An encouraging start to the year!

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An interview with Desmond Mpabe, Ghana Team Leader and Andrew Jackson, Director

How is the pandemic affecting your work currently?

Desmond: At its peak, it really scared people but the good news is that not many local people have been infected.

As I talk to you now, there is news of an upsurge of the virus in the south of the country but we remain free to go about our daily activities, to run our projects, and to meet together again in groups across the ethnic divides with sensible precautions in place.

Andrew: One of the biggest challenges in Brixton has been the closure of schools which effectively stopped our group mentoring work with students at risk of exclusion. Many students returning to school this spring will have faced major disruption to their education and development as well as additional trauma due to the pandemic. We are praying that we can get back into schools quickly, to support students through the rest of the academic year.

How has the first quarter of 2021 been for you?

Desmond: The year has begun on a positive note, with plenty to keep us busy!

Ghana schools started to go back last month after a long break due to Covid-19. Our visits to local schools revealed that after almost a year, most existing containers used for handwashing had developed cracks and holes and started leaking, taps had been damaged or stolen by thieves, or schools had no soap. So we provided new handwashing buckets and soap to 18 schools. These will help pupils to wash their hands properly under running water and protect them from the virus.

Meanwhile, our susu groups, which bring opposing sides together to save money and trade together, are going from strength to strength. We’ve had very positive group meetings recently with a great atmosphere and begun 2021 with new members joining the groups. We’re currently exploring how we can best structure this growing project for the long-term, including the possibility of establishing a credit union which would be exciting!

Andrew: One positive outcome from the pandemic in London is that it’s encouraged local community organisations to work together better, which fits well with our partnership approach at CHIPS. A few weeks ago, we received some great news – the bid we made for funding from the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, together with seven other like-minded local organisations, has been successful. We’ll now work together to deliver a new community-led project that helps us bring together all our different skillsets and strengths to tackle youth violence in the most effective way for the community.

Another positive for us is that we’ve been able to continue running our Brixton afterschool youth groups face-to-face through the latest lockdown. These have been a real blessing for both the young people attending and their families at a challenging time. We’ve had great feedback from parents, and we’re now looking at how we make the most of them to best support students as they return to school.

What would you appreciate prayer for at the moment?

Desmond: Please pray that our communities remain safe during the current second wave of the pandemic. We also want to reinforce our CHIPS team so we can do get out and about fully again and expand some of our work into surrounding areas. Funding is the key challenge, so please pray that we are able to find money to recruit new peacemakers.

Andrew: Please pray for our communities in South London as they seek to pick up the pieces after the pandemic. Tackling poverty and inequality and helping them ‘level up’ will be critical to building a more peaceful future. And please pray that God gives our Brixton team the energy, capacity and creativity they need to continue their fantastic work!