Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?
Back in 2015 what had been Gatis Street Adventure Playground was due to be closed in a round of Council funding cuts; myself and a core of volunteers had been working with the staff at the centre to try and get more community involvement. We came up with a rough business plan and so Gatis Community Space came into being. We took control of the site under ‘licence to occupy’ on 1st May 2015 with the intention of creating a community hub for everyone to enjoy. Fast forward 5 years and we now offer (though most activities are currently on hold due to COVID 19):
- A volunteering programme that covers all aspects of operating the building and improving the grounds including our new Mutual Aid Community Morale Officer Project
- A community garden
- A community Cafe
- The Real Junk Food Project Wolverhampton – redistributing surplus food
- Hall and grounds to hire
- Adventure and outdoor play
- Sand and Water play
- A range of activities such as craft / art / nature / fitness / yoga / sewing / upcycling / permaculture / films / community events / breastfeeding support / family play / book swaps / clothes swaps / repair cafes
- We support small start-up businesses and community members with good ideas to experiment / get support to find funding
What has been your greatest achievement?
In 2019 we received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service which is the highest award a community group can get – I think personally for me seeing one volunteer shake hands with Camilla on the Queen’s back lawn and then another on stage receiving the award itself has been one of the best things ever – the pride and smiles on their faces is something that I shall never forget. But although this is one of the greatest achievements I think in reality our greatest achievement is actually what we do every day – the small differences we make to everyday people’s lives in our community, slowly chipping away at barriers and bringing together people who wouldn’t normally chat. Those are the things that really make a difference and we hope to continue that even more with the Morale Officer project.
What is your experience of support received from WVSC?
WVSC is my default go to for advice and support. I had already been a beneficiary of their training, advice and support for many years working in the third sector in Wolverhampton but it has really been when we started our Gatis journey that the value of that support really showed itself. We had support exploring the different legal structures that we could adopt which helped us decide to become a community interest company. We’ve had support in finding the right kind of funding and support in developing the right policies and procedures as the centre and its activities have grown.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?
That Wolverhampton is an amazingly diverse city and though it gets bad press it’s an amazing place to live and work – the diversity of the city amazes me, with that diversity brings colour and richness to all corners of life from the foods available to the creative and cultural differences, the mix of religious festivals and how different people celebrate in different ways, I find it fascinating and its taught me so much.
What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVSC help to support your organisation in the future?
I think currently and foremost with COVID 19 the challenges we face over the next year will really be based around when we can safely open up the centre again fully. We are currently focussing on the grounds and looking at ways we can develop more covered spaces outdoors that can be used more safely by more people than being indoors. We need to start looking at replacing the adventure play equipment with one of our main pieces having been dismantled during lockdown due to it becoming unsafe. This will be a massive challenge as the costs of this type of equipment are massive and whilst we are unable to offer our usual business side of things we are going to find we are much more reliant on grant funding over the next two to three years whilst we redevelop what we can do.
Where can we find out more?
Would you like to be featured in our Voluntary Sector Focus? Contact Sharon Nanan-Sen on firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!