Doors Closed, Hearts Wide Open

Carrie Blount, TCT's Places of Welcome Facilitator for the Black Country, has written a few words about starting in post at a time when the world was told to stay at home and isolate. She highlights the hard and inspirational work the coordinators and volunteers have been doing all across the region during the last twelve months.

FB Lockdown Outreach POW Star

My name is Carrie Blount and I have recently joined Transforming Communities Together as Places of Welcome Facilitator for the Black Country. Having lived in Walsall all my life and with a hugefondness for the West Midlands, I was so excited at the opportunity to work in a role that facilitatesa growing network of safe places in local communities, where people can belong, connect andcontribute – in an area that I love.

What wasn’t so great, was that on my first day, all of the Places of Welcome were closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. I wanted to be able to visit each of the Places of Welcome, get to know the coordinators and volunteers, receive the warm welcome that their local residents receive and familiarise myself in each local community. Sadly, this wasn’t to be, so I did the next best thing and instead I started to contact all of the Places of Welcome Coordinators by telephone. One of the things I was most keen to hear about was if and how each Coordinator was managing to keep in touch with the participants of their Place of Welcome.

The answers to this question, were as individual as each Place of Welcome. The way coordinators and volunteers have been reaching out in their communities and supporting people is truly inspirational. The activities they continue to provide include:

• Delivering food parcels

• Doorstep chats

• Befriending phone calls

• Cookery classes

• YouTube channel programmes

• Shopping trips

• Spa packs

• Well-being packs

• Providing tablets and dongles

• Afternoon teas

• Debt advice

• Counselling parents

• Counselling children

• Uniform swaps

• Training

• Upskilling

• Giving Christmas gifts

• Delivering meals

• Zoom calls

• Chippy dinners

• Making pom-poms

• Redecorating

• Renovating

• Foodbank

• WhatsApp groups

• Sending cards

• Giving bracelets

• Sharing rainbows

• Service sheets

• Newsletters

• Neighbourhood natters

• Prescription deliveries

• Hosting quizzes

• Colouring packs

• Sending flowers

• Delivering cake

• Giving chocolate

• Conferencing calls

• Making food hampers

• Providing activity packs

• Supporting families, and

• Helping others keep in touch with others!

The wide variety of support listed above, provided by our coordinators and volunteers is amazing, but the one similarity that united them all was the love of their local communities and their desire to make sure that where they live the most vulnerable and isolated people were cared for. They have been and are still doing, their upmost to make their communities inclusive, friendly, and safe to live.

They have been incredibly flexible and quick to respond in providing creative solutions to needs of their communities. Their passion for people has ensured that people are healthy, entertained and connected!

Our Places of Welcome coordinators and volunteers across the Black Country have been invaluable over the last twelve months, the doors to their venues may be closed, but their hearts are wide open!

More than ever I personally cannot wait to visit, promote, and support each Place of Welcome as it reopens, as I am sure each of the communities that they serve cannot wait to reconnect again after such a long time.