Community Foundation: Finding ways to bring the community together

'We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us'- Jo Cox
'We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us'- Jo Cox

Last week in a statement released on her birthday The Queen said the UK has been “resolute in the face of adversity” following recent tragedies in London and Manchester.

It is that sentiment along with the wise words of the late MP Jo Cox ‘we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us’ which we must keep in mind as we continue to unite communities in Calderdale.

As we know many factors influence cohesion resulting in strong communities, including how well people get on with each other, how content people are with where they live, how they can influence local decisions and how they help others such as opportunities to volunteer.

Last year we conducted research into ten key areas affecting people’s lives in in Calderdale, of concern were the results that only 66% of people in Calderdale feel that people from different backgrounds get on well together, this is 10% worse than the national average.

It was also found that slightly less people than the national average felt that they could influence local decisions.

In January, we commissioned St Augustine’s Centre and All One Collective to advance community cohesion locally, by raising awareness through education and outreach work.

Vicky Ledwidge, Centre Manager for St Augustine’s, said “Community cohesion is very important agenda at St. Augustine’s Centre, as we work to provide a community and sanctuary to people fleeing worldwide persecution.

“We, along with All1Collective, want Calderdale to be a place where people of all backgrounds happily coexist, and are delighted to be working together with the Community Foundation for Calderdale on this priority”.

Work on the project has involved participating and supporting the creation of the Valley of Sanctuary Initiative (VOS), providing training to staff working in frontline services and to young people including students at Brighouse High School.

The Community Foundation has pledged £60,000 three-year funding for the project and secured further investment from the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust.

The combined funding will be used to expand the education and outreach work, promote connections through storytelling activities, enabling people from deprived communities to exchange their life stories.

Informal contact points between groups will also be expanded.

The process of the storytelling activity has been designed to bring people together from different backgrounds, breaking down barriers and promoting shared experiences through the process of developing their stories.

A Community Curriculum has been developed and will begin delivering sessions in the coming weeks to 8-10 participants from a refugee/asylum seeker background and 8-10 participants coming from the wider Park Ward.

The second programme of training will be delivered in Mixenden from October this year.

Next year a Community Cohesion Forum will also be launched.

Lord Desai from the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust said: “The Trust was happy to support a project which reflected Mahatma Gandhi’s message in nourishing the community in the widest sense of the word”.