Framework sections highlighted: Connect, Listening, Organise

New Organising Group launches in Plymouth

Residents from the Barne Barton estate in Plymouth have been forging new relationships and transforming their community as part of a project funded by Sanctuary Housing.

Sanctuary has provided support for Community First to reach out to residents on the estate, bring them together and support them to set up a group of community organisers who can collectively shape the future of Barne Barton.

Following a period of reaching out and listening to the community, local leaders emerged wanting to take an active role in the community. Newly found leaders started to reach out to other local people connecting them through a range of activities. As the local network grew, local people set up a Facebook page under the name of Sanctuary Tenants and Residents (STAR) Community Organisers Barne Barton to reach out further into the communtiy and share news from Sanctuary through one simple social media channel. Since launching the group it has quickly built a membership of 100 people.

Speaking to Katrina Watson, who kick started the community organising work in Barne Barton, Sam and Sarah shared the reasons why they wanted to set up an Organising Group in their area.

We wanted to become a community organising group for so that we could help build a community. We wanted to improve communication with our landlord and be a voice for people who are not confident to speak out. We also wanted to support residents to integrate into the community by providing activities and events, offering help and support where we can to the vulnerable who need it and reaching out to outside agencies to provide the specialist help and assistance

A consultation by Sanctuary around the regeneration of Barne Barton held in early February, allowed the group the opportunity to share the page and speak to Sanctuary about their vision for Barne Barton. The groups recommendations were well received and contributed directly towards shaping the future plans for the estate.

As well as bringing residents together and providing a platform for the sharing of regeneration updates, the community organisers have used the group to signpost residents to local groups such as foodbanks, mental health and financial support.

The work that they had been doing gave them a platform enabling them to step in when COVID 19 hit. By reaching out and engaging with their community prior to the pandemic the group knew who were those most at risk and were self-isolating and between residents ensured essential food and goods were delivered to those unable to leave their homes.

After being forced into lockdown with the rest of the country, planned Easter events had to be cancelled but STAR Community Organisers remained committed to supporting residents in the community and bringing cheer to their doors. Easter eggs were bought and delivered for every household on the estate, with more donated to the local food bank in Barne Barton, reaching even more families and homes.

We have been able to do this successfully even during this difficult time with Covid 19 and the response from people has been overwhelming. Accessing food banks, providing shopping and transport, offering emotional support, reaching out by safe distancing bingo, knocking on doors with gifts, people now know who we are and know they are not alone and can contact us at any time if needed.
Sam Weaver, Co-Founder of Organising Group

The activities have helped make further connections across the community particularly with those people who are struggling during the current crisis enabling them to speak out and receive the support that they need. As well as delivering essential foods and supplies the group have delivered sessions of ‘distance’ Bingo, supporting those that are struggling emotionally and mentally and have a dedicated mobile phone line which is used to make phone calls regularly to those most isolated to check in with them.

The work of the STAR Community Organisers demonstrates how residents play such a vital role in empowering communities and bringing people together. Since launching their Organising Group Sanctuary have seen many significant and positive changes in the community with local people taking an active role in the community and engaging with each other. Since the organising group was set up, Sanctuary have reported that they are getting less phone calls and emails about problems and issues on the estate, with local people stepping forward to solve their own issues.