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hvoss (Herefordshire Voluntary Organisations Support Service)

25 Feb 2021

BBO Project - Supporting to stay connected

BBO Herefordshire works with people aged 19+ years, across Herefordshire, who are experiencing multiple barriers, resulting in social exclusion. The project helps  participants gain skills and develop confidence through intensive personalised support to equip them with the abilities needed to move towards and into employment. It also provides access to a wide and diverse range of volunteering opportunities, enabling more disadvantaged people to move into further education or training having acquired basic skills, increased confidence, and motivation. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Mandy Furniss, who leads the BBO Herefordshire Project at hvoss, said “This has been a challenging time for the people we work with, many of them are isolated, shielding and often living alone with a range of physical and mental health challenges. During the first national lockdown BBO moved activities online to enable social engagement to continue. Along with our employability workshops and 1:2:1 support we started some virtual social events to help people make friends and help feel connected, one of the ways we found to do this was through our weekly baking workshops. They have developed into a positive and fun way to support people and bake a difference”.

'At the start many people had never baked before, were not IT literate, and several are blind, so we had to support each other to find new ways of working together and stay connected, developing a sense of purpose and achievement. The staff and the group then decided on a baking and cooking themed fundraiser”.

So, on 23rd November 2020 it was on your marks, get set, bake! for the hvoss ‘BBO 12 Hour Bake Off Bonanza’ which raised more than £1500. BBO staff and 8 participants on the project donned their aprons and made a variety of different bakes and cooked a curry all over Zoom. This exciting challenge, which started at 8am, was the culmination and celebration of 6 months of online baking workshops. The event celebrated all the group had overcome and the continued commitment to support one another to promote mental well-being and ease feelings of social isolation”.

Bbo Bake Off

Cover design by Poppy Blance

The funds raised for hvoss will enable staff to keep working from home and supporting people. The money will specifically be used to pay for the publication of a book created with participants over lockdown, entitled ‘Baking a Difference’. It will include stories from lockdown; these are from interviews held with participants exploring their life experiences before, during, and after lockdown, and how the BBO project has enabled them to overcome barriers. This will be combined with BBO recipes made in the workshops, where individuals in the group led the bakes, building confidence, and sharing skills and ideas.

One of the ‘star bakers’ who took part said: ‘It was a brilliant, fantastic, if tiring day. I was exhausted, but the atmosphere was great and we made loads of yummy stuff. With some serious team- work, we all pulled together to raise money for hvoss,’ and thank you to all our supporters in the community who popped by on Zoom to say hello and for all the donations and messages of support on our fundraising page, it is truly appreciated by everyone involved.

Continuing into 2021 a timetable of zoom workshops has been put together by staff and participants for the next few months to keep people connected and motivated; social activities, cooking and more employability sessions with various guest speakers from the partnership. An audio play/ production which is being led by one of the participants is being planned. Some of the group have already attended virtual courses this year and achieved some great exam results. One on the group has said:

“Lockdown has taken me a step back with some things. Been so different since I started coming into hvoss to where I am now. Have done retail and customer service course. Definitely achieved my goal with volunteering. Feel pretty good about CV, hvoss helped with words and spelling, happy with the font and new layout, definitely stands out better now.  In the long run all of this has helped me so much, I just want to say thank you personally to hvoss/BBO for helping me set up my C.V and helping me look into work.”

For more information and to contact the BBO Herefordshire team, call 01432 343932 or email

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BBO Bake Off Baked Goods - No Names 

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