Heartsease is a post-war housing estate in Norwich within the city boundaries but just outside the outer ring road. St Francis Church sits at the junction of two roads in the residential heart of the estate. St. Francis’ buildings are in use throughout the week, and with activities for all ages and diverse interests. The church recently underwent remodelling to make it more comfortable and energy-efficient and to open it up as a place for community groups to make better use of the improved facilities. It is the base for the Heartsease Community Project, an ecumenical project also involving the local Methodist and Baptist Churches that runs a luncheon club and a coffee bar.
At one stage, there was a Listening Ear project with volunteers who attended an Acorn Listening Course. This was allowed to run down as there was little take-up though a listener could still be provided if requested.
The Project hosts a lunch three times a year for local professionals working in the community and this activity moves around the partner churches.
The Heartsease Project is now in a partnership with Age UK Norwich, which is enabling us to develop new services for older people. Age UK have seconded a development worker one day per week to Heartsease. At present, there is experimentation with additional activities either before or after the luncheon club, such as a quiz or hiring a minibus to go to a tea dance. There have also been some taster sessions in bank holiday weeks (when the luncheon club is closed) to give people the opportunity to try new things and test their popularity.
One example of an activity has been ‘reminiscence’, which has also been the theme of a joint project with the Youth project. Older people have gone into the Church primary school to share their memories with the children. In return, young people have been to help with the luncheon club. It seems likely now that reminiscence will be offered as an ongoing activity.
The development worker is also able to do more outreach work to identify people who would benefit from the services offered. He is negotiating relationships with local GPs, which may both lead to more referrals and provide ideas for new forms of provision. Age UK are working with the local authority to set up community service hubs. In effect, the Heartsease Project is becoming one of these.
registered charity run by a management committee appointed by three local churches. Each church can appoint two lay members and one clergy, though the two Free Churches are not necessarily taking up all their places at present. There is an annual meeting open to the public.
The main leadership comes from the management committee and its chair, the local Vicar. St Francis’ is clearly the most active partner. In part, this is because its buildings are good and centrally situated, so that it tends to be the one used, though in principle there could be lunch clubs at other churches. In part, it may also be that, because the other churches have gathered congregations and their members are widely scattered, they are less rooted in the immediate locality.
The Development Project has been funded by a CUF Mustard Seed Grant. The development worker post (1 day a week) will be taken on by Age UK Norfolk when funding runs out. From time to time, free activities are made available through external funding and there is some capital which can be used for new activities.
Many, but not all, of the volunteers are themselves retired. Many, too, have been involved for a very long time. There is now a need to grow volunteers for the extension of activities. Recruitment can be through an appeal; through the local churches; or through Age UK which has a wider catchment area. Although some of the longstanding volunteers are from the Methodist and Baptist Churches, recent recruits have mainly come from St Francis Church.
Calculated on the basis of paying the minimum wage for the time contributed, volunteers contribute at least £250 per week.
Revd. Peter Howard