Getting That Community Spirit

The last couple of weeks have been hectic!

You may tell by the lack of blog and general comms. The last couple of weeks have been a hard slog.

I think the majority of our church family can agree that they have had a similar feeling. But something I have found myself praying for this last week is for us to, both individually and collectively, have the endurance to persevere, as long as it’s His will. Of course, as a part of that we need the wisdom and discernment to make sure we are where God wants us to be working.

For me personally, wearing my different hats as part of the church family here and as a worker for Thames Life, working towards making our community better for all residents.

save the Warehouse protest

On the 2nd June, I was so proud of my neighbours and community. We rallied together to make sure our voices were heard to try and save a community asset that’s at risk of closing later this month. 

Barking and Dagenham is ranked 21st in the country in the Index of Deprivation and is number one in London. As a part of that, Thames Ward is in the top 10% of the most deprived areas in the whole of the country. This was the case well before the cost-of-living crisis, yet alone now.  

Many residents in the area are really struggling financially but can utilise The Warehouse, to ease the burden. Here, they can socialise with other residents at regular events, use it as a co working space, grow their own produce, utilise the machinery to upskill and continue hobbies through the woodwork and sewing rooms, and are able to make 3 meals a day using the kitchen if needed. The Warehouse not only keeps residents engaged with the community but also alleviates the stress of the cost-of-living crisis.  The warehouse has hosted events with hundreds of residents in attendance from multicultural days to anti-knife violence youth events. 

This month, funding for The Warehouse ends, and the community space is at risk of closing for ever. The council are exploring their options, one of which is to rent the warehouse commercially. However, residents need a place of solace. Being the only place of its kind on this side of Barking & Dagenham, The Friends of the Warehouse Group is committed to campaigning to keep The Warehouse open. They are lobbying the council to negotiate with them and discuss their resident business case, based on local organisations pooling funds to help keep the space open. All they need is for the Council to take the campaign seriously and give residents the opportunity to present their case and have a fair fight.  

Despite all the claims the council have come up with about why the space has to close, it was great to see how residents used their voice to make the council acknowledge their business case and commit to a sit down. Residents of all ages attended and were able to voice how The Warehouse has helped or supported them; from giving an alternative to a life of crime, to shelter so utility bills at home are kept as low as possible, from huge community events to providing a safe place at school home-time that students can go to avoid grooming and being approached by gang members. 

I really hope the council stick to their words and meet with the Friends Of The Warehouse group and hear the business case, and we may still have a ways to go. But we have to take the little wins where we can: the council saw and heard us and we were able to get some BBC London media coverage out of it!

Want to help the cause? Sign the petition here.

2nd GP Drop-In clinic

I briefly wrote about the last drop-in clinic a few weeks ago, and we had the 2nd one last Friday. This time at the Rivergate Centre and though it was a smaller space than at The Warehouse, we managed to have roughly 200 people come through the door to see a GP and see the different local organisations from the area. As Church at Barking Riverside, Anna and Sam held a stall and provided the refreshments on the day through Coffee Corner while at the event, which all the stall holders really appreciated, as well as the residents attending!

Getting feedback from residents was really heart warming. Some who had given up trying to sort either minor ailments, or even worse, following up on major issues, came in a bit dejected or sceptical. Post triage and doctor appointment, seeing the weight lifted off their shoulders, seeing them relax a bit feeling like they had gotten some answers, next steps or even just having someone to listen to them, was amazing!

I’m so glad we were able to be a part of such a great initiative and hope we can reach more people and help give them peace of mind, alongside refreshments. The next dates are below and we hope to see you there!

  • 28th July – Sue Bramley
  • 11th August – Rivergate Centre
  • 8th September – Sue Bramley
  • 13th October – Rivergate Centre

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