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ASCEND Community Blanket Project

ASCEND Community Blanket Project

Under the guidance of inspirational tutors Sian Fenwick and Ekky Archibong, over 40 ASCEND learners are currently crafting pieces to reflect what self-isolation means to them, using media such as stitching, journaling and painting/drawing. The completed pieces will be attached to the blanket to create a community piece, but with a border to represent self-isolation. ASCEND’s jewellery group will be making wire jewellery bridges to join the pieces to signify communication. It was decided to create a community blanket because of the meanings of comfort, warmth and soothing associated with blankets. In addition, a film will be made of the blanket project and the process of creating the individual pieces, and will be displayed, together with the blanket virtually during the Summer and when permissible on tour around Hertfordshire.

Supporting Our Learners

As we all submit to the changes in our lifestyles,  it is even more apparent that we need to keep connected and support one another during this pandemic.  Staff at ASCEND are doing their part to support our learners through this situation as we are aware that many people will be feeling stressed and anxious.

ASCEND’s jewellery courses have been popular over the years, not only through the development of skills and techniques, but also because of the impact it has on well-being and isolation.  Our learners have become friends, sharing and exchanging ideas; and sometimes even attending external craft fairs and events together.

Ekky Archibong tutors this class.  As an artist, creative entrepreneur and tutor for our jewellery classes, she is a strong advocate for creativity as a pathway to well-being.   This is why she is currently working with ASCEND to ensure that we continue to support our learners with free online jewellery projects and networking with one another, until we are able to get back face to face again.

So yesterday (Thursday 26th March 2020) our jewellery class met up virtually to look at Bangle Making using Mandrel, Hammers and Anvils.   A ring or bangle mandrel is a large, tapered tool made from steel or wood.  It is used to form and shape metals and also for creating wire wrapped rings and bangles.  They also looked at anvils and bench blocks and how to use them to provide a secure work surface for cutting, drilling, filing and hammering/shaping metal.  Their challenge is to design a Bangle using 1.0mm or 1.2mm jewellery wire and we will be creating a Facebook gallery of all their efforts.

In the meantime, if you are interested in the sort of jewellery our group are making, you might like to visit the following…     or   to see examples of what can be done.


Staying Well When Social Distancing, Self Isolating and/or Remote Working

From ASCENDs CEO – Christine Wyard

The Government has now advised that if you have an underlying health condition(s) or if you are aged 70 or older, you should be social distancing for up to 12 weeks. This means staying in your home and having no physical contact with anyone.
We know that during this period it’s really important that you look after your mental and emotional well-being as well as your physical health.
Below are some tips and general advice that will help.
Firstly, it’s important to highlight the need to avoid additional sources of anxiety, especially if this is something that you are already challenged by in normal daily life. Lines are going to become blurred as routines shift and we have to create new structures which take time to settle.
Secondly, it’s key to reduce or remove sources that could trigger you and quite understandably be upsetting. These sources would be the media and even friends, family members, partners and neighbours. The ten tips below will greatly help towards reducing anxiety and reduce any fears you may encounter.
It’s worth pointing out two key sources of stress that we need to become aware of.
A. Limit News and Social Media time. It’s important to stay informed, especially in these current times, however it’s important to maintain a balance. Consider watching the news such as on the BBC once a day and looking at Government official sites once a day only. Avoid regular tabloids and associated websites. If you do read them make sure you get confirmation from an official authority before accepting what you read or hear. Consider turning off notifications and alerts on your phone so that you control the stream of information.
B. Limit gossip and hearsay about the virus and related topics. For all our well-being it’s important to stay connected and in touch with friends and family. However, we can easily be swayed with false news or hearsay. Therefore it’s especially important to be vigilant about we what we hear and take in and what we pass on. Stick to the facts and use common sense. If you don’t know, don’t say or if you are not sure ask.

10 Tips to adopt while social distancing
1. Establish a daily routine.
Routines provide structure and purpose.
For example avoid watching the news in the late evenings and consider mid morning once a day instead. This will help to regulate yourself and process any information, but give you time to focus on the day.
Consider having a change of cloths. If you are doing work change into work type cloths and then casual for the evening. This again can break things up and differentiate your day.
2. Balance your weekly routine so you have a good mix of work (activities that have to be done), rest and leisure.
3. Think about the regular activities that are most important to you.
What are the important elements to these?
Can you adapt them to carry out in your home?
4. Set daily goals to provide purpose and a sense of achievement.
This might include working through that list of the things you keep meaning to do, but never get round to!
These unusual times can be a great opportunity to focus on tasks that you have neglected at home or start a project you have been meaning to do for so long.
5. Identify the triggers that make you feel low and look for ways to reduce or manage them. Remember to limit exposure to negative or distressing news and friends or family members who may feed off the negative environment.
6. Talk with family, friends and neighbours to help them understand how you feel and how they can help.
– Can they talk you through using apps on your mobile phone, for instance?
– Can you help them reduce their stress and worry? How might you do that?
7. Take care of yourself.
Eat and drink healthily with plenty of fruit, vegetables and water, to help boost your immune system and energy levels.
8. Avoid staying still for too long.
Exercise and regular movement will maintain fitness and strength.
If you are working from home, take breaks and eat away from your “desk”.
Ideally, if you have the space at home create zones for different activities, so that you are keeping things varied and different. Pack things away (such as laptops and files) after your work day if you only have one area to both work and rest in.
9. Have a good sleep routine.
If you are struggling, try avoiding tea and coffee in the late afternoon and evening, take a bath, using blackout curtains, listening to gentle music or deep breathing exercises.
10. Keep in touch and support each other.
Arrange to speak to someone most days on the phone or via the internet. Speaking to others will help with anxiety and is a good opportunity to share support. Avoid discussing the current situation or the latest news bulletins. Unless it is critical.   Avoid hearsay about the virus or related topics. If you don’t know don’t say or if you are not sure ask.
On the upside
To finish – it’s important to remain positive. As was mentioned in the tips above.
This can be a very productive period, if we choose to be pro-active and look after ourselves and our loved ones.
You can tackle those projects around your home that have been crying out for some attention. Even start an exercise routine you haven’t tried before. There’s a YouTube video for just about anything! Like Yoga or Pilates.This could be an opportunity to learn a new skill. Join an online course. Start a new art project or a new hobby. Write that book you have always wanted to start, but never found the time.
Most of all stay safe and remain supportive towards yourself through using these tips above and those close to you.

Step In Cafe – the Community Love It!

Our Step Up Cafe has been running for 4 months now. The whole idea behind the café is to bring those together, who are mainly over 50, to help combat loneliness in South Oxhey, particularly at the weekends when loneliness can be at its worst. Here is what some of our visitors have been saying:-
“I don’t do anything so I’d be out shopping or at home, but wouldn’t be talking to people. It’s a safe place to meet people.”
“It’s company, friendship, you get to know people. I looked forward to coming today.”
“I get to interact with people, otherwise I’d be at home bored.”
“I feel very relaxed, brings everyone in community together, gets me away from my household.”
“It’s company, I have a laugh, it’s very enjoyable, a chance to do different activities, there’s a good variety.”
“It’s enjoyable meeting people, and gets me out of the house, gives me confidence.”
“It means a lot, I just like all the company. We all have a laugh here.”
Our next cafe is on Saturday 14 March from 2pm to 4pm, when there will be a bonus talk at 3pm given by Andrew Scarth about bees and honey – which we no doubt will be able to sample with a scone.

A Big Thank You to TRDC Step Up Volunteers

We were delighted to welcome five volunteers from Three Rivers District Council including Cllr Alison Scarth to Step UP this morning.  They had a bright sunny day to clear away the moss at the side of our building and prepared the soil at the front of the building for sowing wild flowers and poppies as part of  the many things we are doing for Hertfordshire Year of Culture 2020 (HYOC 2020). They have done a brilliant job and we hope to utilize the cleared space for lots of activities this year.





Three Rivers helps clean-up ASCEND Step Up grounds (TRDC News Release)

ASCEND Step UP outside area that leads into the woods and the border at the front of the building have been ridden with thick moss and weeds.

Cllr Alison Scarth and Three Rivers staff volunteered their services to clear these areas and make them ready for use on 6 February 2020 as part of Hertfordshire Year of Culture 2020 (HYOC2020) whose theme for February is skill development and volunteering.

Liz Fraser, Facilities Manager for ASCEND Step Up, said: “ This is a great initiative that has helped in enhancing the look and feel of the building, providing us with future space that we can utilise in a variety of ways. I am delighted that Three Rivers District Council has taken such an interest in supporting ASCEND as a charity.

“Cllrs Andrew and Alison Scarth have consistently taken a keen interest in the work of ASCEND and been proactive in helping us in a time of need. I thank everyone involved for dedicating their time and efforts to help us today. You have all done a marvellous job, I can’t believe the change it has made and the benefits to ASCEND in utilising the space in front of and at the side of the building.”

The front of the building is now ready to plant wildflowers and poppies in time for celebrating 75 years VE Day. Plans are being made for the other larger area cleared to be used for extra staff parking and other uses.

Cllr Alison Scarth added: “We want to support our communities in any way we can. To keep doing this we need our businesses, residents and schools across Three Rivers District to get involved. From clearing litter to helping clean-up areas for better use or just a general tidy-up. Let’s sustain this work by taking a proactive interest in keeping our environment tidy and clean.”


New Step In Cafe for over 50s starting in November

ASCEND are delighted to launch their new Step In Cafe at ASCEND Step Up (39 Oxhey Drive, WD19 7SD) for anyone over 50 who is lonely and would love to meet new friends living locally. The Cafe opens once a month on a Saturday and offers an opportunity to socialise with afternoon tea in a relaxed atmosphere with board games available for the more competitive as well as other activities and speakers.  Cafe participants will also have the opportunity to visit local venues as an organised group and to have a say in local escorted outings over the next year.  For more details, please contact Sally at ASCEND on 020 8420 1364.

The first opening of the Step In Cafe is on Saturday 9 November from 2pm to 4pm.

This initiative has been funded by the Building Connections Initiative through the National Lottery Community Fund with a contribution by Hertfordshire Adult Family Learning Service (HAFLS).

The Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire to Open ASCEND Network SOx Event

ASCEND is delighted to welcome The Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire Mr Robert Voss CBE, to officially open the inaugural Network SOx event on Thursday 13th June 2019 at 10.30am.

The event will showcase local business and enterprise, and is for people looking for local employment or thinking of changing career or starting their own business. Visitors will be able to talk to local companies, as well as talk to careers and job advisors as well as receive advice from WENTA and Better Business for All about business start-ups.

Visitors can also participate in a programme of free 25 minute workshops run by business professionals on a variety of topics supporting jobs and careers.

Network SOx is a one day event on Thursday 13th June from 10.30am until 3pm at All Saints Church, Gosforth Lane, Watford WD19 7AX. The event is free-to-attend and refreshments will be available.

Launching Safe Monday

We are delighted to bring back a successful initiative on safety, funded by the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Action Fund.   Safe Monday will be launching on 13th May, at ASCEND Step Up (39 Oxhey Drive) with an opportunity to have your property marked with your postcode eg. bicycles, tools etc.  Except for bank holiday Mondays, when timings will be a little different, Safe Monday will operate every two weeks at ASCENDs Step Up building in Oxhey Drive, and there will always be someone available to talk about your safety and crime concerns.