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Reliance Bank proudly funded Colwall Community Church to help provide a safe haven for young people living in rural isolation

Colwall Community Church, fondly known as Coco Chu, sits in the centre of Colwall, a village nestled on the edge of the Malvern hills. Colwall was a tiny hamlet until the 1850s when the builders of the Worcester to Hereford Railway decided to build a long tunnel through the hills and a station which still serves the village today. The original chapel building was built for workers building the railway to worship and use as a place of refuge and relaxation. It was due to return to domestic use at the end of the railway building project, however there was a continued need for a chapel for Sunday worship to provide warmth, kindness, and support for the local community, and it has been there ever since.

Whilst the setting seems idyllic for passing visitors and walkers the young people of Colwall can find themselves living in rural isolation and restricted by location. For that reason, about eight years ago, Coco Chu established a Colwall Youth Project (CYP) which from small beginnings has grown into a flourishing independent charity with four full time and several part time youth workers.

Their charitable aims and objectives are to work with and provide support to young people through the challenges of pre-teen and teenage stages of growing up. They aim to develop young people’s physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing. CYP supports and encourages community involvement through consultation, youth social action, and volunteering. Their aim is to improve the lives and circumstances for young people aged 9-18 years old.

Challenge
The biggest challenge for the Project is the lack of suitable space to operate. The original chapel, even with its extension is just too small. Shortly after the first young people started to come along an opportunity arose to acquire some land at the rear of the church. The owners of a car repair business operating out of an old timber framed ‘shed’ wanted to retire and sell the site (the Silver Street Site). In six months, the church succeeded in raising the asking price through the generosity of church members and villagers. The building has been used at times by the church and the Project but is past economical refurbishment. It became clear that the site was not really big enough. An opportunity arose to purchase an additional piece of land, but we did not feel we could go back to our generous donors again so soon.

Solution
In 2020 Reliance Bank provided funding for the purchase of Laboratory cottage to provide a continuous piece of land from the front of the church on the main road to the back of the Silver Street site. Coco Chu are working with other local groups especially Colwall Youth Project to help develop a vision and strategy that will help support the needs of the community into the future. Finding a development plan to satisfy planners, neighbours and stakeholders has been a challenge but we believe we now have a scheme with which we can move forward which will deliver an attractive welcoming centre at the heart of the village for CYP, the church, and the community.

Impact
Whilst Malvern is an affluent area with its independent schools making house prices in the area expensive, Colwall and the surrounding area has a wide demographic profile. This means that some of the residents can be in low paid employment for much of their life. For that reason, Colwall Youth Project provides several facilities for the specific needs of the young people that come from low-income families that may have very few resources.
Colwall Youth Project’s experienced team of Youth Workers provide an accessible, friendly and safe environment for all young people. This service is delivered through drop-in sessions, 1-2-1 support, mental health and wellbeing support, targeted activities, school holiday activities, educational support, open access sessions, skills4life workshops, positive activities, and continued empowerment.

There is a full range of structured activities such as visits to the gym, table tennis, pool, basketball and volleyball to release adrenaline and build self-confidence. Also, a summer programme of trips such as partaking in outdoor adventure centre activities aim to teach children and young people new skills and create opportunities for meaningful occupation, as well as social well-being through integration with a network of peers. The team also have an outreach programme through which they engage with young people in local schools.

CYP aims to be a safe haven for young people living in rural isolation. Youth work is much more than evening youth groups and fun activities, it’s about allowing those young people who feel abandoned by society, by school, by family; the opportunity to feel cared for and included.

For those who start accessing the project at age 9, the role of the CYP project is to start a relationship of trust. As they grow and become young adults the project has a very different role, it is to teach them the many skills and life lessons they never see inside a classroom. Youth workers teach them about healthy relationships, safe sex, drug misuse, budgeting, cooking, housing, employment contracts, access to transport and the importance of talking about mental health and the value of humanity.

Testimonial
Jon – Trustee of Colwall Community Church commented: “We were introduced to David Price at Reliance Bank who immediately understood the need for funding and the benefit of purchasing Laboratory Cottage that would provide a significant resource to support our future plans. Reliance Bank have a unique knowledge of faith organisations and were keen to support our plans to develop a permanent hub for young people to feel cared for and included.”

The Salvation Army

We are proud to be the bank of The Salvation Army International. Find out more about our shared history.

We are proud to be the bank of The Salvation Army International. Find out more about our shared history.

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