During a visit to Birmingham this Autumn I had the pleasure to speak with two fantastic community projects in the area: The Rainbow Bridge Cafe and Go-Woman! Alliance CIC.
Although very different from each other, these projects have something very important in common: they both promote inclusivity and work to avoid isolation of marginalised groups in Birmingham.
The Rainbow Bridge Cafe
This lovely community hub is located in Birmingham LGBT Centre. Rainbow Bridge hosts Coffee Morning sessions twice a week as part of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme. In the words of their chairman, Terry: “the space welcomes any gay or straight person to have some refreshments and a chance to meet and chat with people”. This cafe offers a non commercial space to socialise and find out about other groups or services for the LGBTQIA+ community in Birmingham. The options are endless: reading groups, walking and biking groups, etc.
The coffee mornings have become part of the members’ weekly routines. Here they find a safe space to talk to friends and share ideas and cake. They have tried several ways of connecting and this is the one that has worked best so far. They’ve recently been planning a Christmas special event, an important gathering for those in the group who might feel more lonely during the festive season.
Members said that they struggle most with engaging new people to join them and organise different activities. “When people are isolated and stay at home because they feel lonely, it is difficult to reach out and invite them to come to our group,” says Terry.
You can read more about this project and follow them on their social media on Ageing With Pride Birmingham.
For my second visit of the day I moved to the residential area of Birmingham where Go-Woman! Alliance is located. This exciting organisation is located in a buzzing child care centre.
Go-Woman! Alliance supports and encourages women to get together to avoid isolation. They focus especially on first generation immigrants from the South Asian community, a group that the organisation deems “hard to reach”, as they don’t usually engage with community initiatives.
The members of Go-Woman! Alliance are invited to join various activities including English language courses, entrepreneur courses and arts and crafts for mental health. They have recently set up a secret garden where the members can grow tomatoes and strawberries, and bring some colour to the centre’s backyard!
As I arrived, their brand new morning group was back from their session and everybody was having tea and homemade food in the big living room. As Yasmin, the group manager, says: they try to get “the aunts and mums out in the community”.
The organisation has become a community hub for many women in the local area who see the group as a safe space to meet without expectations. It has been key in creating new connections between neighbours.
It is great to see such impressive initiatives blooming in Birmingham, bringing people together to create a more inclusive and positive society. You can read more about this project and follow them on their social media on the DOSTI’s Secret Garden SEMBLE project page.
The Semble team will be out and about visiting projects over the coming months, in order to meet project leads, and find out how we can best support projects to grow. If you would like a visit from us get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.