Like so many places, the Octagon Community Centre on Brook Farm Drive has seen many changes in the last year.
While many of the regular activities taking place there were halted, the team from the Brook Farm Community Association stepped up their work to support the local community during lockdown. As they prepare to re-open, Sarah McCarten-Williams, Development Worker from The Octagon tells us more.
What’s the history of the centre?
The Octagon Centre opened around 1995 and was a response to local people’s belief that more was needed for the local community. Over the years it’s been used by groups from outside the immediate area – our aim is to make sure it continues to provide the services and support required by the community on its doorstep.
I became involved here around 3 years ago, when we began to consult local people on what they wanted. In response we re-started a youth club and an after-school café for families, known as the Thursday Project. As soon as lockdown restrictions allow and volunteers are in place, we aim to get things running again once a week.
Tell us more about The Thursday Project
Families can drop in after school. We offer a light meal, and activities. It’s very much a community hub and a chance for people to meet with others and perhaps get support with something like job seeking or managing finances. We will invite people from local support services like Action for Children, or debt advisers, or Building Better Opportunities to come along, so if people have particular questions or issues, there is someone on hand to advise them.
What did you do during lockdown?
From March to September last year we distributed around 25 emergency food parcels each week. We also ran a Cook and Eat Project where we provided a recipe card and the ingredients for families to learn to cook and try some new meals together. In the summer we ran Not School Lunch which is a project to help families who are usually on Free School Meals during the school holidays, we have managed to continue this in all the school holidays since.
In September we launched Our Community Pantry which is a way to tackle food poverty and distribute surplus food. We work with Fareshare, a charity network that helped us provide 180kg of food to local people every week. We also receive donations from Morrisons. Our Pantry continues to open every Tuesday 9:30am-11am and currently Thursday 2:30pm-4pm although this session will change when we reopen Thursday Project.
Do you have future plans?
Looking forward, we are seeking funds to be able to re-open the youth club as soon as we can. As summer progresses, we would like to carry out more community work using our outdoor space and are seeking funding for that. Funding is key to our success and we hope to continue building our income, which will help us to expand the community work we do and in particular it will help to employ another person to assist in running the centre and expand our work.
We would also like to expand our volunteer roles and if you can spare any time, we will make you very welcome. This will be especially important as we start to resume our activities. If you would like to find out more about us, please visit our website, where you will also find a volunteer application form to complete. Alternatively, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Octagon is currently fundraising to improve their outdoor space. If you would like to support them please go to www.spacehive.com/outside-octagon