By the community – for the community

We love to hear about people working together to improve their neighbourhood. Paganhill Community Group is helping people to do just that.

They run a café every Friday afternoon at Maypole Hall and organise all kinds of events and projects to enrich and strengthen the community. I went along to the café to meet Jaqui and Debbie, two of the directors.

Jaqui: We’ve been running the Community Café for 18 months now but the Community Group has been together for longer than that, and since January we have become a CIC (Community Interest Company). We want to reach out to all Paganhill residents, ask their opinions on the local area and what improvements they would like to see here. We’ve held parties and different events to get people together, and we run a gardening group to make community gardens at Paganhill and the Farmhill Baptist Church. Our next project will be to find out what people would like to see done with the green space in Jack Russell Close. We’d love people to come and join in with us as we always need help running the events, planning, doing risk assessments, writing funding applications, reporting for our website, gardening and all sorts of other work. Everyone has different skills to offer and any hours you can spare would be very welcome. We welcome everybody.

The café itself is buzzing with activity. Looking around I can see people of all ages. There are toys for the children to play with, art supplies, card making, a crochet group, a mahjong group and lots of leaflets for advice and help services.

Jaqui: We’ve got advice here from P3 to help people who need housing-related support, dealing with debt and tenancy support. The cafe works with Emerging Futures to help people with addiction recovery. If you have problems you can come along and talk them through with us if you need to, but most of all we focus on having fun, making new friends and strengthening these bonds in the community so that people start to look out for and care about each other. We’ve organised parties, BBQs, live music and the weekly cafés with hot food, teas, cakes and sandwiches which are all paid for by donation. You pay what you feel.

Last week was an important milestone for Paganhill Community Group as they started a new Youth Group. Debbie explained it to me.

Debbie: The kids themselves founded the group. I saw a bunch of teenagers huddled in the bus shelter one wet, miserable evening and they told me they had nowhere else to go. They asked if I could help so I worked with them to develop their ideas and then they took ownership of the whole project. They wrote their own set of rules, they decided what they wanted the new group to be, they made the posters and some pizzas and chocolate crunchies, and they launched the club. It’s a weekly group for 13 to 18 year olds. They’ll have music, a pool table, film nights and plays, and the older kids can mentor the younger ones. I’m really proud of how well they brought it all together.

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