Community and rail partnership is transforming lives

Friday, 17 April 2020

Residents of Acorn Village with the artwork they produced at Manningtree station.

The Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership (CRP) and Acorn Village Charity have celebrated their partnership with a video about their work.

Terri Ryland, Community Rail Officer and Kate Williams, Development Coordinator of Acorn Village – a Manningtree based charity for adults with learning disabilities – have worked together for four years to transform the lives of the people in Acorn Village’s care.

One of those is Morag who has been helping Terri on some of Greater Anglia’s rural branch lines which are supported by the work of the Essex and South Suffolk CRP – and Morag is now the star of a video about the benefits of the project.

For the past few years, Terri has helped Morag to gain more confidence and independence by giving her a role in Community Rail - helping at stations, putting up posters and doing some gardening, to helping on special event trains where she helps to decorate the trains and give out treats to passengers on board.

Her contribution to Community Rail is now celebrated in a special video which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyivHvNTod8

More widely, the residents of Acorn Villages have produced art works that now adorn stations – including a series of scenes that are making the underpass at Manningtree station more welcoming, and a mural of the Mayflower ship - which are also featured in the video.

Terri Ryland says of the partnership with Acorn Village, "It makes such a huge difference to us, and such a huge different to Morag.

"We’re always looking at new ways we can work together for the benefit of the residents and the whole community.

"The railway offers an excellent place for community projects to flourish and we are grateful to have Greater Anglia’s support for our initiatives."

Kate Williams of Acorn Village said, "To actually be able to give something back to the community is a great achievement. We get a lot of support from the community so for Morag to be able to go out there and give back by helping on the trains, helping hand out flyers doing the gardens, which the community appreciates, it makes such a difference."

Terri adds, "We’ve been working with Acorn Village for about four years and it’s really evolved, and it’s been really good because it’s the people here that have created what they wanted to create, starting with the murals in the tunnel."

The partnership has also seen Acorn Village’s residents take part in rail safety training, learning how to use platforms safely, buy tickets, and feedback to Greater Anglia how to make rail travel easier for people with learning disabilities. This has led to alterations to the positioning of the station help buttons to make them easier for everyone to reach.

Greater Anglia’s Community and Customer Engagement Manager, Alan Neville, said, "The CRP and Acorn Village’s partnership is a wonderful example of a project with real community benefit and we are delighted to be a part of that. Long may it continue to offer new opportunities to the residents of Acorn Village.

"We are really grateful for their involvement at our stations and proud to display the fantastic art works that they create."

Other Community Rail Partnerships in the region are also celebrating their work to benefit their local communities with a #ShareASmile campaign on social media, taking a look back at the fantastic work that is done by the many volunteers to have helped to put their local rail stations at the heart of their communities.