Ahead of the launch of our first ever Impact Fund (watch this space for that), we chatted with Alex from Changes Bristol to hear about all the work her and the team are doing down in the South West.
Please tell us your name and role at your charity
Alex Henden, Development Manager
Which charity do you support?
What do Changes Bristol do?
We’re a Mental Health charity
Where is Changes Bristol based and where do you do most of your work?
Bristol / Bristol and South Gloucestershire
What sort of things do you use donations for? Can you give any specific examples?
We run support services for people who have poor mental wellbeing. This includes: 10 weekly online peer support groups, 8 weekly in-person peer support groups, telephone befriending for one-to-one support, a twice-weekly walk and talk service.
All of our services are free, available to anyone over 18 and you don’t need a diagnosis or GP referral to join. We work with almost 1,000 people per year in and around Bristol and many of them rely on being able to attend our vital services on a weekly basis.
What have you worked on that you're most proud of?
Our telephone befriending service was set up in April 2020 as a response to the pandemic. Previously Changes Bristol held 12 in-person peer support groups across Bristol, which were moved onto an online format. This was not accessible for all members. Telephone befriending is a weekly telephone call from a volunteer to a person who is suffering from low mental health.
Telephone befriending provided the charity an answer in making sure that their members who are digitally excluded, vulnerable or suffering from severe mental health distress were receiving support.
Being a small charity, Changes Bristol were able to adapt quickly and within a couple of weeks had trained a cohort of befriending volunteers to support about 20 specific members. Soon the charity needed to train up extra volunteers to take on the challenge of supporting even more people requiring the one-to-one support that you receive with telephone befriending.
Changes Bristol have now supported 170 individuals across Bristol who have needed this support, having trained as many volunteers. The charity has set up a new department and taken on three members of staff who manage both this service and our new twice-weekly service.
What are the biggest challenges still to overcome?
Being such a small charity, creating awareness of our services can be challenging. Although we have an almost 20 year history of working in Bristol, we would want to create a bigger profile in the city to allow for as much accessibility as possible.
Increased fundraising through Toucan would mean a huge amount to us as it would increase awareness of our services, allow for resources where we can join a number of committees across the city who work on mental health policies and market our services across Bristol.
What have you and your charity got planned for the next 12 months?
Over the last 2 years we have adapted and changed hugely. From a charity which runs 12 in-person peer support groups, we now run 18 weekly in-person and online groups. We also offer telephone befriending for one-to-one support and a twice-weekly walk and talk service.
Within our online support groups, 4 of these are closed for specific groups of people: Women only, Men only, Women of Colour and LGBTQ+. We would like to extend these services to offer a men of colour support group and set up a new LGBTQ+ walking group.
We’re also interested in re-opening more of our in-person peer support groups, extending our offering to 20 weekly meetings.
Other than donating, what’s the one thing people can do to support your charity and its mission?
Volunteer, we’re always looking for volunteers. This can range from facilitating one of our weekly peer support meetings, committing to a befriending call once a week or volunteering on an ad-hoc basis with our fundraising team.