Featured

In the Spotlight….Smethwick CAN

In the Spotlight….Smethwick CAN

Smethwick is an interesting place. Bordering some of the toughest parts of Birmingham, it is the most deprived town in the Black Country and one of the 20% most deprived areas in England. As is usually the case in places like this, children are some of the hardest hit. 31.8% of children living in Smethwick are living in poverty compared to the national average of 19.9%.*

It was because of statistics like these that Smethwick Church Action Network (Smethwick CAN) was formed in July 2014. In a town with such prolific need, local churches chose to join together to help alleviate hardship and tackle the causes of poverty.

Initially, the work of Smethwick CAN focussed on developing Smethwick Food Bank, with the support of Trussell Trust. The work of the food bank has grown and in 2020 alone, they supported over 6,000 people providing nearly 130,000 meals. This was 350% increase on previous years, with the Covid-19 pandemic providing the catalyst for such a dramatic escalation in need.

Alongside the Foodbank, other projects have emerged to help tackle food poverty, including “Your Local Pantry Smethwick”, a Community Food Club where people can sign up as members and visit the pantry to pick a variety of food including fresh, frozen and tinned produce for £4 per week. On average the value of the shop equates to around £20 per week providing significant savings for households that might be struggling to make ends meet.

To complement the work of the foodbank and pantry, Smethwick CAN also developed a Community Café, serving hot meals to those in need and providing opportunities for partner charities to offer support to those using the café. Finally, the Smethwick CAN Grow Community Allotment is a volunteer run allotment that supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to Café, Pantry and Foodbank projects.

Gareth Brown, Director of Smethwick CAN, is passionate about the work they do, insisting their vision goes beyond alleviating immediate needs.

“The overall aim of Smethwick CAN is to work with local churches and communities to end destitution, build community, increase opportunities and inspire hope.”

That’s quite a vision statement in a community as deprived as Smethwick. An incredibly diverse place, 56% of the population of Smethwick are from ethnic minorities. The UK average is 15%. Such diversity brings with it a huge variety in the needs of residents and Smethwick CAN are not unaware of this issue.

“We’re excited to be part of a network of organisations, groups and individuals pledging to build a culture of welcome across Sandwell as part of the national City of Sanctuary network. We are involved with other partners in helping Sandwell to become a Borough of Sanctuary that works towards greater inclusion and equality for refugees and asylum seekers. Smethwick CAN is the lead agency for the Community Sponsorship Group which has been set up to support a refugee family in their first year as they arrive in the UK.”

Togetherness and cooperation are key factors in the outworking of Smethwick CAN. Individual churches or organisations simply cannot tackle needs on this scale on their own. It’s only through working together and collaboration that a significant difference can be made.

This is at the heart of the vision of Smethwick CAN and it’s at the heart of Love Black Country’s vision too. That’s why we’re excited to be welcoming Gareth Brown to our Together Apart gathering on Sunday 21stFebruary to ask him more about what God is doing in Smethwick. To hear what Gareth has to say, please email info@loveblackcountry.org.uk to watch live on Zoom or tune into the www.facebook.com/loveblackcountry at 6pm to watch the event live on Facebook.

You can find out more about the work of Smethwick CAN here.

*Data used in the article was sourced by Research Sandwell for Sandwell MBC Public Health.

 




Related posts

Faith and cycling – a Holy Alliance - Cycling and Christianity isn’t often a combination that are mixed, but one man from Wolverhampton is working hard to challenge this preconception and prove that it can be a Holy Alliance that impacts the futures of the region's most vulnerable young people.
Together Apart 4 – A Year in Lockdown - We're happy to announce that we will be hosting our 4th regional Together Apart gathering on Sunday 9th May at 6pm, live on Facebook and Zoom.
Being Human – Biblical Anthropology in the New Testament - The Theology Network will be hosting its third session of 2021 on Monday 24th May at 8pm-10pm on Zoom. We'll be continuing our theme of BEING HUMAN, this time welcoming Dr Erin Heim to explore Biblical Anthropology in the New Testament. 
1000+ children to receive food parcels from local churches this Easter - Churches in Dudley are working together to combat poverty and deliver food, fun and an Easter message to over 1000 children across the borough.
Increasing need for education chaplaincy as schools return - As they return to school on 8th March after months out of formal education, thousands of children and young people across the Black Country will require far greater support than simply what school teachers are able to offer. Local churches can provide essential pastoral support for schools through chaplaincy partnerships and this has never been more essential than it is now.

Archives