It has been one year since Cornerstone House Centre launched its first small grants enterprise through the ‘Cumbernauld CAN’ (Community Anchor Network) project, and to celebrate this milestone the organisation is profiling the impact that the funding has had on one group of senior citizens through an innovative ‘Sheila Shed’ initiative.
Introduced in 2020, Cumbernauld CAN is a Scottish Government-supported programme which strives to enable Cumbernauld residents and organisations to work together to become better at responding to local needs. It endeavours to develop, strengthen and grow the community’s capacity to make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of Cumbernauld.
Notably, the venture focuses on the principles and objectives identified within Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, and also strongly aligns with ethos of the Fairer Scotland Action Plan.
To this end, a key element of Cumbernauld CAN involves initiating Participatory Budgeting (PB) opportunities for local groups and citizens. Participatory Budgeting is a process where ordinary people are given power to democratically and collectively make decisions on how public funding is spent.
Through two Participatory Budgeting rounds over the past twelve months (Small Grants PB Fund Rounds 1 and 2), Cumbernauld CAN has distributed a total £33,882 to 36 community groups for delivery of activities and projects that seek to benefit the Greater Cumbernauld area.
This investment has advantaged local citizens in a variety of ways during the course of the year. One such example of this can be illustrated through the story of how a small grant provided to CACE Older People Active Lives has made a difference to the lives of a group of older ladies, as highlighted below.
CUMBERNAULD WOMEN UNITE TO FIGHT BACK FROM PANDEMIC HEARTBREAK THROUGH UPLIFTING ‘SHEILA SHED’
CACE Older People Active Lives, a charity which aims to promote the welfare of vulnerable older people and their carers across Greater Cumbernauld through the provision of various community services, submitted an application for £500 to Cumbernauld CAN’s Small Grants PB Fund Round 1 pre-pandemic to pay for volunteer expenses, materials and travel costs to sustain ‘Sheila Shed’.
Established in 2019, Sheila Shed was formed to bring local women aged 60+ together to revisit old skills and learn new ones, with activities ranging from needlework and candle making to glass painting and crafts. The group encourages participants to be creative through the recycling of old materials, with the ultimate goal being to promote social interaction and wellbeing.
After receiving the second highest number of votes in a Community Voting Survey which received more than 1,000 responses, CACE Older People Active Lives’ proposal was endorsed and the funds were distributed in Spring 2020 to support the group’s maintenance and development.
At the time of application, the group had 12 members and was meeting weekly for two-hour sessions. However, all this was to change following the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Due to lockdown restrictions, Sheila Shed has been unable to meet in person since March 2020 and very sadly some of the group’s members have passed away during the course of the year.
To bring some cheer to the remaining members, most of whom had been in self-isolation for several months and were affected by the loss of friends and fellow participants, CACE Older People Active Lives agreed a realignment of its project with Cornerstone House Centre to initiate an activity that could safely be done at home but also made the ladies feel included and valued.
The outcome was that Sheila Shed participants were successfully brought together with CACE Older People Active Lives’ ‘Thrive Group’, another local group which enjoys arty projects. To support activity, the organisation purchased materials that needed assembled and decorated and provided these to the older people with instructions and structured social contact. This consisted of items that involved personalisation and creativity but also offered a sustainable product and a further activity, such as bird watching.
Rather than posting the materials, created bagged packs were hand delivered to the beneficiaries by CACE Older People Active Lives volunteer drivers. This allowed a socially distanced catch-up which evidently lifted the spirits of the participants. Furthermore, biscuits were provided so that the women could enjoy a tea break as they would do if they were meeting in person.
The Sheila Shed ladies, who recently celebrated the group’s second anniversary, now connect regularly via telephone, letter, Zoom and Facebook, both independently and with the guidance of CACE Older People Active Lives. Latest updates in relation to Sheila Shed can be accessed through CACE Older People Active Lives’ Facebook and Twitter platforms, and the organisation’s website.
This activity has yielded a raft of positive outcomes for the participants over several months, including reduced social isolation, reconnected and newly developed friendships, provision of respite for carers and enhanced fitness and mobility. Moreover, carers have reported that group members have benefited from alleviation of depression and anxiety symptoms and improvement of memory and concentration.
For further information about Cumbernauld CAN and latest Participatory Budgeting opportunities available to community groups in Greater Cumbernauld, please contact Cornerstone House Centre on 01236 739220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.