Brushstrokes Community Project
The Brushstrokes Community project is based on a long standing partnership between its Foundation partners, Father Hudson’s Society, the Infant Jesus Sisters and the Parish of St Philip Neri .The project was established by Sister Margaret Walsh of the Infant Jesus Sisters who moved from Wolverhampton, where she had been working for the Hope project, to set up a new initiative in Smethwick. The aim was to support the most vulnerable and live in solidarity with the hidden poor.
Sister Margaret has since moved on to new work with asylum seekers at St Chad’s Sanctuary. The vision for the project is encapsulated in the name Brushstrokes which takes its origin from an inspiring phrase of Blessed Nicolas Barre.
‘We must be in the hands of God like a brush in the hands of the painter’.
Our services have developed over the last decade in response particularly to the needs of newcomers. Initially the main area of work was engaging with asylum seekers and helping them to establish a place of safety in the UK. This is still a key area of work for us. However, in this area of Smethwick with its ever growing super diversity, we now welcome people from over sixty countries to Brushstrokes, including migrants. Our work continues to expand with refugees who we are helping to rebuild their lives and settle into new homes, education and work in Sandwell.
Services and Activities
The core activities remain constant and are driven by the needs of the people who come through the door or who are identified on outreach visits. The services all depend enormously on the support and dedication of volunteers.
The volunteer base is supported by a staff team consisting of an ESOL co-ordinator, Outreach /Housing Co-ordinator, Resources Co-ordinator, Resources Assistant, Administrative Assistant and Project Manager
The provision of practical resources to the destitute, homeless and others living in extreme poverty
There are growing numbers of people coming for food every week due to rising costs of living and the scarcity of full time employment. We now work closely with the Smethwick Foodbank to support people in temporary difficulties while we meet the needs of the longer term destitute. We continue to provide children’s and adult clothing, baby packs for destitute mothers, baby equipment to be and essential household items including bedding. At Christmas, over two hundred children receive toys donated to the project. We rely on donations of food, clothing, baby equipment and household items including bedding and curtains
Reaching out into local communities by visiting and befriending isolated and excluded people in their own homes
The project continues this valuable work as it reflects most closely the distinctiveness of our work in supporting those who are excluded and unable to access mainstream services
The teaching of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)
This area of work has continued to grow in numbers and demand every year. ESOL incorporates citizenship, ICT, and literacy. It is also the route used to teach numeracy, literacy, and employment skills. There are progression routes to accredited course in the centre provided by Halesowen and Sandwell Colleges. Childcare support is provided through Tipton Toddlers for some of our sessions.
We currently run a regional project with support from the Housing Action Charitable Trust supporting refugees into housing in the private rented sector and helping them sustain their tenancies
Our aim is to provide a holistic service for newcomers and vulnerable individual families.
The project is based in the parish centre of the Church of St Philip Neri in Smethwick.
In the centre, we offer additional services which include,
Family support in partnership with Shireland Collegiate Academy
Stay and Play in partnership with the Windmill& Cape Hill ‘Action for Children Centre’.
Brushstrokes provides a number of social activities including celebrations and trips each year to bring people from different backgrounds together
Immigration advice is provided through ASIRT. A weekly Welfare Rights surgery is provided by an adviser funded by Sandwell Council
Healthy Lifestyle advice and activities in partnership with Mytimeactive and other services provided with support from Sandwell PCT
Careers and job search advice in our work club supported by the Community Connect Foundation
Brushstrokes warmly welcomes volunteers to support us in visiting people in their homes to befriend or teach ESOL on a one to one basis. We support people wishing to take on ESOL teaching roles in the centre and are looking for volunteer drivers to collect and deliver resources and for people to distribute resources in the centre.
In all our work we are indebted to Father Hudson’s Society for their unfailing support and guidance which enables us to fulfil our work within the Catholic ethos and the integrity of our foundation partner
Brushstrokes receives ongoing financial support from Father Hudson’s Society, one of the Foundation partners, who has also helped secure external funds from Charitable Trusts and the Big Lottery and provides its own funds to contribute to other staff salaries. Father Hudson’s Society also supports Brushstrokes with Finance and Personnel support, supervision, organisational development, resources and recruitment.
The Sisters of the Infant Jesus also work with their contacts and supporters to draw in financial and other support for Brushstrokes.
Brushstrokes has also previously received substantial and vital support from:
The Big Lottery Fund, the Lankelly Chase Foundation , the Henry Smith Charity, the Home Office, Harborne Parish Lands , Sure Start ,Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, the FHS Ball Committee and the NRF. It is becoming increasingly challenging to secure grant funding, but our vision,faith and committment motivates us to continue.
There are numerous private funders who provide a lifeline with their smaller donations.
Brushstrokes assists those in great need with food, baby equipment and household items. Brushstrokes would not be able to provide this full range of assistance without the generous help of many donors. Some individuals and groups donate items regularly to us whilst others offer occasional or one-off help with donations .
There is an ever-present demand for essentials, including pushchairs and other baby equipment and food. Occasionally we may have a real need of a specific item such as tinned food. If you or your group would like to make a donation of any kind to Brushstrokes please telephone.
Telephone: 0121 565 2234
Or write to
The Project Manager
St. Philip’s Parish Centre, Messenger Road
Smethwick, West Midlands