A SUFFOLK charity which has experienced unprecedented demand in recent months, is now celebrating having an extended home for its service – thanks to members of the region’s business community.
Suffolk Refugee Support helps some 1100 asylum seekers, refugees and their family members each year, and had reached a critical situation at its tiny Ipswich office, which was threatening its ability to deliver its lifeline resource.
With more space needed, the charity was able to secure a neighbouring space in St Matthew’s Street, with Ipswich Community Media moving in downstairs to share the property – but with extensive redevelopment needed, it looked like the project might have to stall.
Recognising the urgency, Suffolk ProHelp reached out to its members, only to be met with generous offers of construction and architectural input from several of the county’s most respected companies.
EDRM (architectural designers), Playle & Partners, MLM Group and Hestur Ltd all responded to the appeal and agreed to provide their expertise on a voluntary basis to get the organisation housed and active as quickly as possible.
The charity has, in the last few weeks, officially opened its doors at the new larger space, and says it is indebted to the businesses who so willingly gave their time.
“Having occupied the same small office space for nearly 20 years, during which our work and demand for our services had expanded dramatically, we had been under space pressure for some time,” said Rebecca Crerar, of Suffolk Refugee Support.
“When the lease on the shop next door became available, we felt it was an opportunity too good to miss – but it needed work. We are a charity providing help to vulnerable clients, with no experience of building work or office redevelopment, so we didn’t know where to start with a project of this nature.”
She added: “Suffolk ProHelp were able to identify and source the professionals we needed, and at no cost. EDRM, the architectural consultants, provided a great design, and responded with endless patience to our ideas. We also had the benefit of a consulting engineer, quantity surveyor, and health and safety consultant.
“These things always take longer than you hope, but we have now moved in, and both clients and staff are delighted with the result.”
Highlighting what the new space will enable the organisation to achieve, Rebecca said: “We are so grateful to ProHelp and the team they assembled for us. We would have been foolhardy to try to do the job without their support.
“Their help saved us thousands of pounds and their generosity of time and ideas went beyond what even a commercial client could have expected.
“The increased office space will enable us to offer our full range of services to our clients in an environment that is quieter and more conducive to reducing their anxiety.”
Richard MacRae, of EDRM, said: “It is rewarding to be able to offer your skills to those who ordinarily might not have the resources to engage your company and utilise your expertise. It can also be personally satisfying to feel that you are helping a good cause that makes a positive social contribution.”
David Clarke, of Hestur Ltd, added: “The reason for Hestur Ltd being involved in Suffolk ProHelp is to assist in giving support to the charity sector where professional expertise is required.
“We gain considerably by being able to contribute in meeting our social responsibilities, and personally being able to feel we have been of benefit to, and helped to improve, the position of those in the wider community.”
Suffolk ProHelp is led by Community Action Suffolk and every year helps around 40 projects receive specialist service provision or advice. In the last year has distributed over £50,000 worth of expertise to charities in the county.
Angela Lee-Foster, who leads the initiative, said: “Suffolk ProHelp is an invaluable scheme. The shared time, expertise and passion of Suffolk ProHelp members helps create thriving and resilient communities. Making a difference to the community is an intrinsic part of responsible business, it enhances a firm’s reputation, improves staff morale and provides opportunities for development. Our social impact and benefits to the community are widespread, from village halls to community shops, playgroups to community theatres we aim to reach those most in need of expertise.”
To find out more about becoming involved with Suffolk Pro Help, go to suffolkprohelp.org.uk