Reading Community Grants Projects

Author's position
Ready Friends Coordinator
Article date
2 December 2020
Primary interest
Voluntary sector
Reading Voluntary Action (RVA) is working with the 8 successful applicants to the Reading Community Grants programme

Each received a share of the £10k funding that was made possible through a new partnership initiative with Berkshire Community Foundation (BCF). The purpose of the programme is to enable small community-based groups, mostly run entirely by volunteers, to support some of the most vulnerable people in Reading affected by Covid-19.  Schemes include telephone story-telling for older people who are still shielding; socially-distanced community gardening training; supporting older people to get online and cycling and walking sessions to engage and support young people. Rachel Spencer, RVA’s CEO, said:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with BCF to offer grant funding to some of Reading’s smallest community groups.  We are so grateful to these small groups for providing much-needed support to our most vulnerable families and individuals during Covid-19.”

Many of the projects have been supporting families and individuals in Reading’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities – taking action on loneliness, anxiety, depression and accessing information on how to keep safe and well during Covid-19.  RVA hopes that learning from the people involved in these activities will also help shape local decision-making around health and wellbeing.

RVA will be working with the successful groups during the life of these projects and beyond, as an opportunity to build mutual understanding and resilience within Readings many communities. On 24 November, the groups came together on Zoom for Learn and Share event to present on their projects, provide an update on community needs and share useful information with each other, as well as explore opportunities for working in partnership.

The unanticipated second lockdown has presented challenges to many of the projects, which are now reviewing their plans in the light of Tier 2 restrictions. However, at least one group reported at the event how the lockdowns and tier restrictions have led them to innovate using online platforms. At the Learn and Share event on 24 November, Esther from Utulivu shared feedback from one of the senior BAME women supported by their project:

One woman we know is isolated and away from her family, not online and doesn’t have a smartphone.  So, we call her regularly to chat and keep in touch.  She told us: “I go to bed happy and wake up happy because I have had someone to talk to… I feel that there a community and family who care about me.”

Projects summaries

British Islamic Gardens – Aisha Masjid Garden Project

Community gardening sessions 5 days a week for a variety of groups including family ‘bubbles’, men-only, women-only, open-to-all and specific community groups such as children with a learning disability.  Through the therapeutic medium of gardening, it aims to improve physical and mental well-being of local people, connect local communities by fostering understanding and shared values, promote conservation and environmental issues. Contact email:

Depression Xpression – Peer Support Groups

Peer support groups for people living with depression and other mental health issues in the Reading area – on Zoom and in a community venue. We offer social interaction, community and a listening ear – helping to strengthen personal support networks, improve psychological wellbeing, reduce loneliness and isolation, and build confidence. We keep in touch through social media, messaging, email, and our website. Contact email:

Greater Reading Nepalese Community Association – Vitality through Virtual Platform

To address major health and wellbeing issues and concerns among the elderly Nepalese community. These groups of people are completely in isolation. They do not have or have limited access on the information and social media. They are suffering from both physical and mental health problems.  GRNCA plans to engage them by creating an online platform and small gathering whenever and wherever possible. GRNCA will build an online social group and create a Zoom platform for exchanging information and conduct “Yoga” sessions and talk programmes on health related issues from subject experts in Nepalese language. Contact email:

Reading Refocus – Community Active Programme

A 12-week cycling and walking programme to address the health and wellbeing needs and inequities of young people, adults from BME disadvantage communities in Reading. Contact email:

Reading Sudanese Community – Reading Sudanese Community

Community Support for Sudanese families with children with disabilities and long-term health conditions. Help with shopping and cooked meals, awareness of the Covid 19 Pandemic, awareness of support and benefits available to the community, classes for school children – Arabic , homework support etc., mental health wellbeing and awareness, challenges in supporting teenagers. Contact email:

South Reading Patient Voice – Oldies Online Too

To explore the difficulties older people are having with digital access to healthcare, and create, test and distribute materials which help overcome the barriers. Contact email:

Utulivu – Story Telling, Poems and Music Telephone Conversations for the senior members of the community

To connect with one to one telephone conversations and also connect number of senior women through teleconferencing and share their experiences, worries and solutions. Also text messages will be employed to reach women where they are. Contact email:

We Men – Community Engagement Project

To consult a wide range of stakeholders on the issues affecting men’s wellbeing as individuals, parents, family members and their role in the wider community. The group intends to produce publicity materials, recruit and train volunteers, develop a website, subscribe to Zoom platform for virtual meetings and room hire for face-to-face meetings. Key issues include FGM, increased risk of serious mental ill-health (including suicide) and domestic violence. Contact email:

Further information

If you would like more information about the projects, you can email them using the contact email addresses shown, or contact Rhiannon: