What is FSW?
FSW is a faith-motivated charity that provides services to all kinds of families, of all faiths and none. In partnership with the Diocese of Chichester, the charity supports those in need and strengthens families it works with, to provide a safe environment for children and give them the best start in life.
What impact did Covid and the lockdown have on the activities of FSW?
As lockdown was enforced last March it created a range of challenges that came hurtling towards the families we work with, and our staffing and volunteer support. Firstly, the isolation - shutting away children from all their friends. There were impacts arising from income reduction. As education went online families struggled with poor IT support and low access to wi-fi. There was food poverty and fuel poverty. There was the reduction in support for all those children with special educational needs, and as the year went on, we saw an increase in mental emotional and physical well-being.
How did FSW respond?
What we did well, we carried on with as much as we could. Our regular activities and one-to-one sessions of course came to an end and they've been on and off all the way through the year. We switched to using just our phones, WhatsApp and Zoom and any other app and website that we could use to keep in regular contact with the families. Failing all else, when the need arises, standing on a footpath, shouting through a window, worked just as well as any smartphone.
We continued with our food support, sending out over a thousand large boxes to our families. These monthly boxes included around 20 meals for a family of four. As well as containing toiletries, household materials, sanitary products, tea, coffee and all the basics as well. A further 1500 emergency top-up bags were issued in between the bigger deliveries just to make sure everything was fine.
Of course, Christmas is always a big thing for Family Support Work and this year was the biggest we've ever experienced. We had in the region of 160 hamper's going out. Again, with everything a family could need for Christmas.
Around 100 turkeys were given to families, others received vouchers, and of course lots of presents for mum dad and all the children.
What are the plans going forward for FSW?
Now we're currently recruiting three new practitioners. They will be working across four deaneries, Rye, Storrington, Petworth and Midhurst, bringing it up to a team of 15 workers out in the fields.
Every child that we're working with will get a book on world book day and, especially for mums, who are struggling at the moment with so many things, something just for them. There will be a present for every one of our mothers on Mothering Sunday. Sometimes it's those little things that really do make the difference over the last year.
What have you learned through this Pandemic?
I think everybody's learned something about themselves. As an organisation, what we have learned more than anything, is that people - the families, the parents, and the children that we support, above anything else, they need real-time contact with other people. That is why it's so important that we keep our practitioners out there in the field. It's why these four new posts are so important.
What can our churches do to help?
We have managed to keep serving our families in need because you are there supporting us, helping us with everything you send, and with your prayers, offered on a regular basis.
So, thank you for being there with us over this strange challenging year. I hope that soon we'll all be able to get together again. But please do keep us in your prayers and thoughts.