Tuesday, September 02, 2008

An unexpected, needed breakthough

I was invited to a meeting this afternoon convened by Mike Friel, the head of the Council's new Housing and Neighbourhood Renewal team, tucked away anonymously in a corner of a business park down the Bay, in what I think used to be NTL's call centre building. The invitation came via Jeff Rees, the outreach worker of the city centre homelessness team. The idea was to get people together who are involved in the soup runs that operate in the city centre, and try to engage in a dialogue that stalled eighteen months ago when all the changes in the city centre social services set-up were first mooted. We'd got to the stage of outlining a proposal for a 'Street Carers' Accreditation Scheme' to offer basic training and skills development for those who might feel encouraged and supported by this. And naturally I was interested to see if this might be possible to re-start.

Members of the Paradise Soup Run were present, and Paul Hocking the wise and influential chair of the Evangelical Alliance's Cardiff Gweini. Paradise networks forty odd church groups across the city for soup runs. There are other groups besides, from student voluntary services, and churches not involved with the network, and individuals as well. Trying to get them all together, even to make or discuss anything to do with organisation is a bit like herding cats. But, as we sat around table I was gratified to think there'd been this much response to the Council's overture. We weren't going for long before I felt compelled to bring up the past. The idea of an Accreditation scheme, as far as it had got, was received with interest, and to my delight all those representing volunteer teams around the table welcomed the idea.

As a result, we agreed to meet again in a month's time, to make an effort to invite as many representatives of church soup runs as we can find out about, to a gathering at City URC in the evning of 7th October. I managed to contact Joel, the City Church administrator and secure a booking while the meeting was concluding, so everyone went away with the date in their diaries. I have been charged with making a presentation about the idea of Accreditation and its content, to lead to a brainstorming session on the desirability of particular kinds of content, the amount of it, and the level at which various kinds of volunteers might be expected to engage. Volunteers are invariably a mixed group in terms of ability, confidence and experience. There needs to be someting for different kinds of learning needs, so that everyone grows and feels affirmed by their involvement in the scheme.

I'm just so delighted that something I thought we'd lost has come within sight again, with more than just a few enthused ideas people driving it. In all this, the success of the occasion was down to Ian, my city centre 'eyes and ears' having met and networked with key people in the world of soup runs and social services outreach. He had the important phone numbers to enable himself and me to invite these few important others to be involved. It's a great service towards making things happen that need to happen.

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