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High Sheriff finds inspiration and hope

by Michael Ford last modified 06 Mar, 2021 02:06 AM

Symondsbury Churchwarden George Streatfeild took on the role of High Sheriff of Dorset in the midst of the pandemic, and has been greatly encouraged by the way our parishes have responded to the needs of their local areas.

Over the year, George managed to visit communities across the area and was so encouraged that he has just published a booklet, Inspiring Hope, with stories from 22 projects.

He says:

“I want to share what I have learnt with others and to make people aware of some of the issues facing those that are struggling in our society. I also wish to highlight the importance of volunteers to our communities; not that we in Dorset receive social welfare on the cheap, but what they do underpins our fabric.”

Our Social Justice Manager Colin Brady says:

"Our communities have many needs and obviously the response to those needs comes from many groups, not just church projects. But it’s heartening to see that, in the list of projects that inspired hope for the High Sheriff in his visits around Dorset, many of them have their origins and continue to be inspired by the vision of local church members who have identified a need in their community and responded to that with what can often be a sacrificial generosity that makes a real difference for people who are vulnerable in some way or struggling to get by."

The Inspiring Hope booklet quotes many groups and individuals directly.

Feedback from clients of Bournemouth Foodbank shows the vital importance of their work, such as: “we know that our service can bring hope, relief and support changing the lives of many people who reach out to us via their support agencies, as well as helping to prevent crime. We will continue to do this until we are no longer needed.”

Bournemouth Town Pastors is an independent group of Christians who patrol the town centre of Bournemouth at night during the weekends, “to help anyone in need, whether that is sickness, confusion, distress, lost, lonely, worse for wear or simply just needs to talk. Our aim is to ensure that people get home safely and to show the love of Christ by being His hands and feet on the streets at night.”

Food Share in Dorchester puts together parcels of food from supermarket surplus and local growers to provide nutritional and fresh food to people who need that extra support. “Food parcels are delivered all over the DT1 & DT2 postcode area. Some of the villages are some distance from Poundbury, but all the more important to include, as the families are more isolated. At present regular deliveries are made to over 90 households a week. This is enabled by a strong delivery team of over 30 volunteers, who willingly give their time and energy to see every family receives their weekly parcel.”

Footprints is a long-running project that supports ex-offenders and people who might be caught up in a revolving door offending behaviour, providing person centred-support, “developing an action plan and meeting people once a week enabling them to lead purposeful, fulfilling lives, contributing positively to the local community. Footprints successfully brings together the voluntary sector, police, prisons and probation to identify and fill gaps in services, meeting the needs of those who are currently under-supported.”

The Lantern Centre in Weymouth has been providing drop-in support for people with mental health and other needs for many years with generous and active support from local churches. “Our ethos throughout our work is to empower the individual and always encourage personal choice and responsibility. The building of lasting trusting relationships with our clients are the foundation on which all our work is built on, the Lantern continues to be a place where laughter, friendship and hope are very apparent.”

The Pilsdon Community in West Dorset has been a place of refuge and healing for 1000s of people over the past 62 years. “Sharing each other’s lives at Pilsdon we learn we are not that different from each other. Our 10-acre smallholding with cattle and sheep (often pigs and chickens too), the dairy, gardens and kitchen keep us occupied and the ‘garden to table’ creative cooks bring us all to our dining room when the bell rings. Our Church and chapel bell rings 4 times daily reminding us the word ‘Love’ is a verb and within the practice of forgiveness for ourselves and each other we can live together encouragingly.”

The High Sheriff also visited Routes to Roots, the project that supports people who are living on the streets in Poole, and was encouraged to see the progress being made as they convert a former chapel into a new centre for their work. “It is awe-inspiring and quite humbling to hear Revd Pat Southgate’s passion and determination to transform a rundown building into somewhere safe, warm and welcoming for those struggling in today’s society – and not just because of Covid-19. She has created an amazing team of volunteers to support her vision and make sure it happens.”

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