Summer internship: reflections on week one

Tom Daggett is one of fourteen students currently interning with the Jellicoe Community.  He is based at the Salvation Army in Stepney. Here he writes about his experiences in the first week:
Community organising was something new to me when I was introduced to the Jellicoe Community, but when it was explained, it made so much sense, and I couldn’t wait to get involved. Much more than with typical internships, undertaken by typical Oxbridge students, this one excited me because of the prospect of engaging with people’s actual lives, of dealing with what it is that makes us human, of being able to offer my own experiences in dialogue with others’.

In the past two weeks, I’ve grappled with and reflected upon drug abuse, generational conflict, disability, racism, overcrowding, idleness, death, fear, and the relationship of these to faith. It would be easy to draw very negative conclusions about the Ocean Estate (supposedly one of the most economically deprived in the country), but I now know that there are people who are genuinely changing the area through friendship, leadership, and belief in God. I’ve had meetings with: exciting new committees on the estate; with people who have turned their lives around and who now inspire others through their own amazing stories; with local churches; with civil servants; with Oxbridge professionals; with the elderly; with evangelists; and with those sceptical of what I’m doing.

One inspirational experience has been to witness the homeless football team, which Nick Coke, Salvation Army Captain, helps to run. Each with their own difficult histories (and some without, but who just enjoy a bit of sport), the lads (mostly early 20s, representing diverse racial backgrounds) come together once a week to play a tournament, have a free lunch in a local church, and are invited to attend a non-compulsory bible study, after the lunch. It was remarkable to see how many chose to stay, and how each took the study seriously, making wise contributions which pertained to their own stories. The brotherhood that was fostered around those fold-away tables was astounding, and after speaking openly with these guys, I felt part of it. I shall never forget it; in that church hall I discovered so much humility.

This month, I’ll be working towards a long-term plan that will help local institutions in Stepney to support each other in London Citizens’ “City Safe haven” scheme. My one-to-one meetings will drive my work, and it’ll be great to get these people involved. It’s been great to get to know the other interns, too, whether over a curry, or over a pint whilst watching the world cup final!

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