The Power of a Time-bank

Time-banks are a way of bringing people and communities together.

Time-bank members give their time, skill or knowledge to others, and in return receive something they need or want.

No money changes hands – and with it people meet people and form new bonds.

If you have ever doubted the power of a Time-bank take a look at this story: It’s the story of Mary and Carla.

Mary got in touch with her local Time-bank to ask if they could arrange a visitor to spend time with her mother Sue.  Sue has dementia, she forgets what has been said, and so she repeats questions and statements frequently. She has mobility problems and spends much of her time sitting in her chair, and rarely leaves the house.

She has carers to help with washing and dressing. Her husband and her daughter care for her the rest of the time but she was getting lonely when her daughter and husband were working and she wanted someone to talk to.

Enter Carla:

Carla has been visiting Sue for an hour once every 2 weeks since October for a chat. Sue is very happy to see Carla and welcomes her in her native Arabic and says ‘you are the light of my eyes’. Mary is pleased that her mother is having company and variety in her routine. Sue remembers Carla’s name and that she is Hungarian. They talk about Sue’s children and grandchildren, music and how she used to teach, important therapy for someone who lives with dementia.

Carla states:

Working with the Time-bank in order to help people who genuinely need support, is one of the most enjoyable things I can imagine spending my free time with. Visiting Sue for just a bit of chit chat lights up her day and that lights up mine. I’m fortunate to have a community that is engaged with such a compassionate volunteer base.

Cambridgeshire has a vibrant Time-banking network. For more information on Time-banking, how it works and what’s involved click here:

Time-banks rely on the goodwill of people, organisations and communities to work. Click here to find out how you can help.

Railways are living memories, even model railways

According to evidence from The Alzheimer’s Society, over 800,000 people currently live with Dementia in the UK.

Triggering previous experiences is seen as an important way of connecting and engaging with those who have the condition.

With that in mind, let’s take you to March in Cambridgeshire…..

March has always been a railway town. The March and Railway Model Club hit on an idea of connecting model railways to the topical and ever present issue of Dementia.

The club have been thinking about model railways, layouts, trains and wagons as more than just that: After seeing an article in a national model railway magazine they decided they wanted to explore the possibility of running a project directly aimed at helping people who live with dementia.

The idea was simple: using a portable railway layout could they trigger important past memories in Dementia sufferers, and as a result improve their engagement and well-being.

They approached Support Cambridgeshire partner Cambridge CVS to help with creating a proposal that:

  • Evidenced the need.
  • Set out the objectives.
  • Described the outcomes.
  • Obtained funding.

The club had already received support from three model making companies who donated models, and a national model railway magazine who wanted to publish an article about the project. The club recognised the importance of working in partnership with others and they had already developed links with the Dementia Café in Wisbech run by Alzheimer’s Society and PHAB Wisbech.

Cambridge CVS helped the club obtain funding from sources, including the Healthy Fenland Fund and with this the club began to build their larger mobile layout.

After a successful first session at a Dementia Cafe, one Dementia carer said that she was now buying a model railway set for her husband as she has not seen him so animated and engaged for ages.

And interest in the club’s activities is growing. A group of Care Homes are now seeking the support of the club.

But with success comes pressure: The club is only small and in need of more members.

Take a look at their web-site:




Bryony’s journey

Social action is a term often used by professionals. You see it in contracts, on project management plans and in funding applications.

But social action is about real people in real communities taking advantage of what’s on offer and using it to do good stuff (in all its forms) within their community.

Let’s talk about Bryony.

Bryony is 27 years of age, has 2 children (aged 4 and 2) and lives in Huntingdon, where she has resided for the past 5 years. Bryony is an accountant by trade, but has a number of long term health conditions, which makes any form of future planning difficult. Despite this, she joined her local Parents Forum and is passionate about local services, particularly the Children’s Centre which supported her through a very difficult part of her life.

If anything, social action is about people talking to people, it’s about the power of networking and partnership forming: The more that Bryony spoke to people the more she became convinced that in some way she could help her local community. The community organisation, Huntingdon Community Action was a perfect foil, and Bryony started to attend the Quest for Funding sessions, an innovative approach between the Children’s Centre and Support Cambridgeshire around local volunteers applying for funding to sustain important community initiatives.

Bryony readily admits that at the very first session she was anxious, concerned and felt there was very little she could offer. But with regularity comes confidence, and through the next 2 Quest for Funding sessions Bryony felt empowered to take the lead and form a group looking at potentially larger funds to sustain existing projects. Bryony recognises that on-going support is crucial, particularly whilst volunteers develop their skills and knowledge, and this is amply provided by both Support Cambridgeshire and the Children’s Centre staff.

So where is Bryony now: Working hard to find funds which can help her local community: Giving something back. Bryony has also become a Treasurer for a small local community organisation, adding to her growing levels of confidence.

Bryony states:

Without aiming for it, I have started on a journey which is giving me both confidence and skills. I feel like I can give something back to help others. Without our local services, mums like me would have no- where to go.

The support and advice I have received to date has been really helpful. Here’s to the next Quest for Funding Session.

Enough said………..


Giving CECF a voice

Cambridge Ethic Community Forum (or CECF) is an umbrella organisation for Cambridge that provides racial equality and diversity services to individuals and groups, promoting an understanding between people from differing ethnic backgrounds.Their vision is a world where diverse communities live in harmony and every individual, regardless of race, nationality or ethnic origin, has the opportunity to realise their full potential.
The Forum’s website can be seen here:

Support Cambridgeshire has been working with the Forum to develop their skills, knowledge and confidence in the field of voice and representation, making them better able to exert influence and capacity over funding bodies and strategic stakeholders.
Forum members attended Support Cambridgeshire’s bespoke training on how to be a voluntary sector representative, which gave them a valuable set of tool-kits for increasing confidence levels when advocating, and an understanding of the sensitivities of negotiating a sector wide perspective in today’s current and challenging climate.

Perpetua Gora states:

I recently attended the course on Voice and Representation. I learned a lot, particularly about the time and commitment required to be a good representative.

Dulce Lewcock of the Women’s Voice for Africa states:

I attended the recent Voice and Representation course provided by Support Cambridgeshire. The trainer was very approachable and the information was easy to understand.

The course has given me increased confidence to represent my group.

If you feel you could benefit from this type of training please contact Russell at


Steel Bones

Steel Bones works to connect the amputee community by sending out support packs to all new amputees, promoting stump health news, healthy lifestyles and the provision of flexible career opportunities. It also arranges networking and fundraising events, and lobbies statutory agencies on behalf of amputees and their families.

The group has grown out of the lived experience of its founder members.

Eight years ago Leigh Joy-Staines lost his leg as a result of an operation.

In the aftermath of this life-changing event Leigh and his wife Emma felt isolated and struggled against a general lack of understanding among the general public and statutory agencies about what amputation means for an individual and a family. As a result of their experiences they decided to form Steel Bones.

Steel Bones contacted Cambridge CVS (one part of the Support Cambridgeshire Partnership) because they wanted to become a registered charity, seek funding and put in place policies and procedures to help them develop and support more beneficiaries.

Steel Bones met with a development worker to discuss registering as a charity. A full review of what Steel Bones wanted to achieve was undertaken, together with a consideration of what charitable structure would best suit their long term needs and aspirations. Options reviewed and discussed, Steel Bones decided to become a Charitable Incorporated Company (CIO) and have since registered with the Charity Commission.

Steel Bones have also been able to access support in the development of sound and robust policies and procedures, underpinned by valuable training on Safeguarding, Financial Management and How to write the best possible funding application, a vital advice giving session in today’s Charitable climate.

Steel Bones state:

The CCVS training sessions I have attended have been phenomenal and what I find fantastic is they bring their own considerable charity experience to the training. Plus, CCVS have been a great brainstorming resource and have been brilliant at giving us a fresh perspective. I know I can email the team anytime with questions and they come back to me quickly with superb advice giving our committee the assurance we need to push forward in the best way possible.

Village Hall demonstrates the value of training

The background:

Kirtling village hall sits in the village of Kirtling and Upend, approximately 3 miles south of Newmarket. The village consists of 165 housing units, with a population of approximately 400 residents. The village hall was built in 1995 and is a current Cambridgeshire ACRE member. The Trustees are aware of Support Cambridgeshire and what it aims to achieve (strengthening community organisations across Cambridgeshire).

The village hall faces a number of challenges. The first is a requirement for more Trustees to help and support the work of the hall, and provide it with more strategic direction. The village hall wants to remain at the centre of village life, but realises it needs to learn from others experiences in order to further develop this approach.


Through the Support Cambridgeshire partnership, Cambridgeshire ACRE ran a coffee morning come and learn on the subject of Fire Safety in Village Halls (May 2017). The Trustees see this type of networking as invaluable, as they often work alone and talking to others who run village halls and face similar challenges is vital.


The Trustees self- assessed their skills, knowledge and understanding of the subject area at 30% prior to training.
The Trustees self-assessed their skills, knowledge and understanding of the subject area at 75% post training completion.

The Impact Increase in skills and understanding was therefore 45%.

Training in practice:

The trustees have started to put some ideas into practice as a result of their learning: These include:

• Hazard identification.
• The requirement for Regular PAT Testing.
• Fire signage.
• Rules around the use of Fire Doors.
• Emergency Lighting in the event of a fire.

Supporting comments:

I go to as many of these events as I can. The opportunity to exchange information and work with peers is invaluable.
The Community Facilities Development Officer knows her job inside out and is a tremendous source of support.
We have received a fantastic level of support overall.

Village halls benefit from peer mentoring

People wokring

As part of its Support Cambridgeshire contract, Cambridgeshire ACRE wished to explore whether peer mentoring, the provision of advice on village hall matters to trustees by trustees might be feasible. The concept is simple: less experienced trustees receive support and guidance from the more experienced.

A number of village halls have asked for advice on establishing a bar operation to increase income and diversify their portfolio. ACRE dispatched a peer mentor with experience of establishing a bar to provide key support, advice and guidance.

To date, two village halls have received practical guidance through E-Mail, telephone and through a learning and skills exchange, to see how practical a bar operation could or would be.

Advice provided has covered such subjects as directorship, accounting, stock control and the practical limitations of operating a bar given time and space.

Feedback from trustees who have received peer mentoring has been very positive and both halls have been highly appreciative of the support and guidance given. The peer support has increased their confidence and enabled trustees to return to their own halls with a better understanding of how to set up a bar that will contributes to the financial success of their village hall.

One trustee commented: “We found it very useful and it all seems much more straightforward than we had been led to believe. We will be feeding back at our committee meeting next week and will then start setting up our bar.”

Village hall benefits from social media

Kirtling village hall approached one of the Support Cambridgeshire partners, Cambridgeshire ACRE, for advice on how to better market their events and increase attendance numbers.

ACRE’s Community Facilities Development Officer worked with the trustees on a range of potential marketing avenues, including social media and specifically the development of a village hall Facebook Page.

Support was given in a variety of ways, by E-Mail, telephone and a bespoke 1-1 training session on the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook and social media in general.

Patricia Lewis, Chair of Trustees said:

We certainly value the support we receive from Cambridgeshire ACRE. The training session enabled me to gain confidence using social media and now I appreciate the need to keep this page updated as this will contribute to its success”

Kirtling village hall is located at 39 The Street, Kirtling, Newmarket, CB8 9PB

Improving the facilities at Hale Road Allotments in Swavesey

Situated on the right-hand side of Hale Road, the Hale Road Allotments in Swavesey were set up on the site of a former arable field. The site has 61 plots, mostly 125m² (22m x 5.7m) in area, with some half-size.

Eight water tanks provide easy access to water for the use of the allotment members. There is also a waterless toilet on site, and cycle racks have been installed to encourage plot-holders to leave their car at home. Rabbit and deer proof fencing surrounds the whole site and a car park is provided for plot holders.

Members come from all backgrounds and are of all ages with plot holders consisting of individuals, couples, and families.

The need

The plot has no toilet facilities. In their own words:

“Many plots have ladies as sole-operators and there are also 34 children under the age of 12 years associated with our site.”

This restriction time limited people undertaking healthy and active lifestyles: It discouraged users, and prevented involvement from nearby schools and colleges.

The support

The group was supported with:

  • a series of one to one sessions which involved providing a critical review of their various funding applications and helping to understand what the funder’s were looking to see
  • the opportunity to meet with funders and discuss the issues, and
  • advice on how to use the various and free grant finder support packages.

The impact

As a result of relevant advice and information, the group began a journey which:

  • articulated the wider vision that they had for the allotments as playing a bigger and more integral part of the local community
  • focussed on healthy and active lifestyles, and
  • looked beyond immediate need to the potential outcomes.

Support training and advice led to:

  • the group identifying key and relevant funds for their project
  • the group understanding the importance of providing evidence of need, and of having measurable and achievable outcomes and involving and consulting people, and
  • understanding the benefits of asking support in the critical review of funding applications.

The practical outcome was that money was raised for a waterless toilet.

“Already things are happening as a direct result of winning the toilet. Next week we will have a bunch of Year 8 students and a bunch of Year 9 students on our site from Swavesey Village College to do certain tasks, including building a bug hotel for the thirty four under-12-year -olds associated with our site. They will bring packed lunches so they are comfortably on site all day which they would not have been able to do before the toilet was installed.”

More information about Hale Road Allotments can be found on their website:

The Chesterton Parents Group and their financial systems

The need

Chesterton Parents Group was a newly formed support group for parents within Chesterton in Cambridge. Originally developed with the support of the local Children’s Centre, they are now an independent community group. The group required support with their financial accounting.

The support

Advice and guidance was given on all aspects of financial planning, including basic accounting best practice, accounts payable and the completion of year end receipts.

The impact

The Group now uses their financial information more effectively. They have a thorough understanding of budgets and reporting which ensures that their volunteer committee are kept aware of the financial position of the organisation. They have systems in place to report to funders. They are aware of their legal obligations with regard to the preparation of year end accounts and financial records. They can now make sound financial decisions based upon accurate and timely information.

Their treasurer said:

“I think we’ve pretty much implemented everything that was suggested. It has helped us tremendously in keeping the rest of the group informed as to what’s going on, now that it is straightforward for me to give a monthly update on our grant balances and unrestricted reserves. I think in the past we have not made optimal use of our grants, just because we did not effectively keep track of what we’d spent on them verses what we proposed”.

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