In the West Riding Awards 2013

The Association of Blind Asians (ABA) started in Leeds in 1989 and it is the only service of its kind in the UK. It supports people who have (or are at risk of) visual impairment, and who are mainly but not exclusively from the South Asian community. ABA is an exemplar of how an activity initially created to meet a “single issue” demand can grow and develop into a comprehensive support system for people of all ages, and increasingly all communities. ABA turns people’s lives round and gives them independence in their own homes.

The Leeds Canopy Housing Project pursues and achieves objectives which many speak of but few enact. It provides training and work experience for the unemployed on its housing refurbishment schemes. The resulting affordable accommodation for people and families is in areas which would be classed as depressed and derelict were it not for the fact that the refurbishments are quite outstanding. This project is not just about housing the homeless, it goes far deeper than that, indeed it is an exemplar of community in action which many public service arms would do well to copy.

Deighton Into Sport has become an exemplar in the way it encourages young people into sport. There are many youth centred activities and initiatives which succeed in introducing young people to the advantages of a healthy lifestyle through sport. Deighton into Sport, however, stands out because of its commitment to providing pathways for young people to move into leadership positions such as trainers and coaching mentors. This adds social responsibility and personal aspiration as essential elements giving young people an insight into additional, and sometimes more challenging, personal objectives.

The Friends of PHAB in Leeds aim to bring together people of all ages who are either Physically Handicapped or Able Bodied [hence the name], for joint social and sporting activities including taking part in the D of E Award scheme. The strong mutual help philosophy is based on always looking for the positive by exploring each person’s talents, skills and potential and then using them for everyone’s benefit.

The twelve Friends of Queens Park in Castleford have turned a derelict Victorian park into a user-friendly recreation area and safe haven for children and local people. And having succeeded in attaining their original goal they have now turned their hand to running re-cycling projects which benefit local schools and community groups to tens of thousands of pounds. This small organisation carries no passengers and it punches way above its weight in terms of providing services and events for the community, as an example, this year’s free fair in the park attracted 4000 residents.

Gipton Together in Leeds started when a youth leader organised a hip hop dance class for the local disaffected youth. 100 turned up that first night and 11 years later, 250 kids attend 11 sessions of kick boxing, cheerleading, street style dancing and much more every week. All this keeps the young people off the streets and gives them a sense of purpose, achievement and self-respect. The project is run by the residents, the parents and the young people of Gipton with some inspirational leadership.

The Growing Zone in Kippax has a real buzz and boundless enthusiasm. This allotment based project started in 2008 as a garden for children with special needs. Since then it has grown into a very special place which is enjoyed by young and old alike. People with learning difficulties and disabled and able-bodied people all work together, play together and have fun. The involvement of ‘Young Learners’ and ‘Young Ambassadors’ brings an added dimension to this project.

The Heavy Woollen District Scout Campsite in Wakefield comprises nine acres of woodland and five of fields. Originally set up in 1962 for the local Scouts, it is now used by Scout groups from outside the district and by the Guides. Kirklees local authority uses the site for summer camps for disadvantaged young people, and it is the base for the Kirklees D of E team. Around 750 young people from many different backgrounds and communities use the facility each year.

Holme Valley Orchestra takes a simple idea – a shared love of music – and uses it to involve members of the community regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or status. It’s all about the community making music and then giving it to those members of the community who don’t play but love to listen. The orchestra embraces the young and the not so young, with players aged from 14 to 90 years. Musicians love to play, but this orchestra doesn’t just play for its own amusement, their music also gets into the heart of the community.

Leeds Mencap’s holistic approach involves and includes families, and this plus its provision across the age range of 0 to whenever, makes it unique. Indeed, though it carries the word Mencap in its title, it is neither owned nor controlled by the national organisation. 250 volunteers provide support seven days a week for adults and children with learning difficulties along with support, training and counselling for their families. Each user is treated as an individual with unique needs and this pays off, as the enthusiasm exhibited by service users, families and volunteers alike, so clearly demonstrates.

Lions MMA in Huddersfield is a Sikh community organisation which focuses on the practice and teaching of Martial Arts and the Sikh religion. Its raison d’être is to ensure young people come together, work together, and understand one another. Lions MMA had its origins in the wish to increase confidence and self esteem in young Sikh children and to promote the good health and wellbeing of teenage and adult Sikhs. The resulting sense of identity, community and friendship has had a positive impact on the wider community.

The 90 members of the Mirfield & District over 50s Club get together every Friday 52 weeks in the year with their colleagues and friends. For some this is the only time they leave their houses and get the chance to socialise. There is a guest speaker or activity at every meeting and the group goes off on visits and trips and everyone generally has a good time. As importantly, support, advice and help is always available to the members.

Otley Sailing Club started as just that, a club for local people interested in sailing. But that wasn’t enough, so the members created Sailfree, a project dedicated to sharing the joy of sailing with disabled people and those with learning difficulties. They turn no one away and go to enormous lengths to adapt boats and facilities for individual use. As an example, a young quadriplegic woman recently made a single-handed crossing of the English Channel using only her teeth and mouth to sail her dinghy. Sailfree is now the national template for such ventures.

S2R Support to Recovery in Kirklees offers support to anyone aged 18 or over who has mental health problems. The support includes workshops to encourage self-help, build resilience and manage conditions like anger, anxiety and low confidence. Relaxation sessions are popular as are football, walking and gym sessions. Users are now helping to develop a garden in an old peoples’ home. S2R recognises there is no “off the shelf, one size fits all” solution for people with mental health challenges, but nevertheless the aim remains to provide each individual with a pathway to recovery.

Safe Anchor Trust at Mirfield uses canal boats and the waterways to help disadvantaged groups experience the countryside and nature at its very best. The boat trips are free so volunteers provide a host of practical skills, carpentry, sailing, navigation, etc, to make it all happen. Volunteers also work the boats during the trips and ensure their passengers are safe and enjoy the experience. There’s always a special buzz in and around the boats and big smiles on the faces of the passengers.

St Andrews Pantomine Group has been putting on an annual pantomime in Beeston, Leeds, for 36 years. It is run for local people by local people and with a two-week run for audiences of up to 180 people, it is clearly very popular. Apart from using theatre, music and comedy as a focal point and a means of involving the entire community of all ages, the pantomime also raises around £8,000 a year for local charities.

St Mary’s Chequerfield Community Project in Pontefract is a community project with a difference. The local church was knocked down when it was no longer viable and replaced with this community centre. It’s a ‘one stop shop’ which provides personal skills development to improve employability alongside inter-personal and social skills which impact positively on self-esteem and personal confidence. Created in the aftermath of the collapse of the mining and confectionary industries, it began as a mutual self-help operation serving a devastated community. It is still led by the people it serves.