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Charity of William Hobbayne volunteer during coronavirus emergency

Charity starts at home – for more than five centuries

A local 500-year-old charity has been playing a crucial role in helping the most vulnerable people in Hanwell during the coronavirus crisis, as part of the Ealing Together coalition.

The Charity of William Hobbayne was founded in 1484 by a yeoman of the same name. Its purpose has always been to support people in the community however it can. Primarily, it has been providing grants to Hanwell individuals and families in ‘need, hardship or distress’ and to local organisations that give other forms of support.

Individuals and families do not approach the charity directly. Instead, a wide network of local groups, churches and organisations approach the charity as ‘sponsors’ for those who need help – effectively, referring them to the charity’s trustees to see if a grant or other support is possible.

During the COVID-19 emergency, its outreach work has expanded and become central to the borough’s response. In partnership with Ealing Together, the charity is effectively feeding up to 400 vulnerable Hanwell people who are ‘shielding’ at home because of health issues.

Most of the families can pay, and this is being done through a scheme called ‘Adopt a Family’, whereby each household is assigned one of the charity’s volunteers, who call them each week before doing their food shopping for them and delivering it. However, the charity will try to help those who have slipped into financial hardship for whatever reason.

‘It is an inspiration’

June Martin is an outreach worker for the charity; and she liaises with its network of local partner groups.

She said: “During this emergency the charity is reaching the most vulnerable people in society, but it has been helping Hanwell people in more normal times.

“I have walked into rooms and there is no food, no bedding; children with hardly any clothes. In these cases, we can move very quickly. But it is all done very quietly and carefully.

“The grants we provide can be for all manner of things – not just emergency food and essentials. It might be anything that can improve the life of someone in genuine need and perhaps give them a stepping stone from poverty to something great. For example, a homeless teenager wanted to go back into education recently but couldn’t afford it and the charity provided her with help to purchase books.

“When I look at how one man set up this charity in 1484 to help local people and that, more than 500 years later, it is still supporting his original intentions, it is quite incredible.

“We have so many good volunteers working together on the COVID-19 pandemic to help others and it is an inspiration.”

At the heart of the community

There is a variety of ways in which the charity’s work is embedded in Hanwell’s everyday life.

The William Hobbayne Centre is a community centre run by the charity in St Dunstan’s Road, established in 2002. In normal times, it provides a wealth of community activities, support groups and spaces for community events and meetings. Although the centre is closed during the pandemic, it has been the central hub for the charity’s efforts during the crisis.

A number of ‘green’ projects the charity supports, or leads on, include:

  • Two thriving, local allotment sites, one built on previously derelict land that gives those without their own gardens somewhere to grow food
  • Tree planting and other outdoor spaces. In recent years, the charity has worked with Trees for Cities and Ealing Council to create a green management plan for its outdoor spaces, including planting more than 1,000 trees with the help of local primary school children in two sites – a riverside project and a larger community managed woodland.

These are all outdoor spaces which the charity feels will be invaluable once the pandemic subsides.

The charity also provide support for educational projects in Hanwell schools.

Stepping up in the crisis

One thing that has stood out, across Ealing, during the coronavirus crisis is how many people have been willing to come forward to offer their own time, hands and expertise. The Charity of William Hobbayne and its volunteers have been testament to that in Hanwell.

It is a coming together of people on a scale not seen for a very long time and it is something June hopes will continue to have a positive effect on the community well beyond the worst of the pandemic.

She said: “The legacy of what we have been doing here in Hanwell will hopefully be that we will continue to tap into the skills of people who did not previously volunteer in community projects but have been engaged by the crisis and stepped forward to help. So many hadn’t realised the value of the skills they used in their everyday lives or professions, and the difference they could make – but now they do. You could say people didn’t know how to volunteer, or if they could be of use. If they continue to be engaged and involved, it would make a real change in the community.”

More information

Visit the charity’s website to find out more.

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