When we established Oxford Community Action, we had received a couple comments asking us why there was a need for yet another food distribution service.
Although we have been clear from the start that we are not merely a food distribution service, and that we are working closely with the community leaders who operate on a grassroots level to gain valuable insight into each respective community to provide a platform for them to develop, sometimes we need to re-iterate these points so that others can understand our direction too.
Working closely with established community leaders allows us to be highly approachable. Some community members feel that they cannot approach larger organisations due to real and perceived barriers such as language, culture, residential status, or even an unwillingness to admit that they are in need of help; this results in further isolation of some pockets of the community as they become harder and harder to reach.
With established trust channels in place built up over many years by our community champions, it means that we can help those that were typically hard to reach, and interact and offer services to them in a way that they are familiar with, in their own language and with a better understanding of their complex situations.
We have identified that these hard to reach communities are not only in need of food and provisions. In fact, there are a whole plethora of issues that need to be addressed. So we established our organisation to help upskill community members so that their reliance on the system is overcome.
This is the true aim of charity – not to continually feed people and leave them with no solution for betterment.
We need to be forward thinkers. We need to plan and prepare for the future, and work with each other to allocate resources where they are needed most – but also teach the community members how to manage these resources to everyone’s collective advantage.
We have been working closely with Healthwatch Oxfordshire for that very reason – where we can engage with and lead important research into the inequalities facing some pockets of society and then address it to make real changes. In 2019, our collaborative research into Mens Health and how men access these NHS services proved that there needs to be a greater outreach to certain communities; and services have been improved as a direct result of this research. This year, our research initiatives have resulted in this mental health and wellbeing survey.
Through our work, we have also been in touch with Oxfordshire Mind and Restore to offer a Mental Health First Aid qualification for several members of the community. This will allow us to collectively identify when there is a mental health issue in their respective communities and then use the tools and skills gained to address it properly with full support.
We aim to equip all new and emerging BAME communities with the necessary skills to empower themselves so that they can protect themselves and others around them.
Work with us on this project – let’s get the ball rolling!