Birmingham Settlement would like to introduce you to our first group of residents from Lea Village that have come together to discuss and tackle the issues they face in their community. A few short months ago, with Reaching Communities funding from the Big Lottery Fund, we kicked off our work within Shard End and the neighbouring communities with the aim of supporting local people to take an active role in developing their communities. Through this work we are proud to introduce Friends of Lea Village, created by and for the local community.
It all started with a conversation on the shop floor of our Kitts Green store with a lady named Carol who was reminiscing about how Lea Village used to be “it was the good old days back then” she said “but it’s not like that anymore”. So we invited Carol along with her daughter Gemma upstairs to the ‘hub’ for a cup of tea and to discuss how we could address some of the issues she mentioned and try to find out why they think Lea Village isn’t like it used to be. Lisa (our Shop Manager) prompted another one of our regular customers, Nikki, to pop upstairs and join us and so we began to explore some of the reoccurring issues ‘The Village’ faces on a daily basis. We particularly focused on trying to understand why older people in the area don’t feel safe to go out on the evening and to find out what happened to all those “buzzing” activities that used to take place in the area. What started as a trip down memory lane soon became quite an emotional conversation in parts but we also found a place for laughter and optimism as we spoke.
We decided to meet again; this time Nikki brought along her daughter Kate and my colleague brought along a local resident named Gloria who had been active in a local history project several years before. We explored the day-to-day issues they faced living in the Village a little deeper and the group started to realise that they could actually make a small positive difference in a way that is meaningful to them but could also lead to creating a more thriving community. Born that day, was the ‘Friends of Lea Village’, with two projects in mind ‘Remembering Lea Village’ (a project to bring local people together to share their memories of the past with the hope of creating a positive impact for the future) and the ‘Lea Village Social’ (a local network, working with the wider community to create social events that aim to connect people locally and begin to tackle the growing social isolation some of the most vulnerable people in the area face).
We have recruited an additional three residents since then, Kay, Dennis and Tina, along with several others who have expressed an interest in getting involved. We are on the way to creating our first event and a 60’s night was declared, we plan to launch this first of many social events this summer. Watch this space as we bring you more news and updates of an ever growing group that will start to bring about small changes in their community, their own lives and begin a journey to transform ‘The Village’ for the better.