In a nutshell
Who are you?
Alison Vint, development worker at Big Local Thurnscoe in South Yorkshire.
What did you do?
Designed and put together a ‘feed the birds’ activity pack for local families during the school holiday.
To give local children something to do during the holidays that was accessible to all.
And what’s the benefit?
People can enjoy the nature in their back garden and share what they see on Facebook which is a great way of bringing local residents together.
I’ve been involved in Big Local Thurnscoe for six years now and I’m always thinking of new ways to engage the community and bring people together. This past year, I’ve had to be particularly creative as we haven’t been able to meet in person, but I wanted to do something to mark the arrival of Spring and celebrate our green spaces as a community.
It just so happens that this year, Barnsley Council have offered a funding opportunity for small-scale projects and groups like ours who are close to the community, called the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) Programme. I thought this could be a great opportunity to apply for some funding for a project giving local families an activity to do during the Easter holidays.
I wanted the activity to be as accessible as possible for different ages and abilities so settled on a ‘Feed the Birds’ activity pack where people could make their own fat balls and identify wild birds in the locality.
Before I applied for the funding, I had to decide on the contents for each pack and how many I was going to put together. I ended up managing to get everything I needed – including a £3 bird house or bird feeder to keep, twine, blocks of lard and bird seed – for £5/pack. I put in a bid for £500 funding so that at least 100 families would benefit.
I included an A4 sheet of instructions on how to make the fat balls and print-out spotter sheets downloaded from the RSPB website of common garden birds. Most families in our Big Local area have a garden so I thought the activity would have a broad appeal but I made sure that some feeders could also be attached to windows for those who don’t.
Getting the packs to the community
I ran the project with help from a few volunteers: my daughter, Bethany Vint, who was making use of her employer’s volunteer day; the chair of Big Local Thurnscoe, Derek Bramham; and the Librarian of Thurnscoe Library, Janet Ellor, who is also a member of the Big Local. Once I had bought all of the supplies, they helped me put the packs together and hand them out.
To publicise the project, I posted on the Big Local Thurnscoe Facebook page which has lots of followers from the local area and we also had some popular local groups sharing it as well.
While planning how to hand out the packs, we had to carry out a risk assessment and ensure that everything was in line with COVID guidelines. We decided to set up a table outside the library and booked collection times in advance. This was a great location as it’s quite centrally located in the area and lots of the people walking past ended up requesting packs.
We’ve been so pleased with the response to the project. People have been sharing their photos of children making the feeders and looking out for the birds and telling us how much they’ve enjoyed it.
We know that there have been lots of behavioural changes as a result of the pandemic, and making the most of local green spaces has definitely been one of them so it’s been great to reinforce that love of nature and appreciation for outdoor spaces with this initiative.
Onwards and upwards
This project was aimed at local families and we’ve had a fantastic range of people getting involved, from single parent families to large families with eight children. We’ve also had grandparents looking for activities to do with their grandchildren in the holidays and a number of children with disabilities and additional needs.
The activity is so simple that everyone could enjoy getting their hands dirty and making the fat balls, and it is easy to scale up the size of the packs for larger families by adding extra seed and lard. We also had a number of enquiries from care homes who identified that the project would be ideal for their residents so we are going to produce some extra packs just for them.
The project has created a lovely buzz and sense of community that I think people have really needed after so long in lockdown. We’re already thinking about ideas for the next holiday period…