If you’re a regular reader of my column you’ll know how proud I am to be from Sunderland and I take a genuine interest in what is going on in the city.
With that in mind I like to think my local knowledge is pretty good and I’ve got my finger on the Mackem pulse, so to speak.
Before Christmas I was involved in something that massively opened my eyes to projects, places and people in Sunderland.
I was asked by The National Lottery to co-present a series of short videos, highlighting where National Lottery funding was being utilised in the city.
This involved visiting four projects in Sunderland, and meeting the people behind them and those who have benefited.
Like many people, I had a preconceived idea about where National Lottery funding was allocated and how it was spent.
I certainly didn’t think there was much of it winging it’s way to Sunderland, nor did I ever anticipate that it was being used to benefit so many people in our area, in so many different ways.
My first shock was that more than £15 million pounds of National Lottery funding was spent in Sunderland in 2017 alone, and I was also surprised by the number of brilliant funded projects that are taking place right under my nose, that I simply had no idea about.
I met so many wonderful people, during the interviews we did, who really care about improving the lives of others in their hometown, and have a true passion for the work they do and services they deliver.
It may sound like a cliché thing to say, but the money from the National Lottery has actually changed people’s lives here.
Success stories ranged from people overcoming mental health issues to improving employability skills and so much more in between.
On the back of being involved in this project, I’ve found myself looking at buildings such as The Beacon of Light, Grace House and others in the city in a whole new light now that I know about some of the incredible work that goes on behind their doors.
I’ve always said that it’s the people who make Sunderland great, and after we concluded filming, I’ve never been more certain that it’s true.
The National Lottery funding has helped so many people and organisations get community focused projects off the ground and given them a platform to make a hugely positive impact on our community and everyone involved in all of the projects we visited should be extremely proud of what has been achieved.
The first episode features The Cultural Spring, an arts project that is using creative to bring people together to learn new skills, socialise and so much more.