New home for Swindon's Harbour Project

By Barrie Hudson - 10 January 2023

Charity
  • The ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by Harbour Project Trustee Nicky Alberry, left, and parish council vice chair Cllr Janine Howarth

    The ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by Harbour Project Trustee Nicky Alberry, left, and parish council vice chair Cllr Janine Howarth

A vital Swindon charity offering support and help to refugees and asylum seekers has a new home.

  • Those present at the celebration included Harbour Project Chief Executive Claire Garrett, left, Harbour Project Patron Nicky Alberry, second from left, South Swindon Parish Council chair Cllr Chris Watts, right, and vice-chair Cllr Janine Howarth, second from right

    Those present at the celebration included Harbour Project Chief Executive Claire Garrett, left, Harbour Project Patron Nicky Alberry, second from left, South Swindon Parish Council chair Cllr Chris Watts, right, and vice-chair Cllr Janine Howarth, second from right

The Harbour Project currently helps 1,500 people from 64 countries, ranging in age from babies to 78.
It is now based at South Swindon Parish Council's Broadgreen Community Centre, having outgrown its previous base at nearby St Luke's Hall.
The parish council and the charity have invested more than £150,000 in the refurbishment of the centre.
Over the next few months the parish council aims to open the community centre for public bookings once more, and has a vacancy for a Community Facilities Officer.
An opening ceremony for the Harbour Project's new base was performed by parish council vice-chair Cllr Janine Howarth and Harbour Project Patron Nicky Alberry.
Cllr Howarth said: "As a parish, we took the building over as a community centre in 2017.
"It was in a bit of a mess so we managed to start voluntary groups coming into it. Then, obviously, the pandemic hit and we closed the community centre. It was used as a testing centre.
"Once we knew the testing centre was going, we had to make a decision over where we were going with it and what its future would be.
"As fortune would have it, the Harbour Project was looking for somewhere that was a bigger space than the one they had at St Luke's. We began negotiations with the Harbour Project and we've spent over £150,000 on refurbishing it.
"We have forged a very good partnership with the Harbour Project on a long term basis for them to use it for their purposes, and in the evenings we can still use it as a community centre, which we will be doing. We're in the middle of employing a new community officer.
"We hope it's a partnership that will last for a long, long time because the Central area is a very diverse community, and with something like this being this visible within the community, we're hoping it will attract a lot more people to use it.
"We're hoping it will go from strength to strength, and we're hoping to work with them in any way we can in order to achieve that."
Nicky Alberry said: "It's game-changing for us. The charity has been providing the most amazing support to visitors for so very many years at St Luke's, but with the number of people now coming to live in Swindon and make Swindon their home we have outgrown those premises.
"This partnership with South Swindon Parish Council is just wonderful. It's given this building a new sense of life but it's given, most importantly, Harbour Project and the staff and visitors a new home from which to deliver support. 
"It really is game-changing."
Parish council chair Cllr Chris Watts said of the new arrangement: "It's a dream come true for us. In 2016 when the parish council was created, we knew this facility was going to be shut down.
"It was in a terrible state and wasn't being run properly. The parish council saved the facility, and we were fortunate to be in a position where we could also supply it as a facility for covid testing for 18 months. 
"Being able now to bring the Broadgreen Community Centre back into full use, and have the Harbour Project in here doing the fantastic work that they do, is a match made in heaven and crucial for the area of Broadgreen."
Harbour Project Chief Executive Claire Garrett said: "The Harbour Project was established in 2000. In that 22 years our numbers have grown and grown and the impact of the work that we make grows with that.
"We've now got 1,500 visitors that engage with us on a regular basis. This time last year it was about 700, and this time two years it was about 500, so we've tripled in two years.
"Whilst we have a lot of fond memories and history associated with St Luke's we had completely outgrown it. It had gone beyond ridiculous!
"I think our planets all just came in a row, to be honest - that this building was empty and the parish council were looking for a new purpose. We were looking for new premises and we were able to join those conversations together.
"Over the last four months we worked together with the parish council to invest in the building. It's had a new roof, it's had new carpets, it's been decorated and it just feels like a thriving and vibrant place where we deserve to be."
Information about the Community Facilities Officer vacancy can be found at southswindon-pc.gov.uk
The Harbour Project's website is harbourproject.org.uk
 

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