We are absolutely delighted to have won such a prestigious award, to be recognised for the hard work that we do is an amazing achievement for the charity. @topchurchtrain

Please tell us what you do and how it makes a difference in the community?

Top Church Training / The Connect Project overall purpose is to reduce isolation and increase participation of unskilled, lonely, and vulnerable people through a variety of activities.

Individuals who are referred to the Charity are unemployed and living in poverty.

They are struggling with their mental health / general well-being, lack hope in their lives and have low confidence and self-esteem. Through the support that we offer, we focus on overcoming their barriers, working with each individual to achieve their goals and help them access the many opportunities that are on offer.

The cafe volunteering placement scheme provides people with valuable work experience to update their employment skills and to educate those involved around healthy eating and cooking on a budget. We focus on building their confidence and self-esteem, technical and social skills to prepare them to return to education, training and employment.

How has this award made you and your volunteers feel?

We are absolutely delighted to have won such a prestigious award, to be recognised for the hard work that we do is an amazing achievement for the charity.

All our staff, trustees and volunteers are very honoured and very proud of this achievement.

How are you going to celebrate this amazing success?

We will be joining forces with Dudley Voices for Choices and Discover U and celebrate this achievement together. We are planning a formal affair, black tie and cocktail dresses, venue and dates to be confirmed.

This will be a fabulous affair and one to look forward to post Covid 19.

Sadly because of the Covid 19 outbreak we have been unable to celebrate as a charity at the time of the announcement and had to inform staff, trustees and volunteers virtually through zoom chats, telephone calls and social media.

Do you think this award will have an impact on the work of your organisation going forward? Will it change anything?

This award will most certainly have a positive impact moving forward. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award a voluntary group can achieve. We have been recognised for the huge amount of hard work that has gone into our volunteering schemes and we look forward to the recognition which it brings.

Has your team faced any challenges, had to work differently, or offer new services in the current Covid-19 Pandemic?

Because of the Covid 19 pandemic we have been forced to place our café volunteers on hold until it is safe for them to return to the workplace. However, our Allotment volunteers have continued to meet every week throughout the pandemic and looked after our salad plants and vegetable patch. They have found this to be a lifeline and a reason to get outside in the fresh air. Being outdoors and meeting other volunteers, keeping to social distancing and Covid 19 measurers, has helped their mental health.

On a positive, Covid 19 has provided the charity a much-needed time for reflection and to a unique opportunity to introduced new ones. Already we have been delivering live Quizzes, Virtual craft groups, wellness sessions and Cooking sessions on our Youtube channel! We are now reaching over 6 Thousand people per month!

Throughout the Covid 19 pandemic the café team have worked hard and have been providing a free food delivery service to our most vulnerable service users. Each week they have received homemade delicious foods, including chicken curry: vegetable pasta bakes: chilli’s and spaghetti Bolognese. We have prepared nearly 2000 meals for people and their families in the community. With the help of Martin Jones, DudleyCVS we have received funding to sustain this operation so many more people can benefit from this scheme.

To find out more or how you can get involved

Please join us on: facebook.com/topchurchtraining

facebook.com/HarrysCafe65

Young Health Champions step up during Covid-19 pandemic #youngpeopledoing #covidsuperstars @YHCDudley @WeAreBCR

One our longest serving Young Health Champion Becky has been busy writing blogs for the DYHC wordpress site www.dudleyyhc.wordpress.com  Even though Becky has been finding lockdown personally challenging, as always, she has been thinking about how she can support other young people. Becky has produced a number of flyers for young people on handwashing, things to do during lockdown and how young people can look after their emotional health. Becky also volunteered to make a leaflet more ‘young person friendly’ that the Safeguarding Board had produced for young people. This offer was well received and now Becky is working on an ongoing basis with the Safeguarding tean to help make information more accessible to young people

We have also been working with Ash – who is a YHC and training to be a dentist. Ash has written a number of blogs which get uploaded on a weekly basis and provided information on dental hygiene during lockdown and other health related information. Ash has also been shopping and collecting medication for local residents in Stourbridge.