Malvern Link with Cowleigh has started an after-school club for local families in the hall at the Church of the Ascension. Parents with primary school age children can come along to the club, to do craft and games together and then have a hot meal. Bishop Martin visited the club last week as part of a day in the parish.
Ness Everitt works with young people in the parish (alongside her role as Chaplain at Dyson Perrins CE Secondary School). She said: “We promoted the club in our local primary schools, and we regularly have 6 or 7 families coming with children from year 1 to year 8. It is a great opportunity to build relationships with families and we’ve got a few Ukrainian families attending which is really lovely.”
The weekly club is run by a small group of volunteers from the churches. Each session has a focussed craft for the children to do alongside their parents and everyone sits down to eat a meal such as pasta and crumble, jacket potato or chilli-con-carne. For their pumpkin carving session they had over 40 people attend. Many of the families also come to the other events run by the churches and some came to the Christmas Eve service. The Community Fridge is based in the same building, so families can also be given any left-over food. “Last week everyone went home with some potatoes!” said Ness.
Julie King joined St Peter’s Church a couple of years ago and has become involved in volunteering at the after-school club. She said: “We’ve found St Peter’s to be a wonderful, welcoming community church and I was keen to be part of that. The after-school club provides an opportunity sit and chat to the parents and the older children and check in with them.”
The group is appreciated by the parents. Sarah and Tasha said: “Our children love coming – they tell their teachers that they are going to church! They would like to come every day and it’s great that there is something different for them to do rather than going home to play on their iPads.”
Amy brings her three children aged 5,6 and 11. She said: “It’s been an absolute Godsend and is the highlight of the week for the kids. There is nothing else for younger children in the area and because the church is connected to the school, the children already know all the adults involved.”
Curate James Williams said: “We applied for funding for the group from the National Lottery Awards for All Scheme so can offer it completely free of charge. We saw something similar happening elsewhere in Malvern and it seemed like a great way to engage with the community. The idea is to offer space for families to connect with their children. Somewhere which is fun and also provides a hot meal. It is not a specifically religious space and we don’t include worship, but the church is very visible and it provides a great link between us, the schools and the community.”
Bishop Martin visited the club at the end of a day in Malvern Link with Cowleigh, during which he had lunch with parishioners and also visited Dyson Perrins CE Secondary School where he blessed a new reflective space. He took part in a Q&A with some of the students and was involved in an Assembly around Holocaust Memorial Day. He said:
“It has been a very full but lovely day! Malvern Link with Cowleigh is a vibrant parish who are developing remarkable connections with their local schools – both primary and secondary. One parishioner had designed and built the reflective prayer space, and another had made a beautiful altar frontal for the chapel in Dyson Perrins. And it’s great to see the Chaplain who has been partially funded through a grant the Healthier Churches Fund being able to be in Dyson Perrins each day to build connections with the students, as well as go into the primary schools and run sessions such as this after school club.”