On the 13th of February 2015 Fusion Y&C UK launched their report on the needs of the youth and community in Whitley. The final section of the report presented 42 recommendations; an array of ways forward in the community! Fusion Y&C UK put their hand up to help facilitate ten of the 42 recommendations. Now, one year on, we would like to report on how things are developing from our end. (Please do refer to pg 64 of the research report so you know what we said we would do!)
Community Engagement and Approach to Service Delivery.
Networking, Collaboration and Conversation:
We have enjoyed collaborating with our three ladies from the council; Alison, Ebony and Sarah who have continued working hard to bring agencies together in South Reading. Inter-agency communication seems to be improving and with it a growing appreciation of what we each bring to the table. There always seems to be some survey going on in the community and the Whitley Community Development Association also works to bring community stakeholders together; we love being part of life at the café on Northumberland Avenue!
We said we would focus particularly on the local churches and their congregants. We have continued working with the team on the South Reading Funday, bringing more underpinning knowledge in social and other processes so that the day can develop a lasting legacy throughout the year. We have run a community mission training day and are currently running a 12 week course called ‘Foundations for life and mission’. We have a Youth Leaders Conference and another community mission training day coming this year, as well as plans for a short school of mission and summer mission placement. In all these, our aim is to facilitate a process of mutual learning, equipping and encouragement in effective mission and community transformation.
The youth and young adults of Whitley:
Just last week our ladies at the council brought together many of those providing youth services in the community – it was great to be part of that. We are keen to continue supporting this particular area of coordination and collaboration.
We gathered the Christian youth workers and youth pastors to develop a shared picture of needs and strategy for reaching and supporting the youth of Whitley. As a result, a weekly prayer meeting was launched during which we pray earnestly for the youth and young adults of Whitley, often focusing on the two High Schools, the many primary schools and all who work there. The Youth Leaders Conference in March is an attempt to gather any with a heart for the young people of Reading and in particular South Reading; once again with the aim to encourage, inspire and equip.
We have not yet managed to forge a connection with either of the High Schools but are able to provide support to the Learn for Life team. We therefore haven’t focused our energy on encouraging connections with other schools and youth networks that we are affiliated with, in the country and internationally. With regards to a one year school leavers program, we have made some good headway in getting our training accredited, so that by the time we do manage to get a connection with the Whitley High Schools we should be well positioned to take on students for accredited internships.
Last year we had one young person from South Reading join us on our British Pilgrimage of Hope. The opportunity gave her the chance to serve kids in a needy, south London community as well as to travel to Iona and Holy Island, visit Glasgow and learn some of London history focusing on the Christian social transformers of the 18 hundreds! This year, we really hope more from South Reading will join us!!
Building Community in Whitley:
I have already mentioned our ongoing involvement with the South Reading Fun Day. This year we are exploring having an event on Easter Sunday which, along with the Light Parties at Halloween, could produce a rhythm of 3 events a year to bring the community together. We have developed and released a manual for running neighbourhood street parties and are excited to see if and when this idea captures the imagination of the people of Whitley – especially following the huge success of the 2012 Northumberland Ave Street Party. The Big Lunch and the Queen’s Birthday this year provide an excellent opportunity!
On a much smaller scale, we host a community supper at the World Turned Upside Down Carvery on the last Friday of the month. Between 10 and 18 people of all ages gather each time to share a meal and an evening together. On the first Friday of each month we gather with others from the community to pray for and bless Whitley; this often involves walking around the community and ends up at the Whitley café for a final prayer.
Families of Whitley:
Fusion Y&C UK have helped to build links between the East Reading Christians Against Poverty centre and the Whitley churches; we hope this link will in time strengthen the support given to clients, build a team of supporters and coaches, enable more people in Whitley get the support they need to get out of debt.
Plans are now in place to deliver a specialist families course designed to be highly accessible for families of all shapes and make up. The plan would be to train local people in how to run the program and then work out the best way of delivery and accessing those in most need of support.
Rebranding of Whitley:
As part of the Honour Whitley Media Project, the ‘People of Whitley’ facebook page was launched by one of our interns, Renee Harvey. Inspired by the Humans of New York initiative it is building a fabulous gallery, celebrating the people of Whitley.
Health and Wellbeing in Whitley:
Fusion Y&C UK have run a second Dealing with Depression course, this time for both sufferers and carers, and are currently in dialogue with the original authors of the course so that we can continue to develop the content. The monthly community suppers have been a vital opportunity for participants on the DWD courses to interact with others in an unthreatening environment where they are welcomed and respected.
I have restricted myself to just what has happened so far and solid plans for the future, there are many other conversations we are having which could lead to even more great things over the coming year/s. And then there are the myriad of initiatives that other organisations are spearheading, each one a piece in this awesome puzzle that is seeking the best for the youth and community of Whitley. One favourite example is the Messy Church that has been started by the older congregation of St Barnabas who wanted to see children and families become part of their church life. The result? Each month now sees 60+ at Messy Church – children and families galore, welcomed by this wonderful team from St Barnabas!
I love it! Go Whitley!!!