By Serena Smallman, Planning and Campaign Manager, Community and Shared Value

A few months ago I made a phone call to one of our local community causes to let them know about some funding they were eligible for. I love this part of my job, and these calls are always great to make. Except this wasn’t an ordinary call. This call made me more proud to work for Co-op than I’ve ever felt before.

I should probably go back a step or two. We’ve worked with The Edge Theatre for a number of years now. They’re a great charity based in Chorlton, that works with vulnerable adults and young people, including those who are experiencing or have experienced of homelessness. They help them to transform their lives through theatre and arts.

As part of our Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities work, some funding had become available to help tackle the fundamental causes of crime, and the impact it’s having within the communities we live in. Due to the work The Edge does, this seemed a natural fit and led to the phone call.

I rang Janine at The Edge and whilst I was expecting her to be pleased, I hadn’t expected her to be quite so pleased. You see, the particular scheme which we wanted to support was very close to running out of funding and was at a real risk of closure. This would have had a really detrimental effect on the people enrolled, and the wider community.

Now as a result of that one phone call, we’re working with The Edge and the Booth Centre. We’re funding singing and acting workshops at the Booth Centre, to help people who are either sleeping rough or at risk of doing so, or those with severe mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction or learning disabilities, giving them the opportunity to develop essential life skills.

The course will help participants develop speaking and listening skills, opportunities to work with a team in groups, ways to resolve conflicts, emotional literacy, empathy and ways to build confidence and self-esteem. The sessions will also support participants to learn to read for the first time in their lives. Literacy skills are an important factor in helping people out of poverty, which is one of the root causes of crime.

I always knew that our impact on communities is great, but to know that we’ve enabled a scheme that does so much good to continue makes me so proud. I guess #itswhatwedo.