With help from the Voluntary Services Emergency Fund, the Centre for African Entrepreneurship (CAE) has been providing Swansea’s BAME community with vital services during the coronavirus pandemic.
CAE has been providing employment assistance and entrepreneurial guidance to BAME individuals in Swansea since its opening in 2017.
Each year, hundreds of people visit the centre for entrepreneurship support, English language courses, business clinics and employment advice.
Alongside delivering services within the community centre, the CAE also runs annual global entrepreneurship week events and mental health awareness workshops for the local community.
Thanks to the centre, over 50 people a week now have access to the internet via the IT facilities, 5 people have gone into full-time employment and 19 people have begun volunteering.
‘A sense of belonging’
Yolanda Barnes, Operations Manager, said: ‘Our work has helped to tackle inequality in Swansea by providing a safe environment for BAME people to receive face-to-face consultation for all areas of life.
‘Whether it’s helping asylum seekers who have just arrived in the city with translation support, or guiding local young people through entrepreneurship training, the CAE offers the BAME community a sense of belonging.
‘People who visit our Centre immediately feel at home and that they can trust us to work towards a brighter future for themselves. This is especially important for the refugees and asylum seekers we support, who can feel overwhelmed by their change of setting.’
When the pandemic hit
The CAE was a focal point for the community, empowering BAME communities, and promoting community cohesion. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in February, the centre had to adapt to a new way of helping their community.
In response to the crisis, the CAE and its volunteers are now running a foodbank service. The team, along with 6 volunteers, now collects and distributes 83 food parcels to vulnerable BAME households within and around Swansea.
It has become a vital service for the community, providing not only the food but a sense of hope.
During the drop-offs volunteers also take some time to chat with the recipients, ensuring that they have all the support they need and keeping them updated with accurate information around the pandemic.
Funding from WCVA and Welsh Government’s Voluntary Services Emergency Fund (VSEF) has allowed the CAE to purchase PPE to protect their volunteers, and a refrigerated food van to facilitate the food bank and meet the increase in demand for the service.
Amongst this, the team has also been able to purchase mobile phones to enable to staff to continue to provide support to service workers while they work from home.
Additionally, the CAE has also opened two helpline numbers to support individuals with mental health issues, or those who may have lost their jobs or had to close their businesses.
Yolanda continued: ‘It’s been a big success so far – we’ve been able to ease the burden for many vulnerable BAME people by ensuring they no longer have to worry about struggling to put food on the table or suffering in silence with their mental health.
‘None of this would have been possible without the support of our key funders like the WCVA. What really impressed me about the WCVA was just how quickly it was able to help us. This speedy intervention allowed us to immediately get to work helping our service users!’
Find out how your organisation can apply for funding from VSEF to make sure you can continue to provide vital support to people in need during this time.