What is a ‘Grassroots’ Charity?
Grassroots refers to movements or organisations that use everyday people and collective action within a local area to affect change. Grassroots movements are powerful. They encourage community members to contribute, take responsibility and action in order to see real change within their community.
Grassroots movements take a ‘bottom-up’ decision making approach to change instead of a ‘top-down’ approach. A top-down approach refers to when higher level institutions or governments put in place policies and programs that effect the communities they serve, but are often detached from those communities. While a bottom-up approach provides opportunities for community members to define their own strengths, weaknesses, goals and measures of success.
At LIVEfree Project we believe in a bottom-up approach and always aim for this to be the foundation of every program and service we offer.
Why does this make a difference?
Local grassroots initiatives are enmeshed in the community issues and are deeply connected to the people in need.
For us at LIVEfree Project this means we aren’t far removed from the people who we help. We know their names, their neighbourhood and their stories. We are immersed in their community and we deeply care for it.
So how did LIVEfree Project begin?
Over 15 years ago, there were a local group of people who had friends living within the Hamilton South Community – one of the largest public housing estates in Newcastle. And they saw a need for more educational support for the children living there, as most of the children’s parents didn’t finish their Higher School Certificate and didn’t understand or encourage the value of education. So, this group of people started a homework club in the local community hall, which became a place where children could go after school for a snack and to get help with completing their homework.
They started noticing that while the children were inside doing their work, their mothers would be waiting outside of the hall chatting with one another. During this time, they began sharing stories of their community, their lives and their families.
All of these women had experienced hardship in their life and been affected by family and domestic violence. These mothers began to build friendships and wanted more.
They craved a safe space where they could be themselves, laugh, share their struggles, learn more about themselves, how to support their children and build genuine relationships with others in their community.
This was how our Inspire Women program was born.
The Inspire Women group became a place where women from all walks of life could come and share their life with others over a coffee and in a safe space that was free of judgement. Inspire Women ran like this for a few years and then as it grew, the volunteers facilitating it could see that the women wanted more still. LIVEfree PROJECT was created in 2018 out of a desire to offer more support and opportunity to these women and their families.
From discussions around a fold-out table outside a community hall to now a thriving educational and resilience group.
LIVEfree Project has now been running in its current form as a not-for-profit for over 3 years and has expanded to a number of other programs and services that have developed as the community as expressed needs for different areas of support.
Our on the ground relationship with the community we care for positions us to be able to understand their needs and work alongside to support them.
Top 3 Benefits Of Grassroots Organisations
1. We Understand The People We Support
We have a deep relationship with the Newcastle communities that we care for, we have known them for years and are in regular connection with them. This relationship provides us with insight into the people, their environment, relationships and community culture. The communities we serve are intricate and have complex needs and relationships that cannot be understood unless you are enmeshed in that community. The trust and relationships we have perfectly position us to support them and implement our programs on the ground.
Our close community relationship further positions us to identify the needs in the community and provides us with a constant feedback loop that allows us to improve our programs on the go. This means that our programs are relevant to the community’s greatest needs and are developed and improved whilst in process.
For example, a few years ago some teachers at the local primary school we partner with noticed that some of the students getting in trouble in class were clearly experiencing tooth decay. We spoke with their parents and started taking these kids to the dentist for dental treatment, the difference in the child’s behaviour after this treatment was remarkable. Children had been losing sleep over tooth aches and been in pain during the school day, negatively affecting their ability to focus and learn in the classroom and their interactions with others. Now these children are thriving because they are no longer in pain and have improved sleep, can focus in class and are no longer acting out towards others.
2. Our Clients Feel Empowered
This model of care empowers people to take charge of their lives and allows them to direct the support that they receive. It means that the way we care for our clients is individualised and holistic, because every client is different and each of their needs and goals require a unique package of care. That is why our mission is “For people to realise and live out their full unique potential”. Our clients have control over the support they receive and the way they receive it.
Our programs and services have always been directed by a client asking us for help with a specific need and us deciding to see what we can do about that. We know our clients, we understand their capacity and always encourage them to take responsibility and action for their lives where possible. We take a strengths-based approach to care, helping facilitate clients in their understanding of their strengths, resources and capacity. As a result of this model, our clients feel empowered to take control of their lives and also to give back to the people that support them on their journey.
For example, one of our clients had been attending our Café Estate Breakfast program and receiving Oz Harvest through our Doorstop Deliveries of Essential Goods service regularly and decided that he wanted to give back to those who had supported him. He now no longer relies on our grocery deliveries and instead volunteers at the Project weekly, helping to setup and pack down for our Café Estate Program as well as packing and delivering groceries to others. We love seeing this beautiful cycle where our clients receive support, grow in their own confidence and feel empowered to support others in return.
3. It Builds Community
Grassroot charities funding pools are often reliant on generous community members instead of large corporate or government grants. This means that the people supporting the charity are generally people who live in the local area and witness the difference the programs are making in the community. Smaller grassroots charities also have lower overhead costs which allows more of the money donated to go directly to helping the people in need.
Due to this funding model, small scale charities are usually also reliant on passionate and hardworking volunteers to support their programs. This builds a positive workplace culture as the volunteers are often dedicated to the cause because they live in the area that they’re serving and see the benefits of the program first hand.
For example, one of our regular sponsors not only donates their money but their time as well. After checking out some of our programs before deciding to sponsor them, he loved them so much that he now also donates hours of his time every single week to volunteer in this same program that he financially supports. Our sponsors see the benefits of what we do, they see our heart for our community and they want to be a part of it.
We are a Newcastle charity that supports those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged in our community, such as those effected by domestic and family violence, homelessness, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, disability or hardship. The support of every day community members like you, releases us to what we do best without limitations. If you want to see the results of your donation in action, then consider becoming one of our Grassroots Sponsors today by committing to donating $21 a month for the rest of 2021.
We know our community; we know their story and we care for them.