Suffolk is a safe place to live in the main, but we would be wrong to think that we are completely free from the kinds of challenges that we are more used to seeing in the national headlines, happening somewhere else to someone else.
“According to our voluntary sector, working together to improve things is key,” says Judy Dow, Head of Philanthropy at Suffolk Community Foundation, ‘We all need to show our support with money or time, if we are going to break down barriers, build greater respect and bring different age groups and cultures together to make a difference.’
“Local charities are on the spot,” according to Ben Day, Youth Work Co-ordinator at The Porch Project. In Hadleigh when, like many rural communities, lack of facilities and boredom led to anti-social behaviour amongst younger people, local residents felt unsafe on the street where they lived but decided to do something positive about it.
“We now support 600 youngsters with drop-in sessions, and we do early intervention in the secondary schools in Hadleigh, Sudbury and Gt Cornard. For example, a 14-year-old wasn’t attending lessons, or getting on with his peers. We did a lot of one to one work with him in school, and then he came on our outdoor skills workshop. We gave him a bit of freedom and, over time, he attended more lessons and he’s now got a job – our team here was instrumental in helping him.”
Suffolk charities help the most vulnerable in our county, and we also have a proud heritage of offering a safe haven to often desperate and traumatised refugees, newly arrived here after facing war, false imprisonment, persecution, torture or even having watched family members killed,
“Refugees are people who have been forced to leave and not because they have chosen to leave for economic reasons,” said Rebecca Crear, Charity Manager at Suffolk Refugee Support. “They are people who have been through terrible experiences. We are currently helping 40 different nationalities or more at Suffolk Refugee Support.”
“There are about 2000 refugees who are rebuilding their lives here” she continued. “We teach them English, organise social events to tackle their social isolation, get them into work, and help them with everything to do with settling into a completely new culture and learning to live again.”
Bassel Al-Souways came to Suffolk as a refugee from the Syrian conflict, but now volunteers at Suffolk Refugee Support, “They have helped my family to forget what they had in the past, the war and everything. This is better than home now. Here is safety.”
At Ipswich Community Media they address social mobility and exclusion caused by language barriers or family challenges, whilst celebrating culture as well.
“It isn’t easy. In Ipswich we are facing some massive challenges. But nothing will change if we only see the negative side,” added Cad Taylor, ICM’s Creative and Outreach Co-ordinator.
One teenager, who was helped by ICM said,
“I’d find an excuse not to go to school, but ICM have helped me and I’ve been going to my lessons and have had lots of support outside of school. I’ve written lyrics about anti-knife crime around Ipswich and I’d really like to change Ipswich. I’d like to say a massive thankyou to the team for their support and helping me …and making me who I am today.”
Central funds have been raised and are managed by Suffolk Community Foundation. They can be accessed by charities and community groups, for Suffolk based projects.
Judy Dow said, “we need everybody to come together and give what they can afford and volunteer their time to charities too. We especially need more help from individuals and businesses, but increasingly the public sector are supporting us too.”
“Suffolk Community Foundation manage The Police and Crime Commissioners Fund, £300,000 of public money, that goes to schemes all over the county from Beccles to Halesworth, and Brandon to Felixstowe. If you had the State delivering all these services, it would cost an absolute fortune. Supporting the great work of the voluntary sector and volunteers is essential,” said Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner.
Needs are often hidden and, even in an affluent community, five minutes away it may be a very different scene. Suffolk can only be truly proud when no-one falls through the net, and everybody enjoys the benefits of our wonderful county.