A REDRUTH-based social enterprise is celebrating after being awarded almost £220,000 in National Lottery funding to support its work with people who feel anxious in social situations.

Quiet Connections will use the funds to run more activities that support people in growing confidence and self-acceptance whilst making new friends.

It was founded in 2017 by Hayley Stanton who experienced social anxiety herself and struggled to access support.

Stacie Clark, director and community coordinator, said: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund is recognising and supporting our work in this way. Now, thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to increase the support we are offering across Cornwall.

"This is important because social anxiety is a huge, unspoken issue affecting more than 1 in 10 of us, and it often feels like we are the only person struggling. So we’re excited to have an even greater opportunity to show people that they are not alone; bringing people together in safe, supportive spaces to gently stretch their comfort zones and build truly understanding friendships that offer the encouragement and support we need to grow.”

Hayley and Stacie, both Cornwall School for Social Entrepreneurs fellows, have made it their mission to change the way that people who feel anxious in social situations are supported and to increase awareness of social anxiety.

The organisation has already supported more than 500 local people through their courses, coaching and quiet get-togethers, where people are encouraged to gently "stretch their comfort zones" at their own pace through meeting new people, trying new things and practising their social abilities in a safe space.

The duo have also reached around 3,000 people through their awareness raising activities including creative exhibitions that enable people attending their groups to share their stories in quiet ways.

The new funding from the National Lottery Community Fund will see new groups running across Cornwall.

This means that opportunities for support and connection will be more easily accessible and the number of people able to attend will increase by more than 300 a year. Up to 20 new volunteer opportunities will also be created.

At the same time, Quiet Connections will be able to focus on reaching people in the local community who aren’t yet ready to join in; offering support, reassurance and online courses to ease anxieties and help them to take positive steps towards participation.

Rose Burch, participant at Quiet Connections, said: “I am grateful for Quiet Connections because they give me a chance to be me without judgement or criticism. I am able to be part of a group socially, in comfort and feeling safe, for the first time in a long time with them. I have a sense of belonging and being cared about. It's just lovely.”

For more information visit www.quietconnections.co.uk