The Winch goes above and beyond for Camden’s children and young people

The Winch goes above and beyond for Camden’s children and young people

The Winch goes above and beyond for Camden’s children and young people 1920 1280 WeMakeCamden

The Winch has been working with young people from the same address in Swiss Cottage since 1973. They were nominated for recognition by residents for their work ‘going above and beyond’ for children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke to Rashid Iqbal, CEO, about how they have adapted to support the families they work with.

“Many issues families and young people are experiencing, for example poverty and mental health issues, and young people losing work, have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

What has been The Winch’s role in the pandemic and what inspired you to get involved?

The Winch was founded by a group of Camden residents who wanted somewhere safe for young people to go, back in 1973. Since then, we’ve been a community resource that supports children and families through challenging times, and young people who want to succeed and get into employment and training. 

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked with around 300 families who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Support has included providing food and shopping vouchers, helping families who were forced to move homes, and giving families school uniforms, shoes and nappies if they couldn’t afford it. We’ve also carried out one-to-one personal support, gone on socially-distanced walks and provided support for single parent families living in hostel accommodation. We also wanted to make sure families weren’t isolated, so we provided phones and laptops for children to keep up with their studies and connect with family and friends.

Group shot of young black and white women in front of a colourful painted building

What challenges has The Winch faced?

Much of our work is connecting with families and with social distancing requirements in place we had to resort to using Zoom, and of course Zoom doesn’t always quite do it for everyone. With restrictions in place, it also meant not as many young people could come to The Winch, so we had to find different ways of providing our support. We’ve also seen that our staff are having to do twice the work as before the pandemic. Many issues families and young people are experiencing, for example poverty and mental health issues, and young people losing work, have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

What’s your most memorable moment from your activities supporting Camden communities during the pandemic?

There are many disadvantaged families in Camden and for many young people, home hasn’t been a safe place at this time, so my memorable moment is definitely being able to provide a safe place for young people to go to. It’s also been helping children make sense of the pandemic and what that means for them and their families, as often children struggle to make sense of this all. Another memorable moment was providing an after-school club to support and enable parents and carers who are key workers to continue going to work and seeing what a difference that made.

What are your hopes for the future?

The impacts of COVID-19 on young people have certainly been underestimated. I hope for the future that children and young people can become more central in Government decision-making. I want children and young people to be more valued. The Winch is in the process of launching a new project, funded by the National Lottery, called TeamUp. The project will help young people mobilise to take real social action on issues that matter to them, which I hope will make a real difference.

Group shot of young black and white women in front of a colourful painted building

Is there someone you would like to see recognised for their support for people in Camden during the pandemic?

Kim Mabutt is our play manager and has worked nonstop since the start of the pandemic. Kim organised a partnership with City Harvest to deliver food to families in need for free. She also ensured that children and families had the items needed for children to attend schools, for example, books, uniform, and any other financial support needed. She’s also been hugely mindful of the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing, and in reminding us all that childhood is not just about schooling children need time to play, to socialise, to be themselves. What happens outside of school is equally important. Kim’s worked so hard to keep children safe and supported so many families through a really difficult period – Kim’s really gone the extra 100 miles.

“We couldn’t have done it without every generous resident who has really got behind and supported The Winch throughout this time.”

All of our staff have worked brilliantly hard. They’ve braked, accelerated, and turned 180 degrees to do whatever has been needed, but no matter what, young people and the families we serve, have always been at the forefront of our work. This is not a job you necessarily do for money, but a job where you want to make a difference, and everyone has really dug in and done their best for our communities.

When the pandemic hit, we wanted to strengthen our relationships with our communities rather than retreat or close down. This organisation is really made up of an amazing bunch of people. I’d also like to express our gratitude to local communities who have really helped the helpers. We couldn’t have done it without every generous resident who has really got behind and supported The Winch throughout this time. 

How can people get support from The Winch or get involved?

Find out about The Winch’s services and activities at thewinch.org, where you can also find out about ways to get involved, including donating to support their work.

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