Advertisement feature with the Aviva Community Fund
Did you know that Aviva are committed to building stronger communities up and down the country? One way they do this is their amazing Community Fund, offering groups the chance to secure between £1,000 and £25,000 in funding. The 2018 Aviva Community Fund Award Winners have just been announced and I had the chance to visit a brilliant group who won funding in 2016, to show the positive impact this year’s award winners can expect.
The Aviva Community Fund
Every year, local groups submit projects that would benefit from Aviva funding. It’s then up to the public to vote for that project to receive funding.
The groups and projects that apply for funding completely vary, but this year come under three categories: Environment, Health & Wellbeing and Skills for Life. They could be groups that support mental health issues, local sports initiatives, or projects that help to improve our local community areas.
For the past two years I’ve voted for projects myself (it literally does take a minute). But, this year I really wanted to get more involved and excitingly, I got to go and meet a group that previously benefitted from Aviva funding.
During my visit, I got to find out exactly what they did with that funding and how much of an impact it can make to local projects and communities.
Meet The CHAOS Group in Cornwall
Last Wednesday I headed up to CHAOS Cafe in Truro, Cornwall to meet with Nathan, the marketing manager of The CHAOS Group. If you haven’t heard of them before, CHAOS is a local community organisation that are making a HUGE difference to peoples lives in Cornwall.
CHAOS, which stands for: ‘Community Helping All Of Society’…
CHAOS works to help a whole variety of vulnerable people vulnerable people, people with disabilities, people with mental health issues, ex-offenders, homeless people, and so on.
Their main aim is to try and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in society. They do this in a number of ways.
They give them a safe place to go and help them to take part in meaningful activities through both one-off placement days and also 16-week long placements. These placements help them to build their confidence, their social skills and also their employability skills, so that they can find work in Cornwall.
CHAOS has two main hubs. They have the CHAOS Cafe in Truro – which is also home to a beauty salon, a radio station, and a learning facility. They also have the CHAOS Farm, which is a short drive away on the Roseland Peninsula. I got to visit both during my meet up and I honestly was wowed by everything that this group does and all the facilities that are available for people to use.
The CHAOS Cafe
My day started in the CHAOS cafe where I met some of the people behind the organisation. They explained to me that the cafe was run by volunteers, most of which are either vulnerable people, or people with disabilities.
Alongside the full-time staff, the cafe is run by these volunteers who come and do placement days where they can learn cookery skills and serving skills. The ‘Iconic Hair and Beauty Salon’ works in a similar way. Most of the week its run as a full-time salon, but it also offers placement days, so vulnerable people or people with disabilities who want to develop their skills.
A brand new radio station and recording studio is new to the CHAOS group and is going to be used to introduce yet another faction, where people can come and learn digital skills or where they can build their confidence through learning radio and digital media at their own pace.
I was given a basic round up of everything that CHAOS offer (which I’ll post more of below) but you really do need to check out their website for the full list of what they do.
CHAOS currently offer the following projects:
- Farm Placement Days – either one of days or 16 week programmes where volunteers learn more about the world of farming an agricultural skills
- Cafe Placement Days – either one off days or 16 week programmes where volunteers learn cooking skills, customer service and more about working in the catering industry
- Hairdressing Placement days – either one off days or 16 week programmes where volunteers learn basic skills from hair and beauty to customer service.
- Equine Therapy – either one on one sessions or group sessions. Equine therapy is known to help with a variety of mental health issues such as addiction and low self-esteem.
- Forestry School – Which offers Bushcraft and other team building skills
You can find out more about all of these projects here: CHAOS Group
The CHAOS Farm
After my tour of the CHAOS Cafe site, we drove twenty minutes to the CHAOS Farm where I would get to see even more of the project and also where I’d get to find how the money from the AVIVA Community Fund was spent.
Here I got to meet Jess (pictured above in the pink) whose family owns the farm and who are the main founders of the CHAOS group. Jess, an ex-veterinary nurse, now runs all the programmes on the farm.
She showed me around and explained a little bit more of what they do here. The farm is very much a working farm, but with a really unique twist. The farm offers placement days, volunteer and mentoring programmes, as well as Equine Assisted Learning and one-on-one Equine therapy.
During my visit, the group (a mixture of volunteers, mentors and people taking part in placements) were busy attending to the horses, making up their feeds, helping to groom them and so much more.
Jess explained that anyone who comes to the farm can take part in learning about animal care, horticulture and farming, while also building their confidence and communication skills. The farm is very much a working farm, where everyone chips in and helps out. No two days are the same and placements can just be a one off day, or people can take part in a 16 week programme where they come to the farm to help out one day every week.
How The Aviva Community Fund Helped Chaos
While I was on the farm, I chatted to Nathan and Jess about the impact the Aviva Community Fund had had on their project. In 2017, they were awarded £1000. They used this funding to turn an overgrown space into a sensory garden – a place of ‘quiet’ and ‘escape’ for both staff and people doing placements.
You just need to take a quick glance at the photos to see how much work went into transforming this space. Look at the height and width of those brambles! That whole area was previously completely blocked off. But, the transformation, thanks to the funding is incredible.
Without the funding, the Sensory Garden wouldn’t have been possible and I can’t even describe to you how much of an impact the Sensory Garden has made to everyone on the farm.
Lots of people who come to do placements at CHAOS are either very vulnerable, they have disabilities or they have different social and communication barriers. The farm gets pretty ‘chaotic’ with people.
Even while I was there, there were at least twenty people working collectively on the farm, in different close knit spaces. This can get very overwhelming for some, which is why the Sensory Garden was created.
The Sensory Garden is a safe space that can be used by anyone who needs that time out and a little bit of quiet. It’s also a place where people who are experiencing Equine Therapy can go and sit for moments of reflection.
The Benefits Of The Sensory Garden
While I was on the farm, I spoke to a lady who told me how much she had benefitted from the space that was created. The lady had previously done a 16 week placement on the farm and was now back again working to become a mentor to others. She explained how she often gets overwhelmed when it comes to socialising or when there is more than a handful of people on the farm. She uses the space a lot, just to escape to for moments of peace until she feels less overwhelmed and she’s ready to bring herself back to the group.
Jess also explained to me that the therapies they do on the farm can sometimes be quite emotional for people. Just having that place that they can escape to by themselves is such an asset. It’s amazing how much of an impact this garden has had on the work that they do here.
The Sensory Garden
When I visited the Sensory Garden myself, I could really see why it’s such a loved and needed place. Even in the last days of Autumn, it still looked beautiful. But, Nathan insisted on sending me over some photos of what the garden looked like throughout Spring and Summer, just so I could see just how amazing the transformation actually was! Look how beautiful this space is?
The garden is very much a hands on space, where people can go and experience different sensory elements. They can touch the flowers, sit peacefully on the benches, explore a variety of scents and spot different types of wildlife. What I also love is that so many people chipped in to help build this spot. In true CHAOS style they made the community part of the of the project and they all built this space together.
The CHAOS Community
One thing that really struck me about this whole CHAOS project was the sense of community. The CHAOS Group really does bring together a real mix of people in one big safe place. Whether on the farm, in the cafe, the salon or the recording studio, CHAOS is a place where people can go and be accepted for themselves. It’s a place where people can either go to work on self development, or just a place where they can go to feel apart of the local community. There is no divide between anyone and its a fully inclusive space where all are welcome.
Another thing I really love about CHAOS is that they are constantly evolving. There are no set ‘rules’ to who they can and cannot help. As new things crop up, they’re quick to try and adapt their structure to extend a hand to more people in the local community.
Visiting CHAOS and learning more about them was such an eye-opening experience. I’ll certainly be popping back to the cafe regularly. It was also so great to see the impact that the Aviva Community Fund can have on a project. Every vote really does count and even the smallest fund makes a huge difference.
Voting For Your Local Project
Voting is now closed for 2018, but definitely keep an eye on the Aviva Community Fund website to see the finalists. The finalists will all be announced next week and you can see which projects near to you could be receiving funding from this years vote.
Additionally, all the projects that will be awarded funding for 2018 will be announced in January, so watch this space because we’ll be sharing with you who those winners are!