The Launch Project is a local, volunteer-based, group that aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
The group is based in Salford although people all over Greater Manchester come along to their social events.
Founded in 2012, The Launch Project was created after a successful ‘Community Christmas Dinner’ in which a free Christmas dinner was provided to anyone who was lonely, isolated, or struggling.
Social Isolation and loneliness can cause serious mental health deterioration well being.
Some groups are more vulnerable than others including people who are elderly or live alone.
Therefore, the main goal for The Launch Project is to create opportunities for people feeling lonely to reintegrate into the community, make friends, join groups and generally feel social inclusion.
Natalie Jane Lek, founder of The Launch Project, said: “When you communicate all the time on technology and you don’t go out and you don’t socialise you lose that ability and it can create anxiety.”
In order to tackle this issue Natalie has created a ‘Sunday Social’ in Salford at the Pendlebury Social Club.
Free transportation is available for anyone who requires assistance and there is a small charge for the club to cover the costs of food.
The event is for everyone, families and carers included, ‘everybody has a really really nice time’.
@WalkdenC @WalkdenOnline @boltonhindus @AllSoulsBolton @SalfordCVS our #sundaysocial is coming up. Our passion is to reduce #socialisolation in #olderpeople we have limited places available. There is #free #transport to and from the #event #87RT #salford #manchester #bolton pic.twitter.com/d1NSSUAtx4
— The Launch Project #LaunchMCR (@LaunchMCR) October 8, 2018
Natalie is always looking for new ways to help the community and her most recent project involves a mobile food pantry.
She said: “We had a conversation with Greggs the bakers earlier this year. I called them and said I want to know what happens with food that you don’t sell.
“They said ‘well it either goes in the bin or we try and give it away to community organisations.
“I said well I want your food, that was how I worded it I want your food.
“So it started off with two shops then four now we have nine. We collect from the nine shops seven days a week.”
Read our #missionstatement join our #campaign for a #happier #healthier #community find out how we can work in #partnership with your #organisation or how we can support your #communitygroup #vosec #socialentreprise #charity #supportgroup #poverty #homelessness #launchMCR pic.twitter.com/FmD25HGFcg
— The Launch Project #LaunchMCR (@LaunchMCR) October 13, 2018
Natalie and her team of volunteers then started to distribute the food to homeless organisations and families in poverty.
“I spoke to an organisation in Salford that has a pantry and they said that the only problem they have got is that they can only service the people that are in the vicinity that know about them.
“So people that are outside the vicinity that cant get to them basically cant have any food” she said.
“We decided that the community needs a mobile food pantry.”
A mobile food pantry works like this: each user would pay £3-4 approximately each week and in turn would receive a weekly food shop for the value of £20.
To make this idea a reality Natalie applied for a Aviva Community Grant, worth £10,000, which has been accepted.
The next step is very important, the public will vote on which project they think deserves the money the most.
Whoever has the most votes wins the money.
“The mobile food pantry could not go ahead without funding” says Natalie.
The good work does not stop there.
Natalie has also collaborated with Apple in Manchester to create weekly workshops teaching people skills for jobs and simply just how to stay in touch with others online.
After completely the course each individual will receive a certificate that they can then present to employers creating better opportunities for the community.
Natalie says that they are always struggling for volunteers, ‘we have a volunteer base of approximately 10 but that not 10 consecutively’.