Community Support Squadron One Year On
What a year! As many of you will know, Community Support Squadron or CSS as we are known, only came into being half way through 2010.
Looking back on our first year I can hardly believe what we have crammed in and how much positive progress has been made in developing a robust support structure for the personnel and families of RAF Waddington. One of the main priorities we set at the beginning of CSS, was to try to introduce an improved method of maintaining contact with RAF Waddington families. It was important to us to try and make this communication available to the wider families of RAF personnel, so not just spouses and children but also parents, grandparents and partners.
Obviously CSS staff have been keen to establish good communication to help families particularly in times of deployment but in real terms, contact at anytime can be helpful and this has been something we have tried to advertise to anyone who might be interested. It is safe to say, not everyone has either welcomed these attempts to communicate with families or thought that it is relevant to them. Never the less we have tried hard in the last 12 months to reach as many people as possible.
One year on we have established contact with approaching 500 families, who we try to touch base with at least once a month. Families receive an electronic bulletin each month which contains matters of the moment, interesting information and a list of forthcoming events that people may be interested in attending.
We gather this information as people arrive at Waddington, (every serving person comes to a ‘Community Briefing’ where we say who we are and what we can offer families), and we also try hard to get out across Station and meet personnel in their work place informally. Overall many families tell us that communication is much better and we will continue to add to our database, hopefully contacting many more families in the coming months.
Other key achievements this year have included the expansion of our support to deployed families. OPERATION ELLAMY has affected an enormous number of people in recent months. We have held British Forces Broadcasting Service events allowing families to record messages for loved ones away on deployment and helped the Waddington Community Committee to host on average, one community event each month. We have another BFBS event planned for 27 November this year, which we are sure will be even bigger and better than last years!
2011 has seen other significant pieces of work completed on Station, not least of all the opening of our Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund sponsored Play Park and Multi Use Games Area. This work has taken many years to progress the feedback suggests that this has been really well received.
Other notable achievements this year have been the reopening of the youth club and a really well supported holiday activities programme, something that I have been closely involved in developing with the Station Youth Worker, Miss Kirsty Forrester. I must give great thanks regarding the redevelopment of play areas and youth workers to the RAF Benevolent Fund, who have made all this possible due to significant financial investment.
During 2011 CSS have also been heavily involved with the development of 0 – 19 services across Station. Nursery and extended schools services have recently been taken over by a national charity, “4Children,” and we expect the next 12 months to be an exciting time in this area with many more services and opportunities to become available. 4Children have invested a significant amount of funding into this project which will see them manage nursery, extended schools, pre-school and parenting projects across the station. Work to redecorate and refurbish our nursery is expected to be completed over the next month or so.
Families have faced many challenges this year with increased operations and lack of available families’ accommodation and CSS remain committed to listen to families and do what ever we can to affect positive change, meeting the needs of as many families as possible. We have recently begun to work with our displaced families at Scampton, Digby and Cranwell, and hope to be able to improve the support available to them in the near future.
The last year has been really busy, really successful and I am sure that this year will be ‘more of the same!’
By John Ferguson, Officer Commanding Community Support Squadron