Celebrating 25 years in the community
BECHANGE was established 25 years ago this Spring.
Then known as the Aylesham Neighbourhood Project, the organisation quickly became a place for families and peoples to come and get support and take part in activities.
The last two years have been amongst the most challenging in the charity’s history. When Covid hit and the lockdown began two years ago we were faced with a choice: wind down the facility, apply for furlough and keep our fingers crossed that the crisis would soon pass, or to adapt and continue to offer crucial services to Aylesham and the villages. Staff stayed working throughout the pandemic, sometimes from home but often in the kitchen and hall organising food and other essential household items, alongside our wonderful volunteers.
More than 17,000 oven ready meals were delivered to people’s homes who had problems getting food and necessities from other sources.
We were able to take on more staff and our expert benefit advisers helped families access help and support at a time when incomes were cut.
We realised early on that we had to prepare for the work we would need to do after the crisis, and we put together a three-year project to bring vital funding and resources to Aylesham.
We are now delighted that we have secured funding from the National Lottery that would keep many of our services going.
We were also delighted to be chosen by the Kent Community Foundation as the Dover area charity to receive core funding support as part of its project to celebrate their twentieth anniversary.
We also received support from the a number of trusts including the Swire Charitable Foundation, Kent Mind Charity, Aylesham Workshop Trust, as well as Dover District Council, Kent County Council and the Parish Council during the crisis and over the last 25 years.
We also received lots of donations from the general public.
We pride ourselves in working in partnership with other local and national organisations, this is the best way to be able to provide a broad range of activities and services for the community.
A key part of the Bechange service is to help and guide people to secure the correct entitlement and we work alongside our clients to help them find their way through what can be a daunting and difficult time.
Our support is available to all, and we can help with your issues no matter how big or small. The friendly support team pride themselves on their extensive knowledge and expertise. Our Family Support Worker and Senior Support Worker have many years of experience to support your individual needs, in areas such as finding a job, benefits, housing or family matters.
Bechange was selected as the location for the ASPIRE project – a major programme to help and support people into health and employment. The Aspire has a team of Project Coordinators who will guide participants through the range of activities and support that will enable participants to improve their wellbeing and skills. This is a great fit for the continuing work of Bechange, who work holistically with people in the community.
We now have a busy timetable of projects at our community hub. Some are offered and led by the ASPIRE team and some are part of our regular activities. New ones are coming along, such as the Baby Club and Lite Bites Community Lunch and new community groups are sprouting up – including the popular Arts Club and Up-cycling sessions. And anyone who has dropped into one of the popular ‘Camerados Public Living Room’ weekly social gatherings will appreciate the friendly atmosphere the centre has.
And one big change you will see if you visit the centre, is the wonderful new garden. ASPIRE has led the project to clear, plan, plant and grow on the over-grown area behind our building. It now has safe pathways, storage, fencing and has been designed to allow access for all. It is a great place to come and pick up some tips, make friends and enjoy helping things grow. It will be a great resource left in the village once the ASPIRE project ends in a year or two’s time. We have a well equipped kitchen that is a great space for showing beginners how to cook great meals, introduce people to skills needed in the hospitality sector, and to prepare and cook community meals.
We also operate as the contact point for Deal Area Foodbank. Staff can help with vouchers and Bechange is the venue for the foodbank’s new mobile centre which will be visiting twice a week on Tuesday and Friday mornings. And every Friday, Bechange is the distribution point for Fareshare – the project that cuts food waste by ‘making still good to eat’ food from local farms and supermarkets available to the community with no need for vouchers.
Fareshare times are 9.30am until the food is gone. We also have a Community Fridge where anyone can drop off ‘in date but not needed’ food for others to make use of. And of course, people can pop in and take home anything in the fridge that they can put to good use.
It has been an eventful few years and we want to celebrate and bring our community together – Watch this space, because over the 2022 period we will be planning a number of events to celebrate our 25th anniversary.