/charity/congensgroup/
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