Case Study: Eastside Connect
The St Monica Trust has awarded Eastside Community Trust with £20,000 per annum for 3 years through the Peer Support Fund, which launched in 2020 due to the loneliness identified through the pandemic.
Eastside Community Centre is a thriving community hub in East Central Bristol that provides people of all ages with places and ways to connect. They focus on supporting the local community to build happy and healthy neighborhoods.
As a result of the pandemic, they identified a need for additional support for those over 55 who had become isolated and withdrawn throughout multiple lockdowns.
With the funding received from St Monica Trust, Eastside Community Centre launched a new project, Eastside Connect, a social network for those over 55 who want to connect with those in their community.
Since the start of the project, they have run various activities, including running several sessions over the phone to engage with those who struggle to leave their homes. However, the in-person events have taken off well and are making a real difference to the lives of the attendees.
The most popular activities by far are Come Dine with Us, a fortnightly lunch club in which the Kitchen Co-ordinator cooks up a recipe for everyone to enjoy, and Cuppa to Connect – a weekly session where people are invited to come and enjoy a cup of tea and talk to people of a similar age.
These activities attract a variety of different people from different backgrounds, which makes for excellent conversation and sometimes unlikely friendships.
56-year-old Gillian was referred to Eastside Community Trust by Bristol City Council after moving to Bristol to live with relatives after spending some time homeless in London. She had very limited connections in the area and felt isolated and alone. Eastside Connect Coordinator, Tracy Edwards-Brown, reached out to invite Gillian along to one of the sessions.
By attending the sessions, I became more open, and my confidence has increased.
Gillian started attending the Cuppa to Connect sessions held each week and soon made good friends within her local community. She now regularly initiates catch-ups with her new friends outside of the organised sessions and has taken newcomers to the group under her wing.
“It’s great to see this peer-to-peer engagement going on – the focus of Eastside Connect is to facilitate these interactions for the community to then allow that community to take ownership of it and shape it to suit them. This model allows the funding from St Monica Trust to have an impact long beyond the project itself.”
Tracy Edwards-Brown, Eastside Connect Coordinator
These meetings allow people to spend time with others, making friends and supporting each other. Two volunteers attend each session to set up and help guide conversation, although as the group has developed and people have grown in confidence this is less necessary and the conversations flow naturally.
“I feel stronger now. Coming to Cuppa to Connect has given me my independence, it has brought out my personality.”
The Trust’s Charitable Giving team helps tackle a variety of issues by distributing in excess of £750,000 to individuals, families, and organisations across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and Bath & North-East Somerset.
The team provides gifts and grants that go directly to those who will benefit the most and are committed to helping more people by increasing the amount distributed over the next few years.