A couple of years ago Amy applied for a YouCan grant for an upcycling project to help bring more people into Gatis Community Space. Her aim was to teach children aged 12 and over to refashion their clothes with an emphasis on ethical consumerism and sustainability. After carrying out some taster sessions to find out what people were really interested in, the upcycling workshop mutated into a craft workshop.

Two years on, we decided to catch up with Amy to find out how things have progressed since receiving the grant. The community centre has become a hub of activity for the children and adults in the local area. Amy says: “Gatis Community Space is the only community centre in the area so it’s great to see lots of people getting involved in these activities and using the place again; and the YouCan grant has really helped us achieve this, cementing a strong community spirit.”

She says Gatis Community Space is a place where the community comes together, to share their skills, knowledge and experiences and wants to introduce as many things to the centre as possible.

Not only has the grant encouraged more people to go along to Gatis Community Space, it’s also helped Amy to build her confidence. Struggling with social anxiety when she started volunteering at the centre, she gradually started feeling better the more she worked with people, eventually leading to her being given the opportunity to become a volunteers’ manager at the centre.

Amy said: “It really helped that Maria, who runs the centre, showed a great deal of belief in me. When she offered me the opportunity to become volunteers’ manager I wasn’t sure that I could do it. I’ve never done anything like that before, but she obviously saw something in me, she believed in me. I love what I do, what we all do (I’m one of around 10 regular volunteers who work at Gatis, although there are probably more than 50 people who help keep the place going). Having someone believe in me has given my confidence a massive boost and for the first time in a long time, I feel worthwhile – l believe what I’m doing is really making a difference.”

Amy gave me a guided tour of the place, pointing out the fabulous chess set (that was kindly donated), the Love and Peas café area, the outdoor play area, home grown veg and a large hall where a lot of the activities take place… at the moment it’s full of handmade lanterns ready for their annual parade that takes place on 21 October.

As we talked I could hear the love and passion that Amy has for this place and the community that she has become an integral part of. They recently hosted the Big Lunch and host regular events throughout the year centred on fun, food and nature. She told me about The Real Junk Food project that they’re a part of… using food that local shops and supermarkets are about to throw away and making delicious three course meals for the community to enjoy. Her eyes danced as she explained that they also offer bush craft workshops where people can learn things like whittling, fire lighting techniques and den building.

The centre has recently been approached by a local hospice to host a ‘death café’ where people can talk openly about dying, to help break down the stigma attached to this most natural of things. Amy is keen to make this happen as she loves to challenge taboo subjects, getting them out in the open and talking things through. She says Gatis Community Space is a place where the community comes together, to share their skills, knowledge and experiences and wants to introduce as many things to the centre as possible.

Amy told me that in Whitmore Reans, 72 different languages are spoken…72! She’s hoping to create an area outside where she can invite as many locals as possible to join her in sharing a traditional dish of theirs with neighbours they might never have met. Amy said: “Barriers exist in every neighbourhood and this would be a great way to break some of them down. We all get to know each other a little more, whilst sharing some fabulous food…what’s not to like?”

Having spent a couple of hours with her, I for one definitely believe that if anyone can take Gatis Community Space on to the next level, Amy can. With the tiniest of nudges from YouCan, she has helped to create a thriving community. A place where people of all ages, and all walks of life can connect and learn from one another, and when I asked her what this place means to her she simply said: “Gatis has given me a life.”

If you’d like to find out more, and get involved take a look at Gatis Community Space Facebook page here.

If you have an idea for a community project and need some help to bring it to life, why not apply here?