Community Support Development Workers (CSDWs) are the people on the ground delivering activities and events to garrisons and camps across the UK. Do you know yours? Army&You caught up with Caroline Cossens, AFF’s North East Co-ordinator, to find out about CSDWs in her area…
SINCE I started at AFF, I have come to know some of the CSDWs in my area and have been hugely impressed by the service that they offer the Army community to make our lives more fulfilled. They organise meet-and-greet sessions, toddler groups, youth clubs and many other things besides.
Alanbrooke Barracks in Topcliffe is, like several camps in the north east, quite isolated and lacks basic amenities like a pint of milk within walking distance.
For the last few years, the CSDW has been working with Thirsk Rural Arts to deliver the Stitched Together Project.
“I was being asked what was available for adults,” said CSDW Donna Poynton. “At a meeting, I met someone from Thirsk Rural Arts and the idea grew.”
Between eight-and-12 spouses now come every week for sessions led by an artist who has taught everything from patchwork to lampshade making and embroidery.
The course is also running in Dishforth and Catterick.
Leigh, from Dishforth, said: “I look forward to every session. It’s the highlight of my week.”
Anne-Charlotte, who had never sewed before, agreed: “I didn’t think I would do more than one or two sessions before giving up but that was nearly a year ago, and I’m still coming!
“I now have a machine at home too. Donna puts a lot of effort into organising things, so it’s great to support her and a fantastic way to make friends.”
Dana added: “The childcare is a bonus and makes it possible for many of us to attend. I’ve made good friends.”
CSDWs in the UK are working with limited resources and provision is more established in some areas than others. In York, Lynette Nelson has taken up the CSDW post at Fulford, which hasn’t had any community support for two years. She’s been canvassing families’ views on what’s needed.
“The main answer seems to be events for the whole community,” she said. “We have many Gurkha families in Fulford and it would be wonderful to celebrate their traditions.
“There’s also a need for under-fives provision and weekend activities. I’ve got limited resources so I want to get everyone involved in fundraising to improve that.”
“It’s hugely beneficial to the volunteers who get involved,” she explained. “Two spouses recently gained their basic expedition leaders award, so they’re now able to deliver the scheme elsewhere.
“Both are now using it in their next posting.”
Volunteers form a vital role in what the CSDWs can provide. Vicky Semons is an Army spouse and mother-of five-who is passionate about volunteering: “AWS has given me full training which includes safeguarding and first aid, useful things in daily life and skills for the future.
“I’ve helped run coffee mornings, youth clubs and now in Catterick I’m helping our CSDW at an after-school club for six-to-11 year olds. It’s vital for Army children to feel they are part of a community.”
Check local Facebook groups and your HIVE for more about activities or volunteering with AWS or contact Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org