As we head through another tough Covid-hit Christmas and New Year, here’s a celebration of some of the inspiring Bristol charities and groups who spread good cheer in 2021.
From packing food parcels to tending dementia-free allotments, hundreds of volunteers across the city have been working to make Bristol an even better place.
Square Food Foundation - helping to end the stigma around food poverty
The Square Food Foundation has been teaching people across the city to cook for 20 years, helping to quash not only food poverty itself but the stigma surrounding it.
Now based at The Park in Knowle West, Square Food’s students include young people, older adults at risk of becoming isolated, care home cooks, people at risk of homelessness and children and families.
The community group hold free and subsidised programmes to equip people with cooking skills, helping them into work, as well as masterclasses, tasting sessions and teambuilding workshops.
Operatons manager Eloise Morton told BristolWorld: “If you’re in the funding bid world like Square Food, it’s easy to preach statistics along the lines of - you’re more likely to die earlier if you live in Knowle West than if you live in Clifton.
“Straight away you’ve stigmatised the issue. You’re saying ‘you are poor, your life is awful, we’re going to save you’. That’s not our message. I think we have to reduce stigma, flip the message and create positivity out of what’s already here.”
Read our feature about the Square Food Foundation here: https://www.bristolworld.com/news/people/we-need-to-end-the-stigma-surrounding-food-poverty-say-bristol-community-cookery-school-3417925
Alive Activities - helping to restore lost memories
It took Alive Activities 18 months to create a ‘dementia-friendly’ allotment, which launched in the Brentry area of Bristol earlier this year.
The allotment is open to anyone in the community living with dementia, as well as their carers, and includes a wildlife area, pond, polytunnel and a compost loo.
Back in September, community facilitator Guy Manchester told BristolWorld during a visit: “I think what makes the allotment especially therapeutic when it comes to dementia is that it is incredibly multi-sensory, with the power to trigger memories.
“For instance, we had someone at the allotment who used to grow tomatoes as a little boy with his parents and unfortunately, had completely forgotten about it. The smell of tomatoes is so distinctive, and after smelling and tasting some at the allotment he was suddenly right back there.”
Read our feature about the allotment here: https://www.bristolworld.com/news/people/the-dementia-friendly-allotment-thats-changing-lives-in-bristol-3358019
Bristol Food Banks - providing food parcels as demand soars
There are dozens of food banks across Bristol manned by selfless volunteers who have had to work even harder than usual this year after the £20 cut in Universal Credit left many families struggling.
These include incredible groups such as Feeeding Bristol and the North Bristol Food Bank.
Some 12,608 emergency food parcels, containing three or seven days’ worth of supplies, were handed out in Bristol by the Trussell Trust between April and September alone.
Not all food banks are operated by the Trust, so this figure is likely to be much higher.
Tracy Phillips, who manages the food bank at the Withywood Centre, told BristolWorld in November: “Thanks to the pandemic, funding is lower than it ever was. People often come in desperate and ashamed, telling me they never thought they’d have to use a food bank. We often chat to and comfort people who come to us. The role is pastoral more than anything.”
Read our recent piece on food banks in the city here: https://www.bristolworld.com/news/people/desperate-and-ashamed-rise-in-people-relying-on-food-banks-in-bristol-3473120
Suicide Prevention Bristol - supporting those in their darkest hours
Sadly, Bristol has one of the highest suicide rates throughout the UK. While most are tucked away in bed, Suicide Prevention Bristol volunteers are patrolling the city ready to assist anyone they see who may be feeling unwell or intent on ending their life in one of city’s suicide hotspots.
These volunteers are often the last line of support, helping people through some of their darkest hours. The charity also offer a listening and signposting service that is free and available 24/7.
Read more about the charity here: https://www.spbristol.org/
Bristol Charities provide opportunities and support to improve lives in the city through grants, housing and charitable projects.
Their work can be traced all the way back to the 13th Century and includes the provision of safe accommodation, giving to those in need through individual grants and funding local projects.
This year the charity purchased the Vassall Centre in Fishponds, which it intends to transform into contemporary, accessible housing.
Anne Anketell, chief executive officer at Bristol Charities, said of the project: “We are hoping to deliver much-needed new housing for older people and families and build a really connected and supported community for everyone living and working here.”
Find out more here: https://www.bristolcharities.org.uk/
StreetSmart - a lifeline for the city’s growing homeless
Each year, throughout the months of November and December, StreetSmart fundraises for Bristol’s homeless by adding a voluntary £1 onto bills at restaurants such as Pasta Loco, Soukitchen and Wilsons.
The money raised is then distributed across homeless projects such as Emmaus, St Mungos and One25. StreetSmart’s work is needed more than ever - Bristol has the fourth highest death rate of homeless people in the country, new figures revealed this year. William Sieghart CBE and Mary-Lou Sturridge expanded StreetSmart outside of London in 2000 after seeing that Bristol had an increasing number of homeless people.
For more information on the charity, visit: https://streetsmart.org.uk/