We are sharing stories from a few projects supported by previous rounds of the Development Fund.
At Trinity Community Centre and church in Fishermead, Milton Keynes, an internet cafe funded by a grant from the Development Fund is helping tackle digital poverty in the local area.
The initiative will provide internet for those with limited or no access, enabling users to access the internet for personal and household business and to as well as education and research.
The pandemic highlighted the gaps in digital and internet access across the country and the significant impact this had on livelihoods. Many families had to prioritise other household necessities over digital and internet access. With Fishermead experiencing high levels of deprivation as well as problems with drugs and gangs, Trinity Church recognised that the digital gap was likely to be affecting people in the community. The church developed a survey of residents to establish how the church could respond and this is how the idea of the internet cafe was born.
Reverend Ian Herbert shares the background to the project:
“In the middle of The Fishermead estate is the Trinity community centre and church. As one of the trustees of the Trinity centre and rector of Woughton Ecumenical with pastoral responsibility for Fishermead, I and others who live and are involved with the community centre and church recognised several social problems on the Fishermead estate. These include inequality, low pay, unemployment, mental health, racial discrimination, and poverty, to name a few.
“During the covid-19 lockdown and through the distribution of food parcels it became clear that some families were struggling with access to the internet and children were unable to access online schooling. So, as a community centre and church together, with the support of Citizens UK, we embarked on a listening campaign to understand the issues in our local community. Following this campaign, 41% of residents said they had trouble accessing the internet and 59% said they would make use of an internet cafe. A separate survey of the local school revealed that 114 pupils did not have access to a digital device at home for schoolwork.”
The project is led by Trinity Church in coalition with local organisations including local schools, the Chinese Church and other faith groups. The internet cafe will provide a vital service for the local population and create opportunities for building lasting relations between the church and community.
Revd Ian goes on to talk about the role of the church in the project:
“This project concentrates on the compassion aspects of the Christ-like church. By responding to the listening campaign, the church is identifying with the least and the lost and bearing the burdens of the community it serves. The internet café allows us to invest our God-given resources boldly, for the sake of the Kingdom, and not hoard them in our church family. Leading to a reduction in digital poverty in Fishermead and the surrounding estates. It is aimed at providing full digital inclusion for the Fishermead community. The growing use of online facilities for schoolwork and other forms of everyday life means access to a fast, uninterrupted, and secure internet service is becoming a necessity.
“There are times when we only need to share the love of Christ by our actions and not our words. We pray that this initiative, will go towards building and maintaining healthy relationships between the church and the community and local groups we serve.”
The Development Fund is open to all parishes and benefices in the Diocese of Oxford and especially those with limited financial resources to invest in missional activity. Applications are now open for the next round of funding and close on 31 July 2022, find out more and apply on the Development Fund page of our website.