Community groups recognised for their work


Seven Suffolk community groups have received awards for delivering projects which benefit local people without depending on long term public funding.

Councillor Colin Spence presenting an Improve and Prove award

Councillor Colin Spence presenting an Improve and Prove award

Projects in Beccles, Bury St Edmunds, Debenham, Hadleigh, Lowestoft, Ringshall and Saxmundham were recognised for their proactive approach to making a difference in their communities in ways which are sustainable.
The awards were given as part of Suffolk County Council’s Improve and Prove Fund, set up to provide small grants to help make projects self-financing in the long run and, in this case, celebrate and showcase those that manage it. Award winners received a small financial boost in recognition of their work.

The winners were:

Compassion - awarded £5,000

Compassion is a Hadleigh-based group which supports victims of domestic violence. They created a “survivors’ story” training DVD to help people understand the suffering victims go through. The DVD is not just making a difference in Suffolk. It’s now used throughout the Commonwealth and as far afield as Japan. The revenue from the DVD has underpinned Compassion’s work meaning they can go on to do more innovative things.

OBee Community Interest Company – awarded £5,000

Built in 2007, Orchard Barn in Ringshall was established to create an indoor and outdoor environmental education centre providing training courses in sustainable, low tech construction methods using local materials like flint and hazel. The award was given in recognition of the way in which the barn’s roof was built – teaching 22 people the art of roof reconstruction. 75 people gave 1168 volunteer days - making 22,000 wooden battens from sweet chestnut and oak. The barn can now be used as a training centre and generates income for the group.

PASTEL Community Interest Company – awarded £5,000

Based in Saxmundham, this group delivers training to young people with learning disabilities to enable them to compete in the world of work. 13 students have gained qualifications. Pastel’s young volunteers give their time at weekends to help support other young people with learning difficulties.  The running costs are very low as this is a completely volunteer-run organisation.

Beccles Lido – awarded £10,000

Following the closure of the lido, the group set itself up and worked tirelessly to re-establish the pool as a community resource – owned and run by the people who use it. In just five weeks following its reopening in 2010, 6481 swimmers used the pool. And in the first eight weeks of opening in 2011, 13,000 swimmers took to the water. What was a £70,000 a year loss to the district council became a sustainable venture. Over 10,000 unpaid hours have been given by local people to make the pool a success. The group has also been recognised as part of the Prime Minister’s Big Society Awards.

The Debenham Project – awarded £10,000

The project was set up in recognition of the fact that dementia is an increasingly dominant concern for the health and wellbeing of older people. Since its launch in October 2009, the project saw rural Suffolk’s first integrated NHS and social care clinic established, popular lunch clubs set up and volunteers engaged. The project has also won the Suffolk Acre Probert Trophy for outstanding community achievement.

Seagull Theatre Community Interest Company – awarded £10,000

The group brought volunteers together to repair and reinvigorate a once council-owned cultural building and re-open it as a centre for the community. They started with just £3,000 but the project has grown. There are now 25 regular volunteers working in front-of-house, backstage, the bar and in the office. The theatre now supports young people to achieve their theatrical dreams and provides access to dance and drama tuition and the Seagull Community Choir.  The revenue from tickets and rental ha increased the project’s sustainability.

Workwise – awarded £10,000

Workwise rehabilitates and trains adults with short and long term mental health problems. The award was made for outstanding achievement of some of those people who worked together to create a small rowing boat. The workmanship was outstanding and there are now plans to increase the scale of the operation with the hope of providing employment opportunities for those involved.
Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Protection and the Voluntary and Community Sector, said:
“The county council set up the Improve and Prove Fund to help groups break away from dependency on long term grant support and help them to be more sustainable. The community groups that we’ve recognised have done exactly that and made a significant community, national and international impact in doing so.
“These awards are about saying well done and making a shining example of what can be achieved by people with the passion and drive to make a difference.”
The Improve and Prove Fund is administered by The Suffolk Foundation on behalf of Suffolk County Council. The awards were presented at The Suffolk Foundation’s Annual Review and AGM at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds.
Stephen Singleton, Chief Executive of The Suffolk Foundation, said:
“We were delighted to have been able to showcase these groups and their wonderful achievements at our Annual Review and AGM, their winning projects are an inspiration to us all.”