Behind every great cause, there is a memorable story with extraordinary people. A.S.K.I. is no exception
Our story began in 2012 when A.S.K.I. was established in Croydon by three professionals with lived experience of inequality and a keen interest in social reform.
In their work, these social care workers came across many members of the community in Croydon who had difficulties accessing services. They identified the needs of migrants and refugees with language difficulties; homeless people, who were on the extreme margins; people with disabilities; older people with dementia; neurodivergent people whose needs were not being met; and young people who were not in employment, education, or training.
Over meetings, the professionals used their specialist knowledge and contacts to organise informal community consultations. What they found was that these communities were ambitious and wanted to reach out to services - they simply needed community-based services to bridge the gap between isolation and engagement.
And that is exactly what our founder, Joseph Jeffries, went on to do. A former professional dancer who has performed for audiences around the world, he learned how different cultures deliver health and community services. Drawing on the very best elements of these services, and using the social and health benefits of dance as a template, he established the charity’s early services with a focus on social, physical and mental health, and learning outcomes.
A.S.K.I. becomes a registered charity
In February 2012 Joseph mobilised the community and together they raised funding from grant-making trusts, local businesses, and statutory funders to establish a high-specification community café, which now serves as a welcoming, informal hub for many of our services.
This cafe now serves as our central hub for a variety of accredited learning, leadership, health, employability social, and arts programmes, such as older people’s lunch club and befriending, BAME Leadership programmes, digital training, virtual workshops, telephone support services, mobile cafe and meals delivery services.
Where we are now?
We have a dedicated team of 78 volunteers who speak 20 community languages and who have a range of skills and qualifications, including 10 trained BAME Community Leaders.
We have always targeted Thornton Heath, Bensham Manor, and Selhurst wards, which are the top 10% most deprived in the country (Index or Deprivation 2019). In the last two years we have have widened services to Bromley, Harrow, Lewisham, and Sutton boroughs.
With our brand new minibus, we have mobilised our services, taking our cafe and lunch service on the road and into the homes of older people and people who have mobility and other high-level needs.
In 2019, we organised services for older BAME men and women in the Borough of Sutton. Place At My Table is now a registered CIO. A.S.K.I. is proud to be the driver for new services which are now run by community partners, leaving a long-lasting legacy for the communities we serve. We are currently working with our community partners to develop services in Merton and Bromley.
We want to enable people to live safe, secure, happy and productive lives, making valuable contributions to their community with the skills, knowledge, and information gained from our programmes.
We are a responsive service
Joseph remembers most of the people that ASKI has served over the years. Such as Gemma, a young care leaver who was struggling to access further education or employment. We provided her with a voluntary placement where she provided befriending support to an older person with dementia and also organised group activities. She benefitted from monthly training and supervision from our CEO and access to external courses with our local Volunteer Centre. She increased her confidence and aspirations.
Fast forward five years, and Gemma is now in the final year of a Law Degree.