30th Jan 2019
For 30 years, the Community Foundation's support has enabled local charities to tackle disadvantage, strengthen communities and make our area a better place to live.
One organisation that we’ve supported to do all of these things, since our earliest days, is the West End Women and Girls Centre in Newcastle.
The organisation was established in 1981 when local mums realised there wasn’t much for young girls to do in the area. They brought their kids together and used their own skills in arts and crafts, cookery and singing to offer activities on a Tuesday night. This junior youth club for girls expanded naturally over the coming years in response to local needs and requests, and still runs today. Other services - such as a senior youth group, a women’s group, and a creche - were then established and prospered, and the organisation received its first grant from us in July 1989: £847 towards a video project.
A major step forward came in the 2000s, when the organisation completed the first community asset transfer in Newcastle, taking on responsibility for the former Elswick Library, adjacent to Elswick Park.
The organisation has continued to evolve in response to demographic changes in Elswick, and increasingly challenging operating conditions, with the centre gaining a strong reputation for its work tackling domestic violence and promoting community cohesion.
Project Coordinator Huffty McHugh is modest about this and puts the organisation’s success down to the simple act of bringing women – from whatever background – together, to enjoy activity based on shared interests such as gardening, cooking and eating.
In 2017 the centre received £25,000 from the Community Foundation-supported Fresh Ideas Fund, to develop gardening and bakery work; this was bolstered by grants from our own funds such as the Square One Law and Bellway Funds in support of work that enables the community to grow, eat and thrive, and to further the organisation’s vision of turning Elswick into ‘Newcastle's garden neighbourhood’.
Meanwhile, Community Foundation support for the organisation’s core work with young people has never been far away.
The David Dockway West End Young People’s Fund is a regular supporter of playschemes and youth clubs at the centre. Our Women’s Fund has recently contributed to the organisation’s ability to act as a ‘One Stop Shop’ to young women in need of information, advice and guidance in a relaxed and supportive environment. And we’ve invested in the professional development of the centre’s staff, supporting a key staff member to embark on an 'Emerging Leader Women and Girls Sector' training course delivered by Clore.
In September 2018, Community Foundation staff visited the centre to celebrate three decades of collaboration, working together to cook – and eat! – delicious stone-baked pizza in Elswick Park.
There’s no time for West End Women and Girls to relax for long, however: cuts to funding for some key service areas, including domestic abuse advice, youth work and activities that promote healthy eating, means fundraising is always a priority. And then there’s the organisation’s ambitious plan to take over an empty building in Elswick Park to create a community café and bakery, so it can continue to train and employ local women, whilst providing a place to bring the wider community together and generate much-needed income.