Put the effort into reaching the highest heights for a view of community

In this fifth blog from your Third Sector Interface, ACVO, we meet Kaja Czuchnicka, Partnership and Enterprise Officer. Kaja works closely with Alison Chandler, featured in the first blog, and provides a one-to-one support service to charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups in Aberdeen, helping them with their funding and business planning. Kaja also works as part of ACVO’s wider Health and Social Care Integration team.

“I like most the variety of helping different clients with different issues. One day I can be supporting a small community group looking for money for dance costumes and the next a large organisation supporting people with learning disabilities. Our position as Third Sector Interface for the whole city means that we can often see more widely the issues and opportunities which exist. We each support perhaps 20 clients a month and get a really deep understanding of the challenges people in Aberdeen are facing, what works and what organisations need to make an impact. This on the ground knowledge is vital to another side of my work.

The integration of health and social care is the Scottish Government's programme to ensure better care and support for everyone. I work with a number of ACVO colleagues engaging at all levels of Health and Social Care Partnership (H&SCP) in Aberdeen. I am involved in one of the several “Localities” into which Aberdeen is divided while other colleagues ensure ACVO covers the whole City. Each group looks at the needs of that area and tries to ensure that different partners work together. When needs are identified by communities – for example – social isolation amongst older people or families struggling with drug and alcohol problems - we ensure that partners work with those communities to address the needs in a way which works for that particular part of the city and in a way that responds to communities’ real needs. We believe that this is important not just to public services but also to the business community who want their CSR strategies to be effective and make tangible difference to people’s lives. We at ACVO are making sure that even when resources get smaller things are as effective as they can be. I am contacted by perhaps twenty partner contacts a month looking for particular links and am able to pass on lists of Third Sector organisations able to deliver in the field they are interested in. A great deal can be achieved by simply recognising the value of local community clubs which can do so much to tackle social isolation. If your company’s employee team were to support the community centre or local hobby club around the corner you could be doing something significant in addressing a real priority issue.

Another part of my current role is working with the H&SCP Health Improvement Fund, helping them be an effective and modern funder that strategically invests in communities to make an impact. We are launching a review of the fund at the Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership Conference in October. Hopefully we will be able to roll out with other funders where we could offer value.”

Kaja brings a particularly broad horizon to her work over the last three years with ACVO. She had worked with major Third Sector organisations in Aberdeen and refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow. She has taught English and managed a café. Originally from Poland, her greatest joy remains hiking in the Polish mountains and “the feeling you get when you reach the top after a challenging hike, everyone saying hello and cheering you on. There is a real community feel and you become part of a bigger group wherever you go” and that is something she finds true too in our treks through the landscape of Aberdeen’s needs. If you need a guide to help you reach your goals in our community you only have to contact your Scottish Government funded Third Sector Interface – ACVO at www.acvo.org.ukenquiries@acvo.org.uk 01224 686058.