Charity rebrands to expand its work across the borough

The organisation wants to empower residents to tackle issues in their local communities.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 4:45 am
David Baxter outside the Made In Wigan shop in the town centre
David Baxter outside the Made In Wigan shop in the town centre

Wigan and Leigh Community Charity, formerly Abram Ward Community Co-operative, wants to give people the skills and tools they need to form their own grassroots groups making their local areas better places to live and tackling the issues on their doorsteps.

Plans include developing the Made in Wigan town centre shop as a hub for young people wanting to become social entrepreneurs, working with the Hindley community to transfer Tudor House as a community centre owned by local people and helping residents in Beech Hill to grow their own community services such as a food pantry.

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Chief executive David Baxter said: “Being a charity gives us more community ownership because people can get involved in the decision-making as trustees. It fits with our purpose and with our Made in Wigan brand.

“For the past five years, we have seen Abram residents take control of issues that they previously felt they had no say over, from starting up their own businesses that helped people gain skills for employment to providing ways for people with mental health challenges to get back on track.

“We now want to take that out into the wider community and rebranding and expanding our work across Wigan and Leigh will hopefully see more communities rebuild to be better places to work and live.”

The Abram co-operative has been developing its work and supporting local people for four years with funding from Power to Change.

The charity’s move outwards to encompass the entire borough comes as a national report by public health authority Sir Michael Marmot found Greater Manchester had been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with health and economic inequalities worsening.

David said bringing local people together, asking them what they would like to see in their area and then helping them to achieve it, rather than services being delivered in a top-down manner, could play an important role in helping the borough bounce back from the massive economic and social impacts of the novel coronavirus.

He said: “We know that ‘people doing it for themselves’ is a powerful way to improve communities, and as we face joblessness, mental health challenges and our children falling behind in school as a result of inequalities that have worsened due to the pandemic, we can’t wait to get started and support more communities across the borough to find ways to solve the problems that matter most to them.

“The overall aim is more neighbourhood democracy and community ownership.

“It’s about empowering anybody in a community to set up their own social enterprise.

“We want to encourage people so if they’ve got an idea like keeping a pub or club open they will think they can go and do that.

“We say everybody in the borough has a skill or talent and we want to help them turn that hobby or that passion into a community business.”

David says one of the charity’s biggest aims is to get a trust fund together which people starting new grassroots organisations can apply to for funding to get them started.

The co-operative in Abram has played a role in supporting community organisations such as Wigan Men’s Shed at its Platt Bridge Community Zone base and the youth group Bicky Lads ‘n’ Lasses in Bickershaw as well as putting on fund-raising events including a high-profile evening at Bickershaw Village Club.

David says he hopes the charity will also contribute towards community wealth building, something Wigan Council has said it is particularly keen to promote, as well as the wider agenda for levelling-up the country after the pandemic.

He also says it is part of the borough’s network of community organisations.

He is also interested in the concept of the 15-minute neighbourhood, derived from the idea of the 15-minute city which is about ensuring residents have access to everything they need for their lives in their local areas without having to travel large distances.

The charity has already begun work outside of Abram and one of the groups it has helped is Springfield & Beech Hill CommUnity, which started out as a mutual aid group founded by residents Angela Fell and Gill Wright to support neighbours during the first lockdown last year.

It is now helping to facilitate a range of community activities and services, including a food pantry in Beech Hill.

Angela said: “We started the food pantry as we saw people facing being unable to feed their families.

“Instead of waiting for a solution, we thought we’d create one ourselves.

“There are so many talents and skills that we can tap into in our local community.

“The food pantry is just the start of our community helping itself to become a better place to live, and we look forward to working with David and the team to create ways to do this.”

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