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Places of Welcome

News: Deputy Lord Lieutenant Visit Blog

By Carrie Blount, TCT’s Black Country Places of Welcome Facilitator

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Since joining the Transforming Communities Team in January, it has been a great pleasure to get to know the Places of Welcome Coordinators and find out all about their communities and the wonderful ways that they supported each other over the Covid-19 pandemic period. It has also been a great joy to start to meet Coordinators, Volunteers and community members alike since Places of Welcome started to reopen in mid-May. From originally having 64 Places of Welcome prior to the pandemic, we now have 32 Places of Welcome that have reopened and more are adding to that number every week, as people find ways to safely navigate the current climate because they have an overwhelming desire to see communities reunited, friendships restored and a healing process begin.

It was with great excitement that I was able to invite along David Frost CBE, Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands Lieutenancy and Lead for Walsall to visit some of our Places of Welcome and to meet with other Coordinators so that he could witness first-hand the amazing community spirit that our Places of Welcome foster.

David started his mini-tour of Places of Welcome by visiting St James’ Church in Brownhills and was introduced to Joy and Dennis who run the Place of Welcome alongside Pauline. Also there to meet David, was Rev’d Gayle Greenway, minister of St James’ Church and Rev’d Adam Edwards Chief Officer of Transforming Communities Together (TCT). David chatted to everyone and spent a good deal of time chatting to members of the community while enjoying a cuppa. David chatted to Brenda who teaches people to knit and crochet at the Place of Welcome and she explained that she does this to bring people together, so that they can make friends. St James’ Church, Brownhills Place of Welcome is open every Tuesday between 10am and 12noon and on the last Tuesday of every month you can learn to knit and crochet too.

Next stop for David was a visit to St Matthew’s Church, Walsall for their Place of Welcome, where TCT provided sandwiches, but Sara Hartshorne and her team of fantastic volunteers served the usual tea, coffee and cakes that you would find at their Place of Welcome every Tuesday between 10am and 4pm. Here David introduced himself to the Rev’d Jim Trood, minister of St Matthew’s Church, existing community members, as well as invited coordinators from other Walsall Places of Welcome, a Places of Welcome Buddy, Members of TCT’s team and representatives from Walsall for All. Over lunch he chatted to everyone, discovering all the ways that Walsall communities are supported by Places of Welcome as well as the many activities and signposting opportunities that their communities can engage and participate in to live full lives.

Our last stop on the Places of Welcome roadshow was one of our newest members of the Places of Welcome network, Bilal Academy, hosted by Maulana Ebrahim Esakjee who gave David a tour of the building, which has recently undergone refurbishment and explained why he joined the Places of Welcome network:

“I am happy to host a Place of Welcome after the difficult times we have had, to bring the community together and put a smile on people’s faces”.

David Frost said that spending the day with Transforming Communities Together, visiting the Places of Welcome and talking to their communities had helped him to understand the range and variety of grassroots organisations that were operating in Walsall. He also said that it was good that in Places of Welcome people could come and discuss local issues that were affecting them, and were places where people had a voice.

Rev’d Adam reflected,

“It was wonderful to spend the day visiting some of the Places of Welcome that are open across the Black Country. These are increasingly vital places where people can come together as we emerge from the pandemic. It was a day filled with vibrant atmosphere, and the sound of chatter and laughter. Places of Welcome venues are a place where people can come together, and enjoy the company of others; places where people can talk about the highs and lows of life knowing that they will be listened to and valued. It was so inspiring to hear the stories of how people have found somewhere to belong in a Place of Welcome and feel a greater part of their community, and have helped them overcome the issues of isolation and loneliness”.

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