Wednesday 10 July 2019

Community Day and Flower Planting

I have been getting a bit more involved in my community recently, something I have wanted for a long time.  There are two big reasons for this:

Firstly, when my family moved into this neighbourhood 33 years ago, it was considered a nice area, somewhere we could be proud to call home. Over the years it has degenerated with poverty, crime and anti-social behaviour increasing and the whole area becoming overcrowded and starting to look dirty and rundown.  To make things worse, the area became known for prostitution, with people having sex in residents front gardens and parked cars and leaving used condoms all over the road for our children to step over on the way to school in the morning.

By this point, the people who were proud of the area moved out into nicer areas and many of the houses were bought by landlords to let out, often to multiple families or groups of young men.  My husband would often speak to neighbours to try and organise people to complain or do something about the problems, with little luck.  Sometimes he would return from fajr (dawn) prayers and would chase away men trying to use prostitutes in alley ways behind shops or in neighbours front gardens.  He would complain to shops and ask them to gate their alleyways, to no avail.

I tried asking about neighbourhood watch and found our area no longer had one.  So you can imagine I was desperate for a neighbourhood watch, a residents association or some groups of neighbours to try and come together and do something – whether it was lobby the police and local council or to take some other steps.  It has only been in the last eight months, when things got so bad, that there were young girls prostituting themselves on every street corner with thugs in cars watching them (we were told by the police these are organised criminal gangs that often traffic girls for this purpose), that a group of neighbours came together and tried to do something.

In a short time they have lobbied so hard for the Council and police to do something, that enough resource was deployed into the area that the girls left (to go to neighbouring areas I hear).  Residents started Street Watching (including my husband), standing next to the prostitutes and staring down punters as well reporting to the police.

It has been an amazing piece of activism, but only very much the start of things.  Part of the reason that things got so bad was that the community became partially transient, moving in and moving on fairly soon and not staying long enough to feel invested in the community.  We also had tensions between the settled communities (mainly Asian and some black and white) and the new communities (various Eastern European communities, including Roma who often face abuse here).  So part of the solution has been about dealing with the anti-social behaviour and prostitution, but part is about re-building the community and building bridges between different parts of the community.  To that effect the groups of residents has been undertaking litter picks and community planting days.  They have applied for money for new bins and for parks to have new play equipment and fences put in.  They have tried to set up walking groups for women. I have tried to get involved as much as I can.

At the recent community planting day, I ran a card-making stall for the kids.  They had a great time and went mad with my stickers and stamps.

The flower bed that my husband helped to build, we all planted flowers in it and keep an eye on it during the school run, it is now in full bloom:

The second reasons I wanted to get involved is that I have developed so many skills through work that could benefit my community: identifying funding, bidding for funding, creating a website (which I have done last week), connecting people with ideas and projects that they would be interested in,  researching and information gathering.  I really wanted to use these in a way that could make a difference. Now I am grateful for the chance to do so. 

My next two dreams/projects for this neighbourhood are an art club and sports and activities for children and young people as neighbouring areas have both and truly benefit from them, we have neither and desperately need them.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11 July, 2019

    This is so excellent!!! I'm so happy that you are making a real difference. So horrible to hear about those poor young women who were trafficked in. How can we help when their pimps are so powerful in the underworld? Sometimes I wonder why the wrold is as harsh as it is and why some men are such bad human beings. Hopefully they see justice in this world or the next.