Jozef Chledik and a friend started the ‘0161 Community’ just over two and a half years ago with the aim to encourage unity within the community and to provide guidance for working class communities across Greater Manchester.
Chledik works with volunteers all over Salford and Manchester to offer activities and classes based around art and sport to teach people of all ages new skills and to encourage conversation with different members of the community.
‘That’s our main overriding goal, getting people together and to give them skills and guidance going forward but after a few months of starting up and doing what we were we doing what we wanted to really do is make sure that the work we were doing was intergenerational.
“So we’re not just focusing on kids because you know communities are everyone it’s not just young people that live in community its the family the single parents it’s the older generation so we tried to focus all of our work being inclusive of everyone no matter their age race gender or anything like that’
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Due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, when many people were out of work, the 0161 Community had to close their group events to focus on donations and getting support to the thousands of people in need.
“Over the course of the last six months we raised £5000 to give donations of food and other items to key workers at the start of pandemic. We’ve donated books, activity packs that we designed, these include colouring books, skipping ropes, and pens to keep people entertained in lockdown or to provide them with something to do.”
Chledik highlighted just how much support is actually needed since the start of the pandemic:
‘Since the pandemic started it would probably be in the thousands, well into the tens of thousands because we’ve done in total about 18,000 frozen meals, as well as the regular donations that we have going out to different people. Even if you added all the activity packs, it would be many, many thousands of people’
This year saw the majority of Conservative MPs voting against providing free school meals over the holidays. This led to local organisations and eateries donating meals for those in need.
‘I think obviously with the school meals stuff that Marcus Rashford brought to a lot of people’s attention so there was a lot of hype about the high school meals. Pressures get to people a lot more and it’s a cold time of the year people really do struggle both physically and mentally.’
Jozef continued “It’s so clear how much people are struggling and how much people need these items.
“Obviously with everything that’s going on with the pandemic and the lockdown the need for not only our organisation but for foodbanks across Greater Manchester and all of England is massively greater and actually unfortunately coming into 2021 that need will only become greater.”
Following on from the thousands of free meals and food donations, it is not just food that people need. The 0161 Community and other organisations are calling out for people to donate toiletries such as sanitary products.
‘Sanitary products is definitely a big one, it’s something that we found more and more people are definitely in need of. We’ve regularly had people asking for that and it’s so clear that there is a massive need for that we are always regularly asking for that’
In England, sanitary products are still classed as a luxury, statistics in the UK show that 1 in 10 girls are affected by period poverty.
In November of this year, Scotland unanimously passed a bill to make sanitary products free to all women in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the bill was “important for women and girls.”
“After the breaking news in Scotland where it came out that they were providing free sanitary products to women, actually if that could be replicated here it would make a huge difference. We got a big donation a few months ago of 30,000 tampons, we kind of thought I don’t know how we’re going to supply them I don’t know whether people need. We got rid of 30,000 tampons in twenty-four hours.
“People sometimes say that people take advantage, or you know people lie about stuff, but actually people only take what they need and only ask when they’re really in need’
The 0161 Community does not have a referral system and can offer support to people that feel like referral systems or government support systems may have let them down.
The group is open to messages from anyone in the Greater Manchester area in need of help or from anyone who wants to support their organisation.
“We have just done a fundraiser that raised just over three thousand pounds, but we are regularly taking financial donations and any other donations whether it’s some clothes or whatever.
“Whichever way people want to help we just ask people to message the page and someone will get back to you straight away”
0161 Community are currently looking for support and donations to help cover the costs of their own indoor space so that they can become accessible to all of the community.
You can support 0161 Community here: