A community champion who supports young people across South Bristol is one of the individual winners of our Community Stars competition.
Ben Carpenter set up Grassroot Communities - a CIC, not-for-profit organisation - back in 2017 and immediately set about door knocking and speaking to young people at local parks and supermarkets, to gauge the appetite for community initiatives.
Ben said: “I set up Grassroots because of the backdrop of all of the cuts that were happening to the youth sector. It was obvious that by talking to people across South Bristol there wasn’t the provision to support people, especially those most in need.
“Everything Grassroot Communities have done is based on needs, that was our overwhelming focus.
“We go out and talked to young people to find out what is important to them and what they would like to see and experience in their communities.”
His first community project saw him join up with a number of young people and adult residents on Silbury Road, Ashton Vale.
The group were treated to a variety of fun activities, such as creating a wheelie bin sound system and making edible hanging baskets, and he then supported everyone to plan, organise and deliver their very own show-stopping street party.
We commissioned Ben to run a youth project in Stockwood where anti-social behaviour was increasingly becoming an issue.
The project started with a pop-up event where Ben and his team talked to young people and adults and put on a range of activities to bring the community together.
The following week a games day was set up which saw the young people and adults form a team against the police and other agencies in order to widen the conversation of what was needed in the area.
Ben, 42, added: “After the discussion piece and the games day, the main things to come out were that adults didn’t want their younger children going out because of ASB and the younger people felt there wasn’t anywhere to go and anything to do.
“So we got some funding to support the teenagers to organise and hold a summer holiday programme for the younger children that was based around sport and fun activities. We also took the older teenagers away on a trip and engaged them in adventure activities such as bushcraft.
“Local residents got to see those teenagers as role models and doing positive things and it brought people together instead of there being this constant divide.
“We also got some more funding to put some of the teenagers through a youth leadership course.
“It helped them to set up a junior youth club and some of the teenagers are now working for organisations such as Young Bristol.
“These projects can make a massive difference by showing that young people, who have been written off, can make a positive contribution to the community.”
Elsewhere Ben and his team set up a youth-led boxing club in Hartcliffe and support social action projects in local secondary schools.
The first one he carried out was a social action project on knife crime in support of a student whose father had been killed after being stabbed.
Ben said: “The students voted for it and we supported them to make it happen.
“It was a subject that the young person didn’t really want to talk about to start with, but it opened up conversations and empowered the group to collectively deliver a knife crime awareness workshop for younger children.
“The young person from the group spoke about the impact of knife crime on families, the police talked about the law, someone else delivered a session on first aid and they blended all of those elements together to hold a 45-minute workshop.
“We are getting involved in something called the Conversations in Nature series. A young person I used to work with a few years ago is supporting me to talk to local people about their experiences with nature and things they can do to help people and planet.
“It will be about simple things people can do at home which will make a difference.
“The issue we have is we have been able to deliver some great work across marginalised communities such as Hartcliffe, Bedminster, Knowle West and Stockwood and then the funding comes to an end.
“Throw in the challenges presented by Covid-19 and it has been a difficult time for us.”
Ben was nominated by Marion Jackson who helped him to set up a volunteer youth club in Redcatch Park, Knowle, several years ago.
Marion said: “Ben is a passionate youth and community worker and has been working with young people across the south of Bristol for many years.
“He is so committed and has a real passion for supporting young people.
“He is totally dedicated to what he does, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Ben.
“The funny thing is he didn’t know I was going to enter him for this award so I am sure he will be surprised.”