We hosted our 96th Annual General Meeting (AGM) & Celebration last night on Zoom. It was a grand affair. We were joined by over 50 friends, supporters, staff, volunteers and members. Yes we missed the normal hubbub, food, drinks and full-on party that we usually throw. But we still managed to capture the essence of what makes the KLS family so special and transformative to communities here in Battersea.
We heard from our three principal teams – Elders, ESOL (English) and Love to Learn – about what they’ve achieved over the last year. Below are some short films from them. You can read more about what’s been happening with them if you trawl through this news section of our website.
If you’d like to listen back to the meeting then you can do so here (note: you might want to keep your finger on the fast forward button at the beginning).
What follows is the speech that Aaron, our CEO, gave at the meeting. We hope to see you at our next AGM on 6th October 2021 (pencil it into your diary now).
“Good evening everyone.
Events over the last year have been overshadowed by lockdown and the pandemic. But before that we’d actually had a really good year. Three new heads of departments have joined us in the last year (Sarah – Elders; Fran – ESOL; Paula – Love to Learn), joining Tracy, myself and the rest of the team. There is truly a growing sense of professionalism, skill and expertise alongside the love, care and kindness that our teams always bring to our work.
We continued to grow and develop our community services – you’ll hear from them in a minute.
Our ambitious building programme was slightly derailed by disappointing news from one statutory funder, that has us set back a couple of years. But we’ve used lockdown to spruce up the Centre and fix the leaking roof in reception.
We continued to support the wider community with things like the Big Local SW11 Alliance, leading on Battersea Charities Week, campaigning against the closure of local children centres, and I co-chaired the first Voluntary Sector Conference in Wandsworth in decades and so much more – read all about in our latest Annual Review: Review 2019/20
BUT let’s face it, the turning point for us this year was 17th March, when we suspended our face-to-face services, sent staff and volunteers home and closed our community centre. Not something we’ve done since World War II. But with lots of ingenuity, determination and bloody hard work, within a few days we had moved all of our support and services online. It was Ben our Chair who reminded us ‘not to waste a good crisis’. And we certainly haven’t.
We’ve run all of our ESOL classes on WhatsApp, google classrooms and zoom, our Somali Women’s group on a Friday night once their kids had gone to bed; our Love to Learn team hosting a new online Corona Homework Club; and we were calling all our most vulnerable elders – some with daily phone calls; and we’ve sent copious amounts of art and activity packs and chair-based exercise programmes through the good old fashion post.
Our supporters and funders, many of you are here tonight, dug deep into your pockets to help us through this. It is your continued generosity that we’re able to support our community here in Battersea. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I salute you.
I’ll let the team tell you more about what we’ve been up to, suffice to say we have been a lifeline for 100s and 1,000s of local people and their families, most of whom were in a vulnerable category, and have had a pretty tough lockdown. Alongside this we’ve tried to ensure that our staff and volunteers had the support they needed to do their work – as it was quite taxing on them. I would like you to show our appreciation and give our team a massive cheer, for all the great work they’ve done going above and beyond to support our members. (There was raucous applause at this point in the meeting).
We were also heavily involved in the wider coordination across Battersea and Wandsworth e.g. we’ve helped set up Battersea Coronavirus Angels with St Mary’s, Scared Heart, Battersea Society and Battersea United Charities (we’ve recruited 450 volunteers and supported over 530 vulnerable people. We closed all but the befriending service at the end of August); we helped set up the BLSW11 Alliance Covid19 Emergency Grant Fund (distributing £100k); and we continue to work with Council and other local charities to coordinate a joint response across the borough in terms of addressing hunger, financial hardship and emotional support to 1000s of local residents.
There’s so much to tell – like the family of 4 children and 1 mum all studying with only 1 laptop between them. We’ve managed to secure and distribute 130 laptops to our young people, so they can access their education. We’re now leading on the Wandsworth Digital partnership to make Wandsworth most digitally inclusive borough in London by 2024.
OR one of our elders, who was very lonely, isolated and unhappy, contemplating suicide and Sarah and the team have been amazing sticking by him, getting his care package increased, social services and his GP more involved, and those daily calls that have really made the difference for him.
And we had an amazing summer with our young people (KLS Love to Learn – Summer report), getting them out and about, letting off steam with lots of sports and physical activities. Giving them the time and space to talk about their experiences over the last few months – does wonders for their mental health and wellbeing; and gave their parents a bit of time off too.
And it was the summer that was the test for us to help us resume our face-to-face work – and now our ESOL students back in class, and a few of our Elders out in small bubbles on organised trips to Richmond Park, Battersea Park; our GCSE study group started again last week, our Homework Club this week and our new 16+ Youth Club next week! We’re proceeding cautiously and carefully, working closely with our members as we always do to see what they want, doing risk assessment galore, trying to follow the government guidance, and using a healthy dose of common sense and humour!
We will need lots of this in the coming months ahead. It is going to be a difficult year, in fact a difficult few years, with the looming recession and mass unemployment ahead of us, all of which will push the communities we work with into further poverty and hardship.
But we (I mean all of us on this call) will play a role in being there, work alongside and supporting each other. It will take the community of us all to get through this. But we have that at Katherine Low. And we will continue as always to nurture and develop it together. I look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks, months and years ahead of us. I am confident that we can weather this storm together.
Here are some highlights of the last year in pictures/films from our teams:
Love to Learn Team