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One trailblazer, three projects…and a great journey

27 May 2015

Jan Tchamani is no stranger to the Big Lottery Fund. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and unable to work, her involvement with three of our funded projects has not only changed her life but given her the chance to help others. Here Jan tells us what it means to make a difference in her local community.

Jan shows a man the calendar

Promoting the Birmingham Women’s Calendar

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with rapid cycling, and my self-management strategies keep me at home much of the time, so being able to be the ‘back office’ is really good for me.

The first project was called the ‘Birmingham Women’s Calendar’ when I started up The Red Tent (Heart of England) – a social network for Birmingham women, at a time when I myself was much in need of friendships. We produced a beautiful calendar, using photographic equipment bought with our funding, including four pages of contact information for useful organisations supporting women, and photographs of ‘nature in the city’ which took us out taking pictures in a group, and deepened the friendships we were forming.

Promoting the Birmingham Women’s Calendar

The second project as the Grove Road Inclusion Project, on the sheltered housing scheme I was fortunate enough to move to, when I lost my teaching career and my flat. There I met the man who is now my husband, who was trying to generate community spirit by means of ‘meaningful, therapeutic, social activity’. Our funding from the Big Lottery Fund gave us trips to green spaces, all kinds of activity days with photography, gardening, arts and crafts, baking, tai chi, a wellbeing group called Positive Minds, and an IT Club. The residents now have their own WiFi and three laptops in their common-room!

Baking bread with Tom Baker

Tom Baker and three other men baking bread in a kitchen

Baking bread with Tom Baker

The third project, the Silver Mouse Project, is ongoing. The IT Club resulted in my becoming an Age UK Digital Champion in 2013, and digital inclusion – and exclusion – are something I’m passionate about. I’ve seen the effects of both inclusion and exclusion, and the second project made me realise what a huge gap exists between people who have access to something incredibly useful, something that makes them happy, and people who don’t – especially for older people. The housing scheme I live on is for over-50s, and there are 67 flats here, nearly all with single people living alone. The Silver Mouse provides IT sessions for older people at three venues in our city, and we may find ourselves with two more soon. The response has been overwhelming – partly, I believe due to organisations like the Big Lottery Fund and Age UK publicizing the value of being online.

Age UK digital champions!

What a journey I’ve had with the Big Lottery Fund! The Red Tent still meets, the effects of the inclusion project on the lives of over-50s involved has been astounding. I can’t wait to see how lives will be changed for the better by the current project!

Age UK digital champions

Age UK digital champions!

Jan got to tell her story after reading our Share your story blog.

Can you apply for funding? Not sure? Find out using the Big Lottery Fund #FundingFinder

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