Two weeks in Newham

Daniel Stone is a Jellicoe Intern based in Newham, East London – and a student of Economics and Management at St Peter’s College Oxford.  He blogs on his first two weeks on placement:

From the Barclays Tower in Canary Wharf to a small church hall in Stratford, the life of a Community Organiser is never dull! Two weeks ago I would have thought that people from such disparate ways of life would have nothing in common save their constant disappointment with the England football team! But I now realise that the link of commonality that binds people together runs deeper than material similarities towards motivations, frustrations and the answer to the famous community organisers’ question ‘What makes you angry?’

For many people in London regardless of their background; inner-city violence and the unneccessary death of countless numbers of young people makes them angry. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (meeting in Barclays Tower) is connected to countless numbers of people motivated by their faith, commitment to social justice or the heartache of personal bereavment, in wanting to make a difference so that future generations aren’t bound in a culture of fear and violence.

What is perhaps of greater concern is the sense of hopelessness that people find themselves in – a hopelessness that sees the 22 teenage deaths that have occured over the last 18 months as being something that is out of control and out of their hands. This simply isn’t the case and I have been encouraged by the organisations I have seen so far who are attempting to take up the gauntlet thrown down by the City Safe campaign, to tackle knife crime head on instead of passing responsibility onto the police.

One such community is that of the ARC based in Forest Gate, a church that 5 years ago was galvanized into action by the murder of one of their young people, Charlotte Polius. The vision of the church leadership and the enthusiasm of their young people has meant that rather than stirring up interest, the emphasis of my internship has been on building relationships and opening lines of communication with other members of their local community to act together for change.

I have come to realise the simplicity of community organising and just how beautiful this simplicity is! It is based purely on relationships – talking and acting with your neighbour – and is then something that we should all do naturally as relational beings. We introduced a number of young people to the City Safe campaign last week. During the meeting a young lady said that there wasn’t enough for young people to do and that one possible solution could be to encourage young people to take up boxing. Earlier that very same day we had been speaking to a former Ugandan Olympic boxer who wanted to expand his boxing programme to include more young people from Forest Gate!
The mission statement of the ARC is ‘keeping it simple, keeping it radical and always keeping it real’. For me this perhaps best sums up the aims of City Safe in that the issues of knife crime won’t be solved over night but by taking small steps to implement what we still sadly consider to be ‘radical’ ideas of community cohesion we can perhaps begin to change things.

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