Dear friends and supporters,
The work club has faced major challenges during the last year. As we are not able to open as a drop-in centre for those who are seeking work, our coordinator has kept the club going by holding interviews over the phone and when able, inviting individuals to her office one at a time to sit at a desk in a COVID-safe environment. This, of course, means that we can only contact those we know about and we know there would be many others who need our help. We are currently looking at reopening the work club, considering demand, location and finding more volunteers to help. Things will be different, and we will need to find COVID-safe environments in which to work.
The work club also celebrated its eighth birthday in February. That is quite an achievement and hopefully we can continue this work soon. Funding has been made available for at least the next two years which gives financial security as we move on to develop the work club further.
During the recent lockdown, I have had contact with our local MP, Luke Pollard. He is incredibly supportive of what we can do both at the work club and with the food programme we have operated since November. Our food programme has been run with the help of Transforming Plymouth Together. This is a diocese-based charity that has been providing and supporting food and activity programmes across Plymouth, with many of them based in local churches. A decision was taken that Churches Together in Devonport would operate a food distribution programme using St Aubyn’s Church, with the library as a base for collection. Referrals for food parcels have come through the local schools and have included the area of Stoke as well.
Since November we have offered food during the holidays and half terms and we intend to run two collection days in the Easter holidays, one before and one after Easter. Our MP dropped in to see what we were doing at the half term collection day and he was able to visit, for the first time, St Aubyn’s Church based in the library.
As I was writing this, I received an email stating that the local council are giving us funds to provide Easter eggs for children in Devonport. This means that children will receive an Easter egg with a booklet telling the Easter story and we will have the opportunity to do this as Churches Together. This is another opportunity for the churches to be a witness in the area.
Opportunities have emerged from the COVID crisis. We have been able to work as Churches Together in Devonport, we have found volunteers who were happy to get involved and we have found support from local councillors to assist in opening space for us to offer the food programmes. I feel this is the start of a new way of working for those in Devonport and to work in partnership with the churches and those who are already supporting people in the area.
Good news for Plymouth
In the latest budget, Plymouth was awarded the status of free port. A free port is where a port is open to all traders and where goods in transit are exempt from customs duty. It will also simplify the normal customs processes on imported goods. This is good news for Plymouth and will be a great boost to local industry and so improve the employment opportunities. It is expected that many more jobs, possibly more than 9000, will be created, as well as encouraging the industry already here.
You will all be aware that schools and colleges are now fully open. As a governor of Riverside School, I have maintained contact with our head teacher who informed me this week that it was good to be back. Pupils have returned and many of them, as well as the parents, have welcomed the opportunities for face-to-face teaching. I am looking forward to eventually having governors’ meetings at the school rather than on Zoom.
During the latest lockdown, the chaplaincy team were contacted by the well-being team at City College in respect of setting up a facility for supporting pupils who have faced bereavement in the last year. They were aware that support was needed and so contacted us for help. We cannot offer a professional service, but we can be a listening ear and someone to talk to. The team continues to consist of Rev Keith Robus, Simon (our youth worker) and myself.
We value your prayers as we move forward in the exciting opportunities for Devonport. The food programme, the work club and the opportunity to work as Churches Together are some of the areas that can continue and develop further.
Thank you for all your support and prayers.