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Connecting communities one click at a time


New digital community centres are helping people in Poplar keep connected while we stay at home.

The virtual centres are just one of a wide range of our new online programmes helping the community to feel safe and supported during the Coronavirus pandemic. The new digital opportunities include; health and wellbeing activities, IT equipment on loan to those in isolation, accredited employment and training and dedicated support for young people.

HARCA Centres Unlocked provides a virtual space for neighbours to cook with each other, brush up their digital skills, and kick start their days with online exercise and emotional wellness programmes. Poplar Union, one of our community centres, runs arts inspired virtual activities including live streamed gigs and interactive art classes. The new digital community centres attracted more than 100 followers within the first eight days of being launched.

30 local families, who would otherwise struggle in isolation, have been loaned tablets, and in some cases broadband, so that kids can access home-school; parents can entertain their children online and those who are house-bound can access essential services, such as healthcare and crisis support.

“Thank goodness for the tablets! My three children use them for online homework each day and Arabic classes. I allow them two hours of free play too. We wouldn’t have coped without it.” – A tablet scheme recipient

“I’m so pleased for Kathleen….She is now learning to use Facebook. She does not feel so isolated anymore”. – A carer for a tablet scheme recipient

Employment and training opportunities have moved online too. The Hive, our employment and training hub, is offering free, accredited digital training, including courses in business administration and health and social care. The Hive is currently supporting 179 digital learners.

“I am really grateful for the opportunity to complete my health care course. It has enabled me to have a deeper understanding of the issues people in our community face.” – Learner, The Hive

Spotlight, our creative youth service, is running new digital programmes to support, inspire and motivate young people in Tower Hamlets during the pandemic.

  • Health Spot, a new GP service especially for young people, offers doctor appointments over voice or video call
  • Remote youth worker service offers one-to-one virtual appointments with staff who are on hand to listen, support and make referrals.
  • Spotlight online is a safe space offering daily competitions and challenges.
  • Free online accredited courses, from expressive arts to employability skills.
  • Resource page which links young people to mental health support, creative, fitness, and educational activities.

Babu Bhattacherjee, from Poplar HARCA, explains why our services have gone digital:

“People are at the heart of what we do. This is why we’re adapting the way we work to address the needs of our diverse community, especially the most vulnerable and those who face multiple barriers.  With our partners and volunteers, we will continue to keep our community connected, manage their well-being and provide them with support during this very difficult time.”

While the digital programmes run and most public spaces remain closed, two of our community centres have been transformed into food banks led by local community charity, Women’s Inclusive Team. They are providing 120 grocery care packages a week, and 130 hot meals a day, to those most in need. A crowdfunder to keep both projects running has already received donations of more than £10,000.