Donations to our Community Resilience Fund reached new heights in January, as a result of our appeal to fund urgent projects responding to the third lockdown. We are so grateful for the generosity of our supporters, which means we are able to meet the immediate priorities, and are now looking to the next few months to understand ongoing community needs.
In January OCF appealed for urgent help to fund a grants round that was overwhelmed with applications from charitable organisations doing their best to help the local community.
We are delighted to have since received in excess of £65k in donations, which alongside final funding from the National Emergencies Trust means we can fund £135,857 of approved applications responding to immediate needs. These include helping low-income families with immediate access to essential supplies or laptops for home schooling; continuing online support for people shielding with disabilities and ill health; and supporting young people to avoid mental health or behavioural problems as they face lockdown. It has been an extraordinary response from our community of donors, who we cannot thank enough – including those who chose to remain anonymous.
However, while we were able to support the immediate needs, we still have £110k in further grant applications for critical medium-term projects that will help the community deal with the effects of the pandemic over the coming year. This includes an initiative delivering ‘return to school’ mental health and wellbeing sessions for primary children. One proposal will deliver peer mentoring for women leaving prison in the context of COVID restrictions, whilst another will support the families of people who have turned to drugs and alcohol. Many of the applications will help particularly vulnerable groups, such as refugees and carers, to cope with the next stages of the pandemic.
We are acutely conscious of dire warnings about the long-term effects of the crisis on charities, with two-thirds of small organisations in the youth sector alone at risk of permanent closure at a time when families need them the most, having experienced huge drops in fundraising income. More than half of charitable organisations are expecting demand for their services to rise significantly because of the twin impact of lockdowns and rising unemployment – more people are struggling with their mental health or financial situation. Our networks locally tell us that this reflects the picture in Oxfordshire, where pressure is mounting on those who support the vulnerable. We need to equip ourselves to continue our support of the local sector into the coming months and years.
High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Amanda Ponsonby, who has been working closely with OCF during her Shrieval Year, says: “The important role that the community foundation plays is that it has the most amazing overview of the charity and voluntary sector in the county. If anyone is wanting to help and wondering where to begin, they should look to the community foundation.”
If you are able to help with our ongoing pandemic response and recovery, please make a donation to our Community Resilience Fund. You can give online here, or find out about cheque and BACS payments here.