Caledonia Housing Association’s ‘giving back’ initiative boosts tenants and staff

Caledonia Housing Association's 'giving back' initiative boosts tenants and staff

Kathleen Smith

Employees of Caledonia Housing Association (CHA) boosted community engagement during COVID-19 through the development of a new staff-led Giving Back initiative.

Giving Back is also a crucial element of Caledonia’s wellness programme as the organisation recognises that providing opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in the community helps employee wellbeing.

Initiatives range from delivering afternoon teas to older residents and providing books and jigsaws to address loneliness and isolation and arranging “distant social” entertainment and birthday celebrations in sheltered housing schemes.

These initiatives were made possible with support from Tesco Bags for Life Funding and social enterprise partners Giraffe and Boomerang.

The aim of Giving Back is to encourage colleagues across the Caledonia Housing Group to work together to explore what support can be provided to make a positive impact in their local communities.

At the start of lockdown, with thousands of tenants suddenly isolated at home and housing association colleagues in the same situation, the CHA team moved fast to come up with new and different ways to support tenants. This was developed and managed as part of a new Giving Back programme.

A successful application to the National Lottery saw CHA provide over 1,000 activity packs to families throughout the summer.

Jenna Noble, head of frontline services, had a lead role developing Giving Back which included this National Lottery-supported “Caledonia Kids” project.

She said: “We knew that families needed a different form of support in these challenging times.

“As well as help and advice to assist with financial concerns, it was evident families faced challenges entertaining their kids during the holidays. We created and delivered activity packs every week throughout the summer months covering fun themes such as Get Active, Sensory and Science, Gardening, Arts and Crafts, Baking, Games and Reading. We also had activity sheets available to download from our website.

“One of our Neighbourhood Officers recently shared a story as to how they noticed kids running out into the playing fields with our Get Active pack. It was great to see the packs create a sense of fun.”

Julie Cosgrove, CEO, Caledonia Housing Association, added: “Our purpose is to provide homes and services that make life better. During Covid-19, we must think and act differently as to how we continue to achieve this. The Giving Back initiative has empowered our colleagues to come up with new ideas that can help people in their day-to-day lives and then make them happen.

“Our colleagues have worked together virtually, using digital platforms to explore ideas, examine funding options and come up with important ways of giving something back. As we share Giving Back stories throughout the organisation, this has increased the scale and impact of the initiative. This is one of the positive changes about our COVID-19 experience, helping redefine what we can accomplish as we support people in a different way and strengthen connections even if we can’t have physical gatherings.”

Make it right is a key Caledonia guiding principle that is unique and important to the organisation. At the start of lockdown, the management team took immediate action to ensure that colleagues were supported and had an opportunity to communicate and share their ideas as to how to support tenants differently.

Ms Cosgrove added: “We recognised we had to manage and support our staff differently during the pandemic and Giving Back is a great example of how staff stayed true to our purpose and guiding principles by coming together and being creative to support tenants differently in these extraordinary times”.

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