26 September 2013
Thetford Family project bringing hope on deprived estate
This project has been nominated for the 2013 Inspire awards run by Inspire magazine in partnership with us at the Evangelical Alliance.
The Fulmerston family and community project, based on a deprived estate in Thetford is providing affordable family activities and meeting the needs of local families.
Barnham Cross Estate is an area which suffers from high levels of unemployment and many families are struggling to make ends meet. Despite financial challenges themselves, the project is beginning new initiatives and expanding services to local residents.
Emerging out of a playgroup from Fulmerston Christian Fellowship, a small Baptist Church where the project is based, the family project runs a pre-nursery group at £3.50 a session,a parent and toddler group, a community coffee morning and summer trips in the school holidays.
New Zumba sessions have been a big hit. NHS funding has enabled a volunteer to become a qualified instructor and covered costs for six months. This means they can offer keen mums their own Zumba sessions for just £1. Summer trips in the holidays mean that those without the money for transport to go out of town can benefit from a heavily subsidised trip out with other families, like last year's trip to Lowestoft with 67 people and buggies.
Professionals use the community coffee morningas a forum to meet the local people, including the housing association, police and Thetford health trainers who work individually with parents to help them stop smoking or lose weight, for example. This provides opportunity for church volunteers and project volunteers to work as a team and get to know the families better.
Barbara Bysouth, who has been manager since the beginning of the project and has lived on the estate since age 11, said: "It was obvious parents had a lot of needs and needed someone to get alongside them, enabling them to find their own solutions or find them through other agencies.
"In today's economic climate, finance is the greatest challenge to the charity and we have never really had more than a month's funding in the pot. However we are in an ideal position on the estate. As a church we feel we are there to serve and we get the community's attention by paying attention their needs.
"Making God real for people is also a challenge. We need to meet people where they are rather than dragging people to where we are. I think sometimes stepping into a church service is too big a step. Through basing the project in a church we build relationships with our users and there is an easier progression to inviting people to things like Messy Church."
The most recent new venture is a family after school drop-in on Monday afternoons for parents to support their children with their homework in a positive environment with free internet access, laptops, tea, toast and crèche. The local housing association provided 10 laptops and a colour printer and hosted the official launch at the church along with cakes and a visit from Peppa Pig.