2020: Our Reflections on a Year Like No Other


It may be hard to imagine now but at the beginning of the year, we still had our schedule of events underway. In January, this included a Burns poetry-themed CommuniTea event, where children from Auchinleck Primary recited poetry and sang Scottish songs for the local community, including care home residents. Families also came along to enjoy the screening of ‘Abominable’ at January’s Cinema Evening.
In February, preparations were underway to shape future events. We enjoyed a visit from Lewis Hou, one of the Fun Palace Ambassadors based in Scotland, to discuss how we would celebrate the arts and culture in Auchinleck during Fun Palaces weekend in October. In addition to this, the team held a workshop with young volunteers to get their views on what they liked and disliked about the local community and the events and projects they would like to see in the future.
With lockdown announced in late March, we had to quickly adapt to meeting the needs of the community whilst working remotely. This included becoming a key part of the community resilience provision in Auchinleck. Furthermore, in partnership with CentreStage, we delivered food parcels to local residents who were isolating. This was complemented by our prescription and grocery collection service.
During the Summer of 2020, we distributed over 700 Garden Protectors Activity Packs to local children. We selected activities which would encourage recipients to be more connected with nature – a fairy house, cress head, bird feeder and bug hotel. These activities were inspired by our community garden, which was closed to the public at the time.
To reflect on the success of the project, we featured it in our ‘Film of Action’, which was created in partnership with Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT). We were one of 13 of organisations from former coalfields areas across Scotland who received tuition from a filmmaker. You can watch the finished movie below:

Following the success of our packs over the Summer, we launched Autumn Activity Packs on Fun Palace weekend in October. This coincided with an exclusive preview of our CRT Film of Action being shown on Fun Palace TV, a live-video version of the event which would normally take place in-person.
The Autumn Packs followed the same formula as the Summer Packs, featuring activities such as make a bug, make a wind spinner and go on a bug hunt.

{Read more about our Activity Packs and Fun Palace activities here}
In December, the team helped ensure local residents could visit the shops safely by applying social distancing markers to the pavement and providing shopkeepers with stickers to remind shoppers to wear face coverings.

The team were also pleased to be able to provide their food parcel clients with a Christmas surprise, thanks to presents supplied by CentreStage.
Throughout the year, we have been offering benefits support and money advice. Despite restrictions limiting the amount of face-to-face meetings we could have this year, this service has been offered over the phone. Clients have received support from us to apply for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), set up Universal Credit claims and become aware of funds they may not have known they were entitled to. We have also been sharing finance advice each week on our Money Blog. If you enjoy reading our Money Blog, you may also be interested in our Wellbeing Blog, which we share tips and how to stay healthy and happy.

We have exciting plans for 2021 including an increased offering for young people. Our Wellbeing and Money Advice services will also continue. Please stay tuned and we’ll continue to share our news with you!

Community Welfare Champion service launched


The team that operates the Support to Engage Programme have recently launched a new service to help people to understand benefits and help them get what they’re entitled to.

Community Welfare Champions James and Shona will be based in Muirkirk Community Hub from 10am ‘til 2pm on Mondays.

Community Welfare Champion, James McLaughlin explains,

“We will be engaging with clients who might not understand how to apply for benefits such as PIP, ESA, Universal Credit and Carers Allowance. We’ll help clients by giving them a better understanding of how their benefits work and making sure they get what they are entitled to. We also have people coming to us if they are needing help with their universal credit.”

James’ colleague, Shona, added, “We also help clients out with trying to win appeals if, for instance, they have been unfairly sanctioned.”

If you think James and Shona could help you out, please come along to Muirkirk Community Hub on a Monday for a chat and a cup of tea/coffee. If you can’t come to us, call 01290 428 477 or 07745 732 905 to make an appointment and we can meet you in a location more suitable for you.

Our Community Welfare Champions are also keen to make links with other organisations in the local area to help them get an understanding of how their organisation works. If you think a link with our Community Welfare Champions would benefit your organisation’s clients, please get in touch.