It’s been a busy term for us here at CARAS. Find out what our projects have been up to, all of our latest funding updates and recent changes to our staff team below.
The Women’s Drop-in is up and running for another year!
It is a huge relief that, after a period of uncertainty around lack of funding, we are able to run the Women’s Drop-in for another year. The project has been popular among refugee women living locally for a number of years, who use the session as an opportunity to make friends, learn new skills and improve their English. The sessions this year will also be expanding to offer a range of creative and skills-based workshops alongside English class, to include sewing, drama and other activities. We are already seeing an increase in the number of women attending so far this term, as well as a greater range of nationalities and backgrounds.
Let’s hope the growth continues!
This summer we continued our wonderful relationship with The Grange in Norfolk, running two residential trips for young people. The house and grounds played host to young people and volunteers from Afghanistan, England, Eritrea, Ghana, Lithuania, Somalia and Syria, many of whom had never before experienced the delights of East Anglia.
Only 3 hours in a minibus from London, The Grange, in the small village of Great Cressingham, offers an oasis of calm, away from the day-to day stresses of London life. As well as time to relax, get to know each other and play games the group was kept busy feeding the animals, helping with gardening, chopping logs for the fire and visiting the local Victorian museum.
Time together at The Grange always reveals strengths and talents in the young people that we often don’t get to see in shorter activity sessions. One girl from Eritrea wowed us with all her log-splitted abilities, a boy from Afghanistan shooed us away from the kitchen so he had space to create a delicious aubergine dip to share with us all, and another spent two hours careering down a hill on a bike, determined to teach himself how to stop without crashing.
Many happy memories are made with every trip to The Grange and we feel lucky to be able to share it with many more young people each year. A huge thank you to Josh, Maria, Kwasi, Zara, Patrick and Dorothy for volunteering this year, and as always to Ben, Sophie and Orianna for opening their home and hearts to us.
It has been a very fruitful year for our inclusive community creation here in CARAS. Transition Town Tooting offered their partnership and fabulous ideas one and a half years ago – now it shows in benches at the entrance, planters with colourful flowers, summer strawberries, a colourful mural and memories of multiple conversations, shared humour and smiles. TTT started working with young people, but soon got involved in our After school club, teaching children how to make birdfeeders, bug hotels and print their own bags. Shortly after followed women’s group with window herb gardens and continuous support running fun and engaging Family Days. To celebrate the great success that communities can achieve together, we are presenting our joint ‘Rooting in Tooting’ project at the Volunteering London conference in City Hall in December.
After a successful launch last Summer, Family Activity Days is now our regular project which runs during school holiday time. This summer we had 4 amazing, fun-filled Family Activity Days, with more than 70 people attending – with 5 new families joining and continuing to attend our English classes in the fall.
Chickenshed Drama Group delivered theatre workshop and TTT with community artist Jeni Walker and our Fabulous volunteers ran workshops for all age groups. Women were excited to remember Kite making with their brothers when they were little and were glad to be able to do the same with their children.
We also had a chance to make lots of noise with our own musical instruments made from recycled materials, and even a music parade, and the ever popular screen printing brought out the artists in all of us! We welcomed guests from Tooting library, who told us about registration and getting library cards and the following week they welcomed us with a tour of various different things people can do in their local library!
Fall is looking exciting too – with another planned Family Day in October half term and two visits to Polka theatre!
With increasing numbers of young people attending our projects, the need for more inclusive youth participation grows. Driven by the principle ‘Equity over equality’, we have carried out a consultation with our young people asking which representation they would prefer. An overwhelming majority voted for a youth council, hence a committee of 8 enthusiastic and driven young people was formed. After applying for funding and successfully securing the Youth Opportunity Fund with very positive feedback, we have great faith in this new initiative.
Preparations are already well under way with youth people attending trainings on governance, other youth projects in SW London and observing the Wandsworth Youth Council. Through this lots of new ideas and suggestions have formed, with many more to come in the future.
We look forward to CARAS YOUTH COUNCIL’s first official meeting in November/December!
In July, CARAS received a grant of £14,048 from Sport Reflief – Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund which will fund the Women’s Drop-in and Family Activity Days in 2016/17, ensuring the continuation of these vital activities for local refugee families. And, later that same month, we were very excited to be told that some of the young people who attend our projects had successfully bid for over £2,00 from the Wandsworth Youth Opportunity Fund, allowing them to launch their own Youth Council. This funding is particularly special, as the application was put together by young people, a group of whom also had to present the proposal to the grants panel.
Elsewhere, more than £500 was donated by friends and family celebrating the marriage of staff member Molly Abraham, and a private donor made a significant contribution towards running our two residential trips to The Grange in Norfolk. We would like to extend a big thank you to all of the supports who continue to raise funds, volunteer and donate – without you CARAS could not continue to provide a welcome to young people arriving here alone and to families struggling to rebuild their lives in our community.
We have recently said goodbye to two of our longstanding members of staff. Alexa worked with us on our advocacy project, using her drive, enthusiasm and tenacity to challenge injustice. She also worked with The Chickpea Sisters, supporting them to develop into a dynamic and unique social enterprise. Alexa has begun a law conversion degree and is excited to be studying again, looking forward to a new direction in her professional life.
Jenny has worked across a wide range of our projects, using her skills with children to run our After School Club and to run a plot series of psycho-education workshops, as well as managing the vitally important roles of finances and fundraising and keeping CARAS afloat. She will soon be departing to live in the USA, and is looking forward to taking a well-earned break. We are grateful for all that they have done in their time at CARAS, will miss their friendship and laughter in the office, and wish them luck in their futures.
These are a vital way of drawing in a wide range of expertise, developing innovative ideas, and diving work into manageable tasks – many hands make light work! We currently have effective and enthusiastic participation in both the Fundraising and Safeguarding Working Groups. We are designing our next christmas campaign (launching soon!), driving forwards our community fundraising work, and very excited to have such a range of committed and skilled people bringing their experience, ideas and wisdom to the group.
Membership of working groups is open to volunteers – if you have skills you would like to channel into areas which support our wider work, do get in touch.
Finally, as part of our commitment to continuously evaluating and developing our work at CARAS, August saw the staff team, together with members of the Trustee Board, take two days out to review our work so far this year against the 2016 – 2018 three year strategy. This enabled us to monitor our progress towards our 2016 aims, celebrate achievements, discuss challenges we have faced so far and come up with creative solutions t ensure that we continue to meet the needs of the people we work with.