A Community Connections report by Sarah Nicholson
Literally and figuratively the title of this article stands true when reflecting on the community connector focused work and activity happening in our areas! With exciting partnerships blossoming between MacIntyre and the Canal and Rivers Trust, Parks Trust, Milton Keynes Central Market, Chambers of Commerce, Greensands Trust and Skill up Bucks to name just a few!
At the start of this year myself and two colleagues started in post in a new - ‘Community Connectors’ – designed to develop our connections and relationships in the areas where MacIntyre works. Our roles are split into different areas: Pippa for Adult Services in Milton Keynes, Fiona for Adult in Services in Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire and me, Sarah, for MacIntyre’s Children and Young People services. Let’s explore some of what we have been up to a little closer…
Pippa has been busy setting up opportunities for local teams to get involved with the exciting future of our Canals and Rivers through the Canal and Rivers Trust Community Adoption project, and for people that draw on MacIntyre’s support to climb aboard and experience chartering the amazing ‘Electra’– Milton Keynes’ first electric run Community Boat!
We have a rich and longstanding relationship with The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes and have re-connected this year to work on a beautiful wild garden plot that is in desperate need of some tender loving care - the green fingered amongst us are really looking forward to doing just that!
We also have a weekly presence at Central Milton Keynes Market every Tuesday! Come down and have a chat with a Community Connector and MacIntyre No Limits Milton Keynes students and staff who have been running the MacIntyre information point and connecting with the vibrant community there!
Another great success has been in Great Holm where the people that draw on MacIntyre’s support enjoyed meeting and spending time with 2 beautiful therapy dogs Lilly and Yoko!
“It has been a really exciting time meeting the people that draw on our support and exploring new and inspiring opportunities with them” – Pippa.
Fiona has certainly been connecting in high places! She has established an exciting partnership with the Bedfordshire Chambers of Commerce, “Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce have been really welcoming and share all the great tweets and Facebook posts showing what amazing things everyone gets up to” - Fiona.
On 25 June it is the St Albans Day Festival to celebrate Britain’s first saint, this year the theme is the Tudors. MacIntyre’s teams in St Albans and Wheathampsted are really excited to be able to be part of the procession through the town this year. They are currently planning an art project with students from a local college to create banners for each house showing the activities they like to do. They are also looking forward to having a stall with shield colour in sheets so children can make their own creations.
“My first few months at MacIntyre have been truly inspirational, it’s so exciting to show what great work everyone does and I can’t wait to get to meet more people and include the people we support in as many activities as possible” – Fiona.
Fiona has also been promoting the great work and values of MacIntyre at the Luton St Patrick’s Festival where it was wonderful to connect with local families and agencies at this event.
Connecting with Central Beds College at a recent Job Fair too was really amazing to connect with the next generation of potential Health and Social care workers and the future certainly is looking bright!
I (Sarah) have been enjoying spending time with the amazing young people and staff at MacIntyre’s School and Children’s Homes in Wingrave! It was great to work alongside the young people to create their staff wish lists; to inform the way in which we will be recruiting for both residential and teaching staff at Wingrave.
I have also been connecting with local businesses and hubs within MacIntyre’s No Limits College provisions in Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and High Wycombe and can’t wait to do the same in Oxford and the East Midlands areas too! Key outcomes from this local connecting work have resulted in partnership working with Skills Up Bucks, Greensands Trust, The Aylesbury and High Wycombe Job Centres.
It is a privilege to support MacIntyre’s Children and Young People teams in realising their visions and ideas for connecting and working in an assets-based way. Now that we are able to get out and about more, it feels really electric and a strong momentum is building in us being able to raise awareness and connect with the local communities.
Something that ties in with all of the Connector areas as a national initiative that we are rolling out - the fabulous ‘Kindness Project’, the brainchild of Community Connector Pippa, who says:
“Each MacIntyre area will have someone who takes ownership of the project. They will receive a bag of suitable rocks, paints, varnish and labels delivered to their site. People who draw on MacIntyre’s support can choose to decorate a rocks in any way their wish. Once finished and dry, they place a supplied MacIntyre information sticker on the back of the rock. Then the whole rock is varnished to ensure it is weatherproof. Once the rock has been completed, the same person or another person will take the rock to a location leaving it to be found.
The Kindness Project was originally established in the USA. The original idea was to spread a little love, happiness and fun around run down communities using things that were relatively available; paint, rocks and people with time on their hands. Over the years the idea has evolved to various locations and ideals. These are people locally who have signed up to the idea that they are community-minded, kind and want to engage with others. This makes them an ideal group for the people we support to engage with – either in person or online with the three different engagement options outlined on the rocks.”
Where there’s a will, there’s a wave (the last of my water puns, I promise!) - and the will and collective vision shared across MacIntyre to build upon on and nurture new local connections in the communities that the people that draw on our support and staff are a part of is strong and growing!