A community hall in Basildon has been labelled a ‘testament to the community’ as it opened its doors in early 2022 to offer activities, a warm space, and hot meals to its locals.
The Active Essex Local Delivery Pilot has built a strong relationship with local organisation ATF, who since 2012 have been working with communities and young people at risk of exclusion, delivering inspiring programmes in a safe environment, to increase opportunities, and enhance wellbeing.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an increased feeling of seclusion and division in Vange, with a lack of community spaces to group together. ATF teamed up with Vange Community Centre in Basildon to help tackle the problem and provide activity sessions for residents.
Through Active Essex and LDP funding, and a partnership with Clarion Housing, ATF were able to set up the activity sessions and provide community coaches, as well as equipment, food, and drinks for the participants. The sessions drew a total of 1,550 attendees of all ages and backgrounds throughout 2022, proving there was a need for this additional support.
Supporting people’s mental health is at the heart of ATF’s mission within the community. By providing physical activity sessions in a warm and safe environment, enhanced social interaction amongst residents, and helped to improve individuals mental wellbeing.
Volunteers are key to the successful running of the sessions, with community coaches and both adult and youth volunteers giving their time to help accommodate the activities that are held on the Wednesday evening of each week. The two-hour session is free to attend and offers a range of activities in its two halls from Arts and Crafts to indoor football and boxing.
ATF have a history of using an Asset Based Community Development approach. With sessions like this as the hook, they create strong relationships and understand the needs of local people, whilst providing valuable volunteering opportunities and important social bonds. Families who attended the ATF ParkPlay activities each Saturday explained that there was nothing to do in the community during the school week. Their thoughts were listened to and in collaboration with the community, the successful development of this club was achieved.
Advertising the session through the means of community flyer hand outs and emails to schools, ATF actively encouraged teenage groups to attend whilst also inviting local school children and their families and those attending the popular weekly ParkPlay sessions.
Due to the cost-of-living crisis, since January this year, the Essex Youth Service have offered the use of their Mobile Food Bus to provide hot and fresh food to participants each week. This has helped to maintain numbers attending the sessions, especially teenagers who have been difficult to engage. The bus has also helped support the nutrition of families by providing healthy and balanced meals, which can easily be replicated at home with minimal hassle.
A local resident explained; “ATF offer us a great place for our children to come along, be safe and have fun. I used to leave the children and pick them up at the end, but I started staying and have also started to join in myself.”
The project has also brought the community together, with another local resident stating, “We attend ParkPlay every Saturday, as well as the Wednesday club, which are both run by ATF. There is not much for us to do as a family during the week, especially for free, but it’s been great, and we have even celebrated a few kids birthdays in the hall as well.”
To find out more about the positive work that ATF are doing for the community and some upcoming events near you click here