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Newsletter Sept 2011

Welcome to Year 7 of Rotherfield St Martin. It’s amazing to think how far we have come since we opened in September 2005. What is particularly special is that we are now back at the Memorial Institute where we first started with an afternoon for 6-8 people having a get-together and enjoying tea and cakes. Well that certainly hasn’t changed. It’s just that we have grown!

We moved into our new home at the end of May after a very happy time at Carisbrooke. The ground floor of the Institute has been refurbished, thanks to the support of the Abbeyfield Trustees. John Meyer, our builder, has done a super job and we are feeling very much at home here right in the centre of the village. If you haven’t been in to see us, please come and visit, enjoy refreshments and browse in the reopened library which is now available four and a half days a week.
We have taken over the running of the library so folk can come in to borrow books or sit and read in pleasant surroundings. We are very fortunate that two of our members are very experienced librarians and have worked with books for many years. Helen Kennedy and Fran Farley will be in charge ably assisted by Pam Francis and also Caroline Brackley who has helped with the library in the past. There is a good selection of books, large print ones and some children’s books as well.
Over the last year a number of member-led activities have flourished. Knitting and Nattering is a favourite with afternoons of knitting squares to make blankets to send abroad and to local groups. Bridge sessions are well attended and we are hoping to start a Chess Club in the autumn. Yoga has also been popular as it augments the exercise programme. We are very grateful to Carol Hanley for being a super tutor and are sorry to see her go but delighted that Jane Heywood is now taking the sessions.
The exercise programme at Freedom Leisure has been the best yet this year. The staff have been superb in preparing courses which have been almost tailor made for the group. We have had a number of new participants and many folk are bearing testimony to the improvement in mobility and general health and well-being.
Computer classes were well attended and supported by a great team of volunteers, mostly gentlemen I might add! We received funding from Awards for All to help purchase new laptops for the classes and for our internet café which we started at Carisbrooke. A new training programme will start in the autumn.
Another art project with Scotney Castle proved an enjoyable challenge to those who took part. Spread over the year, it was inspired by the gardens at Scotney and was based at the Village Hall where tutors, Elizabeth Wood and Deborah Tompsett offered a range of creative classes focusing on drawing from the right side of the brain, painting in different styles and being adventurous!
Once again 6th form students from Beacon Community College helped and the project culminated in a Celebration Day in June. The work was beautifully displayed in the tea room and admired by many folk visiting Scotney. We are planning to continue with art classes this coming year as a number of members have got the bug!
So many more activities have happened this last year; trips out to local concert and productions, lovely afternoons out to members’ homes and gardens, visits from some superb speakers including Deborah Bedford, the High Sheriff of East Sussex, members trying out indoor bowls, a wonderful party for our volunteers to name but a few. The social calendar gets ever more full!
Oakley School 16+ students have continued with work experience at the Centre as well as inviting us for an afternoon at the school for entertainment
and tea. This is a wonderful way of mixing the generations and many friendships have been formed.
Our Befrienders Scheme is meeting many needs in the community. We visit new members with a Welcome Pack, arrange visits for members in hospital and pop in to see folk in their own homes if we haven’t seen them for a while or they have requested or been recommended for a visit. This is very much at the heart of our care and support. It can make someone’s day to have a friendly person dropping in.
The Voluntary Driver Scheme has been in great demand and is growing by the month. We have extended our area to include all main hospitals and do the occasional London journey. Feedback from this service has been very positive.
Our annual Holiday at Home was enjoyed by many, the trip to Bexhill always being a favourite. Thursday saw a morning of painting cards and envelopes, followed by lunch cooked by the RSM committee. Then a fascinating talk by Margaret Hemsley, Pearly Queen of Tunbridge Wells Borough, was followed by a musical entertainment. Friday saw a group visiting Broadview Gardens at Hadlow College. A smashing three days.
Our therapists continue to provide an excellent service and achieving very positive results with improvement in mobility and general health. We were sorry to have to say ‘Goodbye’ to Jodie Gillam, our reflexologist who had been with us for two years. Jodie was very popular because of her caring nature and sunny personality. We have however found another therapist, Roger Harris, who has a lot of experience and an equally caring nature. He will be joined by Jeff Davis, a counsellor and Leana Chan who will be providing a home hair cutting service for members who cannot get out to the hairdresser. In conjunction with Age UK, we are hoping to train a volunteer in toe nail cutting as this is a service which is in great demand.
A new venture for us this year has been commissioning work. We were asked if we would provide day care services for a group of five people who had been at a facility in Uckfield. Since May they have been coming on a Monday, having morning activities with an activities coordinator and two volunteers and then joining RSM members in the afternoon. It is going very well and the group is very happy being with us. We also put in four applications in the first round of commissioning bids set up by East Sussex County Council. Owing to the enormous cuts in local government funding many of the services, particularly those in children’s services and adult social care have been put out to tender. We were successful in one of our bids which will support our on-going activities.

We have also been working with two residential homes in Crowborough, High Broom & Pinewood. We have provided an activities programme to augment what is already provided, activities including gentle exercise, hand massage, storytelling, poetry and flower arranging. Both projects have been well received by residents and staff and we hope to continue sharing our skills and expertise with other groups.

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Andy Lakin-Hall as Jo’s deputy. We had three very able candidates for the post but it was felt that Andy would bring a wealth of experience, energy and new skills to the project. Andy has been doing some work for us with the group from Uckfield and showed great empathy and enthusiasm in delivering their activities programme. Andy is now set up in the office with his own desk, computer, telephone and box of sweets!

Funding continues to be at the fore of our concerns. We are very grateful to have received a three year grant of £36,000 from the Tudor Trust. This is specifically to cover the salary of our new Deputy Charity Manager and some of our core costs. We continue to trust in the Lord for His guidance and provision in this area.

Speaking of funding, we were once again so grateful for the brilliant effort by our postman, Nigel Brunsdon and his team in running the Tunbridge Wells Half marathon for us in February. They trained hard and raised over £2,000 for funds. Also our wonderful Classics to Clangers Concert in June raised over £1,500, the RSM Songbirds taking to the stage! This together with raffles, our small shop at RSM Centre, small fundraising projects, subscriptions and donations has brought in £20,000 this year.

Having been independently nominated, we were delighted to have reached the final stage of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This was a rigorous process going through a number of stages. We weren’t successful this year but we have been kept in the pool for next year’s awards. It is a tribute to the work and support of our volunteers that we have got this far.

Our relationship with Brighton University has developed and on September 19th, Jo and Andy Miller, Chairman of RSM, will be helping to present a seminar ‘Big Society, Small Community’ in which we will share the RSM model of good practice and look to see if it can be replicated in other communities. This coming year will be one of consolidation but also looking at how we can reach more people who need our care services and those communities who would like to start a similar project.

My thanks and appreciation must go to our wonderful trustees and committee for their continued support and unstinting hard work in helping to move RSM forward. After many years of organising the RSM finances, our fantastic treasurer, Bernard Sparrow, has decided to ‘hang up the purse’ after he presents the accounts at the AGM. Bernard’s work has been exemplary and of a very high standard. Many grant funders has complimented us on our accounts and this has been down to Bernard’s professional approach to everything. Without his careful planning and budgeting, we would not be where we are today. We are greatly indebted to him for all he has done. The job will be taken on by John Westwood, our present secretary and another very efficient member of the team. Margaret Rhee and Renee Booth are also stepping down at AGM. Both ladies have given so much of their time and experience to the work of RSM for which we are extremely grateful. Special thanks to Gerry, my superb assistant, to all our amazing volunteers without whom we just couldn’t function and to the many, many individuals, local groups, statutory services and professional bodies who support our vision. And as always to you, our dear members, for believing in and using our services. It is a joy and privilege to serve you.

Jo Evans - September 2011

Dates for Diary

Mon 5th Sept RSM Centre and library reopen
Mon 19th Sept Jo Evans & Andy Miller to take part in Brighton University Seminar
Wed 28th Sept Exercise Programme begins at Freedom Leisure
Sat 1st Oct Rotherfield & Mark Cross Bonfire Society Carnival
Mon 7th Nov Film ‘Amazing Grace’ at Village Hall - 1.30pm start
Mon 21st Nov AGM at Village Hall 2pm
Mon 5th Dec Senior Citizens Carol Service at St Denys’ 2.30pm
Mon 12th Dec Christmas Party at Village Hall 2pm
Fri 23rd Dec - Mon 2nd Jan CHRISTMAS CLOSURE