Written by Chenise Knox, Roots Community Volunteer
October’s Roots Community forum took place at the Darwen Valley Community centre; it began at 12pm and on signing in there were freebies, information on what it’s all about, and an opportunity to opt into Red Rose Recovery membership for all. It’s a community run event so the kitchen was busy with volunteers making drinks for everyone on entry and the room soon filled with professionals and service users, all mingling together over a nice warm brew.
Soon enough, Rolonde invited everyone to take their seats so we could begin the agenda with a warm welcome to the Roots Community October forum.
First was a life share from Schani, one of the Roots and Red Rose Recovery volunteers. It was delivered in an interview style with Rolonde posing the questions and was an excellent way to kick off the event. Hearing Schani’s account of his recovery success, progress into volunteering and now aspirations of paid employment within the organisation was very encouraging and inspiring – absolute proof that, with sheer determination and willpower, a better life can be achieved.
After a short break Andy Kennedy and James McCabe from Spark gave us a talk about Naloxone and its uses to save opioid overdose sufferers, as well as other harm reduction measures. Their talk was massively informative, with a demonstration of the recovery position, how to administer first aid and a quiz at the end which was surprisingly fun; they imparted to all invaluable life-saving information and advice.
Lunch was next with pies sourced locally from the Crown and Thistle. With vegetarian, gluten free options and a whole selection of extras it was a hearty meal enjoyed by all. The meal was accompanied by ambient music supplied by Tasha from Sober Bee, a fortnightly sober-friendly rave event which takes place at Darwen’s Café Hub on alternate Tuesday evenings from 6:30-9pm. The atmosphere was great with everyone ‘breaking bread’ and mixing together.
Back to business after lunch with CVS and the monthly Asset Fund applications. This month we had two pitches: from the Shad Chefs who run the ‘Man-Up’ men’s mental health support group every Thursday at Shadsworth Hub, 7-9pm; and Blackburn with Darwen Youth Awareness project. Both received funding and encouragement, and it was a priceless opportunity for Roots Community and all in attendance to link up with their projects.
The final life share of the day followed from Chad, another volunteer for Roots and Red Rose Recovery. Again, it was inspiring to hear his recovery story and his amazing success; now working in a local hostel supporting others. Proof that through recovery we can build new lives we maybe never thought possible in active addiction.
An amazing announcement followed this from Jennie Chapman, as we were all invited to welcome in the newest staff member of the Red Rose team at Roots Community, Amyleigh Duffy, who has worked so hard in her own recovery and played a massive part in making the Roots Community Forum a reality. Now as Community Peer Engager, Amyleigh is an inspiration to us all on what can be achieved through participation and selflessness in supporting the whole recovery community.
The last part of the afternoon began with Rolonde discussing the idea of ‘Buying into’ society; social responsibility as a way of fostering a sense of belonging, pride and improvement to the quality of our own communities. It is true that, as a section of society, the recovery community is largely stigmatised and often viewed negatively. But, as Rolonde expressed and was agreed by all, this is a massive part of the ethos at Roots Community forum. Through working together, empowering people and building an ever-growing network of service users and organisations we are increasing numbers within, and opportunities for, the Blackburn with Darwen recovery community.
The afternoon ended with an invitation from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, delivered by Mark Wilde, to take part in an opportunity to achieve all these things at the forthcoming ‘Community Clean-up’ events across Blackburn with Darwen. The first of these takes place on November 7th from 10am on Dickinson Close; anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged to take part. We have been provided with all the necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and tools by the council, and Mark explained that anyone can request these materials and improve their communities at any time by contacting the Environmental Department through the council website or phone lines. It has been proven that our environment can impact our wellbeing and behaviour, so it makes sense that living in cleaner communities will have a positive effect on everyone. Not only this, but in taking an active role in being the change we foster pride, empower ourselves and help to show our wider communities that we can, in recovery, make a positive impact on society.
It would be great to see you all at the next forum, which will be on the November 30th, and has now been extended to take place from 10am-4pm. The venue will be Shadsworth Hub Community Centre, Rothesay Road, Blackburn, BB1 2RH. I can’t wait to welcome you all in!