Since becoming a mum, I’ve started to really value my local community. A few years ago, I’d leave my house at 8am to jump on a train to Central London where my office was, and I wouldn’t return home til 7.30pm – or later if I went out in Soho for a few cheeky tipples. And when I did come home, as obvious as it sounds, I’d be in my house, curtains closed and watching TV or eating dinner (probably both at the same time, knowing me). I didn’t actually mix with anyone in my community – I rarely even spoke to my neighbours except for popping around to their house, if they’d taken in a parcel that had been delivered while I was at work. Even at the weekends, I’d jump in the car to head off somewhere to meet friends or family and I’d rarely stay local.
But since having my daughter, all that has changed. Starting with making friends with my NCT class and socialising with them locally and my year of maternity leave where I was forced to discover where various church halls were so that we could attend baby classes, I started a journey of exploring my local area… and falling in love with it. As my daughter started nursery and I got to know other parents, and as I met local friends through blogging, I realised how fab it is to be walking down the high street and bump into people you know. How useful it is to know people who can give you tips, tell you about things happening locally, and (yep, call me shallow) fill you in on local gossip. I also started shopping more locally and popping into our nearby cafe for lunch more often and getting to know the lovely owner. I know this will only increase, as the four-year-old starts school in September and no doubt will join Rainbows or local dance classes.
There’s no denying – life is better when you take an active part in your local community. Which is why I’m really thrilled to be involved with the Aviva Community Fund as a member of the ACF Team – where anyone can have the chance to secure funding for a local community group or charity that’s important to them.
How does it work?
You can submit a project for your community organisation and tell Aviva what difference the money could make to them. To suit projects of different sizes, the funding levels you can apply for are:
Up to £1,000
Up to £5,000
Up to £10,000
Up to £25,000
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re involved with a small community group or a larger one – you can still apply. There are four project categories that you can submit your entry to:
1. Health, disability and wellbeing – eg. active living and sports groups and organisations to hospice care, or community centres running wellbeing initiatives.
2. Supporting the younger generation – eg. projects that look after younger people, supporting family life and young people, education programmes, scouts groups, youth sports groups etc.
3. Supporting the older generation – e.g.. projects that provide help and support to the older generation, such as befriending and listening services, dementia charities etc.
4. Community support – use this category if your project will have a positive community impact and doesn’t fit into the categories above. e.g. a community development project, environment-focused, a project looking after the welfare of animals, or something else entirely.
Put together a project, telling Aviva why your community group should be given funding (there’s a guide with tips on writing it over on their website) and if you want to enhance your project, include photos or a video to really give a flavour of what your community group is all about. Need help? Writer and Director Heidi Greensmith has filmed a video for Aviva with tips on how to make a great video on your smartphone.
Then, it’ll be time to get votes for your project so you’ll need to get on social media to rally support from your community. I’ve created a social media guide and video, which will be available when the voting stage opens on May 1st, with lots of advice on how to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to really shout about your project. The projects with the most votes on May 30th will go into the finals, where a judging panel will decide who will receive the funding.
So do you have a local community group you’d like to help? Find out more over on the Aviva Community Fund website.
• Big thanks to Aviva for asking me to work with them on the Aviva Community Fund. Image: DTTSP