Uncategorized

Truly Inspiring: English Teacher Talks About A Group Of Friends Getting Together To Feed The Hungry In Her Hometown

feed1

Allicia Pearce and her young volunteers have setup a new soup kitchen in a deprived part of Newton, Birmingham. The project feeds growing numbers of people in the community who are experiencing social and economic challenges. Allicia took a break from her schedule to talk to Eva Nyandoro about the soup kitchen.

“We cook and serve a free hot meal with a dessert and hot drink to people in need every Thursday from 5-7pm at Newtown Community Centre. pearceWe also take food to the elderly and housebound. The food ranges from vegetable pasta bakes to chicken and rice with vegetables. We don’t just serve homeless people in need but also people who find they are not earning enough money to cover the bills.

“We’re a Non-Profit Project. We are definitely not getting paid or making a profit. We’re not government funded; it’s out of our own pockets and the generosity of the community. We spend around 30 pounds a week on supplies.”

people

Feed the People was established in October 2013 after one of Allicia’s students became homeless. Allicia teaches English to adults who are dealing with social and economic difficulties in their lives.

“I have always been drawn to helping people and making sure everyone is alright. I often pack lunches for my learners. On one particular afternoon, one of my students came to me distressed after being told that the hostel where he was staying was closing down in three days and he had to move out. I called various neighbourhood offices and hostels on his behalf in the capacity of his teacher. To cut a long story short, we managed to find accommodation but he was still homeless for a couple of weeks before he moved in. I went to my Grandma’s house that evening where she had provided a lovely dinner of Turkey, Lamb and Chicken. I couldn’t eat. I felt so bad for people who sleep rough and cannot afford to eat.

“I called Newtown Community Centre the next day and told the manager exactly what I’ve just told you…straight from my heart. He asked me to meet with him in person on the same day…I did this and he provided us all the facilities at Newtown Community Centre including the kitchen and hall free of charge for us to use every Thursday.”

Feed the People is made up of a core of six volunteers and family who donate their time and money to the project.

She said: “The people we provide food to every Thursday can’t thank us enough. We’re not in this for fame or to get our name out there. There is a real need and we want to help meet people’s needs.”

Allicia talked about the challenges the group faces, such as ensuring they had enough volunteers to serve food each Thursday. “As all of us either work or study, getting people to come down to volunteer or drop the food off at peoples houses can be a juggling act. But we’re all committed to helping people in need.”

Although Feed the People was only established last year, it has already inspired a movement of people to setup food kitchens in Bristol, London and Redditch under the Feed the People banner.

If you would like to find out more contact Feed the People by visiting their facebook page click here.

feed the people logo

Advertisements

Teen Flavour work to help the community

drumsBy Eva Nyandoro

Joe Dzenga, co-founder and Treasurer of Teen Flavour talked to me about the work Teen Flavour is doing in Manchester, to get Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), Refugees, Asylum Seekers and other disadvantaged groups to engage in society through music, art and other community-related activities.

The Community group actively seeks to interact with people who would not normally get involved in community projects. Joe, said: “We realised that a lot of refugee families from places like, Zimbabwe, Congo Afghanistan, and Iraq are stuck in their houses, feel isolated and are not always willing to participate in community activities.”

Joe described Teen Flavour as providing a safe space for people to discover their talents, develop potential and encourage community integration and coercion through creativity.

artsslider

One of the popular activities that Teen Flavour offers to the community is the chance to have free lessons in ‘Stone carving the Zimbabwean way’ every Saturday from 9am to 12pm at Oldham Gallery, Manchester.

They use stone carving as a way to tell a story, evoke the spirits and explore myths of old, current and future civilisation in a welcoming environment. Some of their work has been on display in the Oldham gallery which opened in 2013.

Joe explained: “We have engaged BAME men through stone carving who suffered domestic violence and are not willing to come out and access help. Many immigrant families settled in Manchester and the changing men and women roles has created imbalances and holes in the fabric of the family nucleus. As such some men are disadvantaged and struggle to cope with ‘women bread winner situations’”.

Teen Flavour also offers free ‘Rwendo’ (the Journey) – African dancing, music, and drumming workshops with live performances every Saturday from 2pm to 4pm at Teen Flavour,Unit 1, Quebec Street, Oldham. They have taken part in black history celebrations at Oldham gallery and participants were “induced into a trance of Afro-rhythmic vibes; fine tuned piercing voices and vibrating echoes of Marimba and thumb piano. Our project offers people the chance to integrate within the community and to get to know their neighbours”.

In the past, Teen Flavour hosted an open mic event with live performances, music, drama, talent show and produced a YouTube video called ‘Gangs and Violence’ in Oldham. It was commissioned by Oldham Council to reach out to ‘difficult to reach communities.

Joe said: “Young people often walk in after school and record tunes onsite and blend rhythms with traditional African instruments like (Ngoma) drums. We work in conjunction with other community groups, schools, colleges, churches and universities to improve racial tolerance and infuse harmony among communities.”

According to Joe, youth unemployment in Oldham is at a peak. They see Teen Flavour as a ‘contemporary instrument’ for young and old people in the area to learn new skills and boost employment opportunities.
In the future, Teen Flavour plan to introduce ‘African Man Parenting’ workshops to support and educate BAME men to engage more with their families and create a ‘Man-Made African Village’ to pass heritage and educate people about ancient civilisation.

Finding new premises for Teen Flavour is one of the biggest challenges that Joe talked about. “We’re looking for bigger premises to accommodate family events, improve disability access. “It is difficult to improve access to our Stone carving activities in winter since we carry out workshops in an open space which is not always convenient especially winter times.
“We are also facing difficulty in accessing long-term funding, nevertheless our work has been supported by different funders. We greatly appreciate our funders for honouring our community activities and the pivotal role they play to drive our vision forward.”

Teen Flavour was founded in 2009 as an unconstituted group and it became a constituted group in 2012. Teen Flavour is also currently in the process of registering as Charitable Interest Organisation (CIO).

If you would like to get involved in Teen Flavour projects or become a volunteer contact info@teenflavour.org

The truth about ‘chuggers’

By Eva Nyandoro

My first day working as a street fundraiser will be forever marked in my mind.  On that day 52 people were killed by four terrorists on 7 July 2005. As I walked through King’s Cross after being told to get off the 73 bus, a mass surge of people run away from king Cross knocking me sideways and pushing people to the ground. Obliviously to the chaos around me, I kept on walking. I was a woman possessed with the blitz spirit. Needless to say, I was the only one in the team to get to Warren Street station. Our shift was cancelled that day.

untitled

Everyday a group of us would hit different spots across London from local high streets to affluent areas like Richmond. The hours were long and often we didn’t finish until we hit our quotas for the day. We had an hourly rate and if we managed to sign up a lot of people in the day, our hourly rate would increase for that day. I was great at chatting to people; unfortunately, I was terrible at getting people to sign up. I was let go after one month. Throughout my brief summer month working as a high street warrior I would come home either drenched in water from failing miserable to hold my umbrella, dripping with sweat from standing in the burning sun all day. Waking up in the morning and knowing that somebody was going to sign up to Amnesty International and they didn’t even know, kept me going on those particularly dark days.

My time involved heckling and joking with the commuters that skidded around me. I always had a knack of making people smile even if they didn’t stop to talk. I even drove a man to head into a lingerie shop to avoid me. He jumped out of the shop embarrassed and I was there waiting for him. I met the late George Best in a leafy picturesque village. He gave me his signature but he didn’t leave his credit card details as he had left it in the pub. He never came back in the end.

Picture from ThirdSectorsJobs website

Picture from ThirdSectorsJobs website

If you ever want to avoid street fundraisers the tricks that left me stumped were:

  • I’m already a member
  • I don’t speak English very well
  • I’m running late for a meeting
  • I’m underage
  • The meter is running

On-street fundraisers are often picked on in the media as ‘chuggers’. It is an aggressive charity mugger that goes around causing a nuisance and pest to people walking on the high street. This term is offensive to the hard-working fundraisers who work long hours making real changes to charities up and down the country. Over the years they have been branded with a barrage of misguided perceptions from the public.

The reality is a very small minority of individuals act like chuggers. They can use abusive language or be obstructive to passers-by. This type of person doesn’t represent the ethos of the charity they work for. Nobody would willing hire a person like this. The majority of Face-to-face fundraisers (F2F) are more like high street warriors.

Did you know that F2F fundraising raises £130million a year for UK charities and 18% of all donors that give through direct debit and standing order were recruited through face-to-face methods? This is one of the most cost-effective ways for charities to find new donors to support their causes.

Whether you like or hate fundraisers – when was the last time you went out of your way to donate money without being bombarded by an advertising campaign, emergency crisis appeal or plea from friends or family involved in fundraising projects like friend’s skydiving for Cancer Research? When did you just randomly decided to donate £5 to a great cause?

It is too simplistic to lay the charge of ‘chuggers’ on hardworking fundraisers. Or, put another way: don’t hate the fundraisers, hate the reality. If you don’t want to sign up you can always say NO. By the time a high street warrior hits their pillow tonight they will have helped to change people’s lives. Can you say the same?

Lots of Jamaicans are helping others – and not “doing a ting”

By Stuart Taylor

What is your image of life in Jamaica, for the average Jamaican?  Some people think the island is rife with deception, trickery, stealing and corruption.  “Doing a ting”, as people say.

Like many people, I have been amused by some of the stories of “doing a ting”.  There’s the perhaps mythical story of the ex-London bus driver.  After thirty years of driving the streets of London, he returns to Jamaica.  He has a few car driving lessons and studies the highway code.  Test one – fail!  Test two – fail!  Test three – fail!  How can this be?  But his friend explains, “yu mus do a ting”.  Once his paperwork for the examiner is accompanied by £100, he passes – no problem!

buses

Then there is the policeman who was so helpful by accepting the fine for a minor traffic infringement to save the driver from having to spend all the next day in court.  Yet he asks the motorist to pull in to the side street as there’ll be fewer persons with cell phone cameras to record this fine transaction!

Okay, we could all go on and on with examples.  “Doing a ting” happens in many countries in one way or another.  The GP in Romania’s health system will often anticipate a tip in addition to the standard payment – and that’s in a part of the EU!

We can easily be blinded by all the talk of “doing a ting” in a negative way.  Many of my personal experiences suggest the opposite.  A primary school in Trelawny set up an early start breakfast club that is helping children that face particular difficulties to get up to scratch.  Teachers are choosing to start work earlier, for no extra pay.  Parents are helping with breakfast preparation.  Others are helping to pay for the food.  Pupils are keen – some even arriving before the teachers.

After viewing a house in Runaway Bay, on the north coast, the man showing me round walked to my car and spotted wires hanging below the front bumper.  Within a second, the bonnet was up and the problem sorted.

Then there are the friends or neighbours – tax or legal experts – who will sort your technical difficulty with no expectation of financial gain to themselves.  Just like the stranger standing in the road who gave me a bag of mango one day and a sack of yam the next.

Cowman's cows

Cowman’s cows

Surely this cannot be the Jamaica that we so often hear about?  Well, if you live there for long enough you can come across even better examplesThere’s the recent case of a labourer on my building site.  For weeks he impressed me as a hard-working 23-year-old. One day I was anxiously re-tracing my steps, searching, searching, searching.  A few site workers had encouraged “Cowman” to keep the lost bag of US dollars.  But as I reached the end of my first circuit, Cowman asked whether I had lost the little black bag.  Not only was he fair and honest with me, he also wanted to be fair to his co-workers – whom he believed stood to lose two weeks’ wages.

In a similar vein, I visited a house in Kensington, on the east coast.  A colleague dropped her phone in long grass, as we struggled across rough terrain.  A young lady answered the missing phone and explained how we could find her.  She happily returned a decent UK phone that carried plenty of international credit.

Such real-life stories of individuals “doing a ting” should be flashed around Jamaica – and around the world.  Jamaica really is made up of lots of honest people – however the media may choose to exaggerate.

And we must not forget the Diaspora – Jamaicans working overseas who send large amounts of hard-earned pay back to family and friends. A recent report calculated that almost a tenth of Jamaica’s annual income (GDP) comes from individuals living in the USA.  Adding in remittances from Canada and Britain means that perhaps a sixth or a seventh of Jamaica’s economy stems from the “gifting” of Jamaicans living abroad.

The Rotary club is a hospital where the local’s people volunteer their time to help people in the community.

The Rotary club is a hospital where the local’s people volunteer their time to help people in the community.

In addition, there are the many persons who contribute each year to Labour Day activities – or through more frequent assistance to individuals and their community.  And there remain a good few examples of credit unions and “partners” pooling financial resources to help individuals at certain times.  As the Jamaica Co-Operative Credit Union League says, the Credit Union Movement “continues to have a significant impact on Jamaican society, promoting the ideas of self-help and community co-operation”.

A year after Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary, we see many, many examples of honesty, endeavour and good spirit on the island – from individuals to millions at home and abroad.  Whatever the cynics may say, we repeatedly see people, day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out living by the spirit of Jamaica’s wonderful National Pledge:

“Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”

Few countries across the world can rival such a splendid pledge.  Perhaps Singapore gets nearest.

So, let’s celebrate Cowman and his many sisters and brothers who strive to build the better Jamaica that Jamaicans long to see – “whatever dem may sey ‘bout doing a ting”.

If you would like to find out more about Stuart experiences contact stuart@bespokehomesjamaica.com

Local charity shops are helping to build stronger communities

by Stuart Taylor

We see them everywhere.  Every high street across Britain has charity shops.  Mostly the big names, like Heart Foundation, Cancer UK, Help the Aged, Scope, and Oxfam. Raising money for great causes.  Each addressing a specific problem, often tackled at the national or international level.  Increasingly, however, we are seeing locally-grown charity shops, raising money to fund a whole range of locally-based needs, galvanising and enabling more people to bolster the health of their locality.  Often it is just an individual – or two – in each locality that is needed to get the whole process moving. This is the tale of one such shop, The Cuckoo’s Nest in Marsden – a village in West Yorkshire

slaithwaite snow

Some twelve years ago, three women of Marsden came together around a vision.  Judi Thorpe had just retired from a job at Oxfam, where she had seen at first hand the public willingness to give to charity.  Diane Green first noticed the scope for a charity shop in the village.  And Pam Etheridge was able to handle money in the early stages.  The three knew the strength of local community and neighbourly spirit.  And they knew the real grit and determination of Yorkshire folk.  Thepeopley wanted to bring these and other virtues together to forge something greater than the sum of the parts.  As Judi, said: “My vision is for the Cuckoo’s Nest to be in partnership with the village, the customers and the givers.  I always hoped that the partnership would achieve a truly concerted village effort: each group with different roles; but all focused on promoting the health and well-being of Marsden.  And I think that is what we are achieving.”

The partnership bore fruit long before the shop opened.  A local carpenter installed all the shop fittings at no charge.  A local decorator donated paint.  The European Union’s Social Fund paid for shop fittings.  The local charity shop in nearby Slaithwaite – the church-backed “Community Spirit” – provided an interest-free loan to cash-flow the Cuckoo’s Nest through its first rent payments.  Kirklees Council allowed young offenders to spend some of their period of community service painting the shop.  “They were great, the ‘naughty boys’.  They even came back to Marsden for the official opening of the shop.  Everyone else was marvellous, too.  A truly community effort to get us up and running.”

Over the twelve years, all people’s interests have benefitted.  “There’s a huge diversity in the projects we support.  Culture, sport, the elderly, schools, scouts, playgroups, and much more.  As just one example, we paid for the football club’s railings, to stop the club having to sweep away sheep droppings!  We try not to fund operating costs.  But for several years we have supported a CAB adviser to enable residents to gain advice locally during two afternoons a month – a service that is very much appreciated.”  Grants totalling more than £300,000 have been made since the shop opened in June 2001.

shop

Judi expanded on the range of benefits being achieved.  “We have supported the Mechanics’ Institute quite a lot over the years – most recently with a new kitchen.  By doing so, our benefits spread far and wide.  Local groups – from the brass band to local orchestras, theatre groups and modern musicians – perform in the Victorian auditorium.  Many local groups meet in the smaller rooms.  By supporting the Institute, we simultaneously contribute to the Marsden Community Association – another key part of the big society found within this small community.  Together with other groups and businesses we also support the village’s wonderful Christmas street lights and the annual Marsden Jazz Festival.”

The commitment and hard work of the shop’s fifty volunteers makes a great difference.  They have ranged in age from 17 to 94 years old.  All are local residents.  All have a great desire to serve others.

I personally discovered the delights of the Cuckoo’s Nest and the Marsden community long before the phrase “big society” came to be used by national politicians.  Now, however, I see threats.  Council cuts forced the Information Point to squeeze in with the library, vacating its self-contained shop and reducing its scope.  Marsden’s annual Festival of Fire has just been cancelled, due in part to the council removing its grant.  The need for funding from the Cuckoo’s Nest becomes more vital to the survival of local groups.  Yet charity shops are struggling as the recession has led to the giving of less valuable goods.

Hopefully the shop’s partnership with the village, the consumers and the givers can be sustained and enhanced.  To continue to foster the health and well-being of the village.  As government cuts bite deeper, the role of people like Judi Thorpe and shops like Marsden’s Cuckoo’s Nest can only become ever more important to civilisation as we know it.

If you would like to find out more, email stuart@bespokehomesjamaica.com

Breaking the Cycle

by Eva Nyandoro

Set in the headquarters of Amnesty International ‘A Place at the Table’ tells a gripping story of the strained relationship between the Hutus and Tutsis from ancient myths through colonialism to the 1993 assassination of Burundi’s President Ndadayc. The play looks at the conflicts in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and the genocide in Rwanda.

The experimental theatrical production takes you on an artistic journey using transcripts from the UN Security Report, refugees, campaigners and eye-witness accounts to produce a visual and verbatim play that invites the audience to take a place at a large table alongside the performers to eat, drink and reflect on what is fact, truth and fiction.

page 3_table_04

The all-female cast of four use visual images throughout the play like the soldier chopping a fish with a machete on the table or the beautifully haunting voice of Grace Nyandoro accompanying the picture of a child soldier projected on to a screen. The performers use mime sequence and movement through dance to provide an intense performance that explores the disturbing relationship between two tribes that has resulted in the massacre of around 250,000 people in Burundi from 1972-1993, and the killing of over half a million people in Rwanda during the period August 1993 to July 1994. The play leaves you feeling a great sadness for what has past and what may happen again if people remain casual observers.

Director Paul Burgess tragically lost school-friend Charlotte Wilson after Charlotte and her Burundian born fiancée were killed on the way to meet his in-laws at the hands of the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People National Forces of Liberation (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) in Burundi. The tragic circumstances inspired the project as a way of raising awareness on the on-going troubles in Burundi, Rwanda and the African Great Lakes Region and to show that this is not something happening far away it can affect all of us.

pic 2

The Daedalus Theatre company project was a moving piece of work that explored the disturbing material in an original way. The play was performed throughout January and if you would like any further information on the play or any future work, checks out their website on: http://www.daedalustheatre.co.uk

Last year the country celebrated 50 years of independence.  Today peace in the region is fragile with fears of a civil war breaking out at any moment. Sadly the cycle of ethnic violence continues in Burundi as a new generation of youngsters are repeating the crimes of their fathers. There is no easy solution or quick fix to the problems the Burundian people face but violence, intimidation and mistrust in your neighbour, your colleague and your best friend can never result in a sustainable future for anyone. If I ever asked a Hutu teenager or Tutsi Grandfather why there is such tension and even hatred, I would probably get thousands of reasons why the blame lies with the other side.

The Hutu population is 85 per cent and the Tutsi population is 15 per cent. Many people have argued that the former colonial territories of Belgium where ethnicity was marked with identity cards and where the Tutsi community were favoured as elite caused a longstanding ethnic competition and heightened tension. However some people believe that the ethnic tension has been around pre-colonialism.  Distinction and competition has always been a part of the culture in Burundi; it was just made official through colonialism. The roots of the animosity and built-up tension cannot be pin-pointed to one moment in history; just like a failing marriage searching for reasons under the air of disappointment and anger. What is clear is the past is creeping into the present in a disturbing way.

Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world; with extreme poverty, lack of law and order and human rights violations remain constant barriers to development and stability in the region.

The conflict in Northern Ireland, which has killed thousands, came to a ceasefire after the IRA and Loyalists negotiated and signed the ‘Good Friday’ agreement in 1998. The Irish people were living in a conflict area but through power sharing were able to find peace.  The cynical side of me however believes that civil-war in Burundi benefits politicians and an elite minority in the country. Unless this small elite are given real incentive to change the tide, lasting peace supported by strong government may allude another generation of children.

As Nelson Mandela once, said: “It must be possible for the people of Burundi to materially distinguish between the destructiveness of conflict and the benefits of peace.”

Together We Can Make a Difference

By Eva Nyandoro

While helping to build a school in the beautiful valleys of Rwanda, Troy Aitken, co-founder of MAD4Africa, noticed that young men and women who were carrying the bricks and mixing the cement as labourers could change their lives by obtaining a craft or trade.

When Troy arrived back in London, in 2008, he and seven others who had shared similar experiences and had a diverse range of skills decided to setup a charity to help rural youth in East Africa learn a trade like sewing or carpentry to gain employment.

The young charity runs wholly on volunteers who work a 9 – 5 job and then work part-time for MAD4Africa. The UK Project Manager and Coordinator spent time visiting training centres in Rwanda to find a centre in desperate need of their help and where they could make the biggest difference.

Tailoring class in Rwanda

At the Kiyonza Professional Training Centre (KPTC) they saw nine girls sitting around one sewing machine. The girls’ were eager to learn but were being seriously hampered by having to share one machine. MAD4Africa took on KPTC as its first project in 2010. They renovated the run-down training centre and provided the centre with tools to enable young people in the poorest community to change both their lives and those of their families.

Workers Co-operativesA significant number of skilled craftsmen and teachers in the country were killed during the Rwanda genocide of 1994. MAD4Africa seeks to make a difference by driving a ‘skills revival’ for local people. It supports centres that teach young men and women life-changing skills in vocational, language and literacy training so they will be able to lift themselves out of poverty and into a job.  The small group of UK-volunteers have also set-up local Workers’ Co-Operatives. They are a place for students who have graduated from the centre to join forces with local business to offer a trade they have learned on the course. It is a modern day apprenticeship scheme.

MAD4Africa’s next project this year is to renovate and equip the Maraba Vocational Training College in Rwanda with the tools needed to increase the numbers of students attending the centre. Only 70 students are enrolled but there is a demand of 600 students waiting for a place at a training centre in the district.

Maraba Vocational Training Centre

The training centre’s poor standard of facilities and equipment means it has yet to be approved by the local Workforce Development Agency (WDA) which means graduate students do not get a recognised certificate.  MAD4Africa is taking on the development and renovation of this training centre to ensure it can provide places for over 130 students with an income generating project running alongside the centre. The income generating project will help the centre run independently and sustainably. The UK team are hoping to raise £55,000 to fund Maraba VCT project that will help young people in Rwanda learn new skills to build themselves a better future.

Troy Aitken, Operations Director for MAD4Africa, speaks candidly about the lessons learnt from the first project in Rwanda (KPTC). “The cultural difference between people working in the UK and people working in Rwanda meant at times it was difficult to deliver on the expectations we had set ourselves. The centre manager hired to run the project was not hired by us. With our next project we will ensure that we have a much bigger role in deciding who the person will be to run the centre.” He hopes that this will improve delivery and accountability.

One of the challenges facing MAD4Africa is competing for grants.  “We are finding that as a result of the budget cuts some of the bigger charities that would normally not apply for one of the smaller grants are now applying for these grants.”

As a result, MAD4Africa is looking for more volunteers, “as a charity run predominately by volunteers we are always looking for committed, hardworking people who want to make a difference in Africa. We’re desperately in need of fundraisers – people with experience in fundraisings particularly corporate fundraising.”

If you would like to find our more about the work MAD4Africa is involved in contact troy@mad4africa.org.uk