Blog #1: Setting Up in Soham
Ben Pitt, Communities Officer
12 October 2018
Support Cambridgeshire is now up and running in Soham, helping local residents to enrich community life in their town. After months of discussions with partner organisations and the inevitable wait to hear if we had secured funding, work started in earnest on 4 September 2018.
An Awards for All grant from the Big Lottery Fund covers my wages for one day per week for 12 months along with various administrative costs. During this time I have two simple goals: the first is to find out what the people of Soham want. The second is to help them achieve it.
It’s been a great help to have Cambridgeshire County Council’s Neighbourhood Cares team and Care Network’s Connected Communities team already active in Soham. They have established strong links with the local community and have been instrumental in getting some superb projects up and running, such as the Repair Café and regular community coffee mornings at the library. Neighbourhood Cares hosts a quarterly Community Lunch that brings together all of the community-focused organisations that are active in Soham. This was the ideal opportunity for me to meet key people and introduce my work.
I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some local residents, many of whom are bubbling with big ideas for their town. Their enthusiasm is infectious and I hope I can help to turn their aspirations into reality. Already there is talk of a new community association to create an open forum that brings people together to work collaboratively. I think this is a fantastic idea, and one that Support Cambridgeshire will do everything it can to support.
It’s really exciting to be inundated with suggestions for new projects, but I’m also keen to reach out to the wider population of Soham. Often there is a core of community activists in a given location, but also an untapped resource of people who would like to be more involved (as long as it fits in with their lives) but who aren’t yet part of the community scene.
One of the objectives of my survey is to find these people. The survey asks some simple questions: what’s the best thing about Soham? What’s your biggest concern? What new community activities would you like to see? I hope that this will encourage local residents to think critically and creatively about their town, and in the process, think of ways they might like to get more involved. Becoming an active member of a community might seem like a burden but those who do it know how hugely rewarding it can be.
The survey was launched at the Soham Pumpkin Fair on 29 September. I was told this was the highlight of the social calendar, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The community was out in force, there was so much to do and I’m still struggling to comprehend the size of some of those pumpkins! Thanks again to the Community Cares team and the Royal British Legion for inviting me to share their stall with them.
The survey is now available in paper form at the library, and also online at www.bit.ly/sohamsurvey. I’m very grateful to Wendy Lansdown at Community Cares, Rev’d Eleanor Whalley at St Andrews Church and Richard Pearce, Assistant Principal at Soham Village College for their help in getting the word out to residents. The responses are now coming in… I’m really looking forward to reading them.