Penlee Family Project

“With community work, you align yourself to like-minded people. Things grow organically and you remember peoples’ skills.”

Terry Reynard, Director, Penlee Family Project

As a Community Interest Company (CIC), Penlee Family Project in Cornwall exists to benefit the local areas of Camborne, Pool and Redruth.

It works closely with people aged over 50 years old, children, young people, adults with learning disabilities, carers, isolated people at home, people with early dementia, parents of new babies and more.

Terry Reynard and Kim Parker head up the organisation, with additional help from two baby practitioners, external helpers and volunteers.

Penlee Family Project organises baby massage classes, a baby group to strengthen parent-infant bonds, a “Friday Friendship” multi-generational drop in for older people and children to come together and arranges visits to local care homes with children.

As Terry explains, “We bring generations together to have fun and experience joy to combat isolation and loneliness and make older age more purposeful.”

Working with Mitber – the Power of Partnerships

Penlee Family Project originally met Ruth Purdy, Mitber Director, at Heartlands Cornwall, around a community led project. The Covid pandemic brought the two organisations together again, when Mitber supplied a series of creative activity packs to the Penlee Family Project multi-generational members.

During the pandemic, Mitber delivered numerous creative activity packs to food banks, homeless centres, community groups and sheltered housing bodies across Cornwall. This initiative enabled people to stay safe, learn new skills, complete arts-based projects and reduce isolation.

Covid prompted Terry and Kim to review their activities as an organisation and revise how they could reach people. Working with Mitber, they jointly sent out multiple activity packs to designated project care homes and nurseries, families and individuals.

Terry highlighted how this was “a fantastic initiative during lockdown and helped people stay connected.” 79 people were regularly contacted, helped and visited during the pandemic. Kim noted how “the Mitber services enriched what we were doing – the packs had good themes, were about making things, being creative and included positive messages about looking after yourself.”

Film-making collaboration

In early 2022, the Penlee Family Project were coming to the end of their 3-year funding cycle and planning what to do next. During these internal discussions, Terry and Kim thought about making a film to explain and promote the work they do but were aware they didn’t have the capability or technical skills to do it themselves.

They remembered Ruth and Mitber had delivered a camera workshop to their organisation previously and approached her to work with them and their group members on the film-making project. Mitber’s approach to working with community groups like the Penlee Family Project is to support individuals in gaining skills that suit their needs, using smart phones and devices that are readily available and accessible.

Kim noted how “We really liked Ruth’s approach – she took a step back and was very considered. She booked time with the participants, conducted interviews and looked at different work elements.”

“It was great,” added Terry. “Friday Friendship is a warm, diverse, complicated group and very mixed – there are Carers, able-bodied attendees, people living with dementia, people with learning difficulties and sight loss. Ruth was a great fit with this group – it just worked.”

Preparation for the film started in March 2022 and the project was completed by the end of July 2022. Terry, Kim and the group users were delighted with the final version. Terry stressed how “Ruth wanted to think it through and include everyone – what she pulled off was pretty amazing. It was a great skill. She was very good at introducing different elements of the film and worked with the group collectively.”

There was lots of editing, but this was a collaborative process – not an externally created or imposed finished article. 3 films about Penlee Family Project have been produced in total – short, medium and long final versions.

“It captures what we’re all about.”

The finished film was sent to the National Lottery and Cornwall Community Foundation as evidence of what the Penlee Family Project do, and both responded favourably to the detailed content and breadth of services included.

Everyone in the Friday Friendship group has seen the film and expressed their pride around a piece of work they had directly contributed to. “It captures what we’re all about,” stressed Kim. “It helped us to reflect on what we’re doing,” added Terry. “The preparatory interviews we carried out beforehand and talking about the work we do – it made us feel really proud.”

The film has received positive feedback on the Penlee Family Project Facebook page and is now sent to accompany outbound emails when providing an overview of the organisation. Terry and Kim are in the process of upgrading their website and the film will have a prominent space in the final version.

What does the future hold?

“When our projects are completed, we ensure that participating groups have the knowledge and technology available to carry on with their own activities,” explained Ruth. “For example, being able to take photographs and sharing these on social media. Similarly, the video-making skills learnt by the Penlee Family Project members are transferable, helping to reduce digital poverty and support social mobility.”

The success of the film-making project between Mitber and Penlee Family Project has already sparked an idea for a future collaboration, based around multi-generational child-raising changes and developments. The partnership and mutual support between both organisations promise to grow and prosper in the future.