It isn’t every day you take the newly minted chair of the Charity Commission on a personal tour of grassroots charities. And yet, this week I had the pleasure of hosting Orlando Fraser on a visit to The Oasis Centre and Mustard Tree, two superb frontline charities in Manchester.
The visits hit home an important truth: small, community-based charities really matter. They are a lifeline –physically and emotionally – to the people they serve.
At Oasis, located in Gorton, we joined about 100 people for a home-cooked lunch, which the centre provides every day, free to anyone who needs it. While food may bring people in, the relationships and love they experience keep them coming back.
Founded 21 years ago by Victoria Armstrong with little more than a kettle, a toaster and £5 in the bank, Oasis still operates on the same principles today as it did then: everyone is welcome; a hot meal will always be provided; tea and coffee are on tap; and love and support are freely given.
A similar story awaited us across the city at Mustard Tree, a homelessness charity that has become a beacon in its community providing a wide range of services at its impressive Ancoats headquarters. After touring their furniture warehouse where volunteers repair (and then deliver) pre-loved items, we saw their discounted food shop and café. The centre also offers access to skills training, art therapy, English lessons, and even an onsite optician for those who need it.
The many programmes held at Mustard Tree means that anyone who walks through the door gets practical support to help them re-discover their confidence, motivation and ideally employment.
Commenting after the visits, Orlando Fraser said it was “inspiring to see them in action and to understand the challenges they face. Small charities are vital to the communities they serve, providing support to those who need it most, and it is great to see organisations like the CSJ Foundation championing their cause.”
The impact these charities are having on their local community is invaluable, but you get a visceral sense of what this means when you see it up-close. Days like these make me proud to lead the CSJ Foundation – along with our superb team spread out in Manchester, Newcastle, Leicester and London. Our mission is to spot and support these life-enhancing organisations. So often they go unknown, unheard and underfunded. Our role is to help change that.