In Gowkthrapple, North Lanarkshire – one of the 5% most disadvantaged communities in Scotland – an enterprising Big Lottery Fund project is making a big difference to the lives of local people.
Here two volunteers, 63 year old Ellen Langford and 20 year old Patryk Topolski, tell us how Centrepoint, a community hub run by Garrion People’s Housing Co-operative, has enriched their lives:“Volunteering has been the making of me”, says retired cleaner, Ellen. “My involvement first began in 2009 when I became a member of the Garrion People’s Steering group. There were six of us at the time and since then we’ve grown to a membership of 29 volunteers, now known as the GOLD group. I first got involved not long after I got custody of my two grandsons. Being part of the group brought me out of my shell and allowed me to play a small part in improving opportunities for both my family and the local community.
“I’ve lived in Gowkthrapple for 25 years and during that time I’ve seen how the area has changed. In the past it’s had its problems with people leaving but now people are staying and building families. At the heart of this is Centrepoint. Since opening, it’s brought people from all backgrounds and cultures together. Now the only reason houses are empty is because people are coming here each day!
“I volunteer in the Centrepoint café three days a week and love being able to speak to the customers. I’ve also completed training courses that have given me new skills. Recently I was asked to give a speech at the University of the West of Scotland about my experience of volunteering. This in turn gave me the confidence to apply to study Community Education.
“Centrepoint is a huge part of my life and has given me opportunities I never thought possible. Like me, my grandsons are also here most days benefiting from a range of youth activities. I can’t imagine it not being here now.”
Patryk Topolski is a 20 year old student originally from Poland. Through his involvement at Centrepoint, he has achieved the Saltire Award for completing 500 hours of volunteering. “I came to live in Scotland with my family in 2007”, says Patryk. “When I arrived in Gowkthrapple, I knew I wanted to give something back to the local community so I decided to volunteer. Since then I have learned a lot of new skills through first aid, ICT and intergenerational training courses. I always knew that I wanted to go to university but it wasn’t until I started volunteering here that I finally got the confidence to apply. I’m now in my third year doing a business degree. Through my volunteering, I have arranged different community events at Centrepoint including a youth club, bingo night and Polish cultural events. 18% of people in Gowkthrapple are Polish and so I’ve enjoyed being able to bring people together to celebrate and learn about each other’s culture in this welcoming environment.”
The Garrion People’s Housing Co-operative is one of eight groups which will attend an event at the Scottish Parliament on 19 November to showcase and celebrate the work of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland.
Centrepoint opened in 2011 part funded with a £835,000 award from our Growing Community Assets fund. The centre includes a community café, shop, meeting rooms, shared office space and multi-purpose rooms for clubs and activities.