A busy Brixton summer!

2021 brought a busy summer for our Brixton team and the young people we work with, made all the more special for everyone as Covid restrictions finally lifted! We asked a few of our CHIPS team for their highlights…

Herbarium project – learning to care for our environment

This project, which launched in Spring in partnership with San Mei Gallery, successfully continued during the summer. The project brought together young people from Lilian Baylis school and our youth clubs, to grow plants, revamp a community garden in Angell Town, and learn about caring for our environment with the help of several local organisations, an artist, an architect, an award-winning film-maker and the educational team at Kew Gardens.

Our CHIPS partners Michelle and Abdoul took a group of young people to Cullinan Studio Architects for a presentation by an architectural assistant, a discussion about the Accelerate programme which helps secondary school-age students explore careers in architecture, and a tour of the beautiful office designed and rebuilt by Ted Cullinan and his team.

This was followed by a walk along the canals, and a sightseeing tour of the narrow boats, in vibrant Camden Town.

Michelle recalls: “We did a lot of walking and one of my highlights was observing how peaceful some of the young people were as they enjoyed laying or sitting on the canal tow path, watching the narrow boats sailing by. Some of the young people had never had an opportunity to come to Camden before and one young person said they couldn’t wait to visit again!” 

Fun with film

CHIPS Youth Worker Kamika supervised a successful film-making day with San Mei Gallery, helping young people to record and celebrate their journey on the Herbarium project, supported by the expertise and editing skills of Ollie, an award-winning TV film-maker.

The film will be premiered at San Mei Gallery on the 25 September along with a guest speaker, award ceremony and live entertainment for the young people, their parents and all the wonderful organisations who made the project happen.

“It will also be an opportunity to discuss new projects coming up, share ideas for the future, and explore how the young people can continue to be involved and develop”, said Kam and Michelle.

Pizza Making at the Garden Museum

You mightn’t be surprised to learn that pizza is one of the favourite foods for many of our young people. So we organised a summer visit to the Garden Museum, with the opportunity to learn how to make pizza from scratch, starting off with the pizza dough, then preparing and chopping the toppings, and creating their own mini pizzas which they scoffed for lunch!

They also made a rainbow coleslaw, with several of the ingredients from the garden on the premises. The session was great fun and the children also learned about cooking techniques, the cooking process, and kitchen safety including how they should handle knives.

CHIPS Youth Worker Jemmar adds: “This was followed by a walk along Thames at South Bank, taking in the National COVID Memorial Wall on the southbank and reading thousands of messages from those who have lost their loved ones. We finished the day with a final pitstop at Starbucks.”

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September’s arrival means the young people have returned to school. But we hope and pray that the skills, experiences and new friendships they gained this summer will remain with them. For our part, we’ll continue to partner with and support them during the academic year through our youth clubs and other community projects!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

F is for… Friendship!

In this series of blogs, we’re working through the alphabet to highlight the approaches – some more surprising than others – that we take at CHIPS to grassroots peacemaking!

As Christian peacemakers who believe in the healing power of relationships, helping people to build friendships across divides has always been one of our primary aims. From Cyprus to the Philippines in past years and from Brixton to Ghana today, all of our projects are carefully designed to help people come together and get to know one another. Indeed, our teams say that seeing former enemies become friends is one of the real highlights of their job, and evidence that our approach is working!

Saving together

In Ghana, our susu self-help groups bring women together from the two main tribes to save money together and make loans to each other so they can expand their microbusinesses. As Andrew, our Director, says “Bringing together former enemies to trust each other with their money is quite an achievement in itself. However, it’s even more remarkable to see them become lasting friends!”

Our Ghana Team Leader, Desmond, gives the example of two Dagomba women from Nakpayili who now have new friends from the Konkomba tribe in Lungni. Having got to know each other through the susu group meetings, they now enjoy spending time with each other, sharing stories with each other and visiting each other’s communities – something they would never have dreamed of doing before!

Desmond says that when people from the two sides get to know each other properly, their attitudes and behaviours change. “They get to understand one another better and more clearly, and start to lose the prejudice and stereotypes they have been brought up with.”

Trading together

Helping people to do business together is also one of the most effective ways of building relationships, in our experience. For example, in our veterinary project, our Community Animal Health Workers often find themselves interacting across the divide and making friends from the opposing tribes – but they would be unlikely to take this step without the financial benefit they get by way of payment for treating their animals first.

The people we work with attest to the importance of trading together themselves. Rahinatu Felix is a widow with four children who used to struggle to pay for their education. But through joining a CHIPS self-help group, she now buys cassava from both Dagomba and Konkomba farmers which she processes into gari to sell at the market. Through getting to know them, her perceptions about conflict and peace have changed. She says she now has a new attitude towards the ‘other side’ and would recommend the work of CHIPS to any community willing to change and develop.

Our team leader Desmond says he has also made great new friends from the ‘other’ side – citing the example of someone he met last year through his work. They now like to watch European football matches together – and Desmond is currently advising him how to dig and build a toilet for his household, sharing his expertise from our sanitation and hygiene project!

Beating lockdown blues

Meanwhile in Brixton, our work is bringing young people together to form new friendships and strengthen existing ones.

Over the past year, the various states of lockdown have created particular challenges for young people in the area. Many live in overcrowded homes and have suffered from feeling stifled at home while at the same time isolated from their friends. This has often come at a cost to mental health and personal development.

While meeting virtually can never replace face-to-face contact, they say that our programme of online activities has helped them to stay connected.  From blog challenges to online street dance sessions, the programme has also given them opportunities to get creative and find mutual support.

Last summer between lockdowns, our group of budding young actors were also able to meet in person for our film-making project, which made a real difference. Tavia, who plays Louise in the film, was 13 years old and told us that when her school closed, she was “worried about not seeing my friends – and kind of scared because the news every day was all about the pandemic.” But as a result of the project, she says “I’m proud that me and my group have become a lot closer.”

This spring, building on last year’s work, the young people are learning about song composition from a professional musician and vocal coach. When the restrictions lift in the summer, they will then record a song based on their experiences in lockdown, which we hope will prove to be another great success in bringing young people together to forge new friendships after a difficult year.

Growing together

An important aim of our Brixton work is to help forge relationships between teenagers from different neighbourhoods, who often don’t have an opportunity to meet, and may mistrust each other or have preconceptions of each other.

By helping them to build friendships across the different postcodes and estates, we can break down the barriers which gangs are only too willing to exploit to the full and which encourage young people to become caught up in violence. Once the teenagers start to work together on a shared passion, however, they quickly realise that their ‘rivals’ are just like them, facing the same issues and concerns and with the same hopes and dreams.

Our two after-school youth groups follow the same principles, and have been able to meet together in person under the latest restrictions. It has been heart-warming to see young people bond together during the challenges of lockdown, with existing friendships strengthened and new ones formed across the different estates. CHIPS team member Kamika says that the groups have a lovely, family feel to them. “They just love to talk!”, she says, “and catching up over chicken and chips and playing games, it feels like a family sitting at the dinner table together.”

But of course, friendship isn’t just about having a good time together – it’s about supporting each other to move forward together in positive ways too. So we also use our youth groups to bring role models in from the community to share their stories and encourage and empower the teenagers to reach their full potential.

Simon Ghartey who runs the charity Progress which promotes sustainability through food for communities, recently visited us, for example. He shared his story about how he was a wayward teen who ended up on the wrong side of law one too many times, but then changed his life and set to up the charity to help other young people stay out of trouble. This inspired our young people to think about their futures too, and to share their hopes and dreams with each other.

As restrictions lift and we begin to plan our activities for the summer, that’s the type of friendship we hope to replicate across all of our activities!

Rooted in community!

At CHIPS, we believe that growing strong roots and cultivating solid relationships are key to building a peaceful community. So we’re very excited to be taking part in Herbarium with our partners at San Mei Gallery, a new summer project beginning around the theme of plants.

“After a year of lockdown, the project has been specially designed around the easing of restrictions to help our young people in Brixton to get outdoors, active and learning,” says CHIPS partner Michelle Killington.

“Building on our existing partnership with San Mei Gallery, we’ll bring young people together to break down barriers, make new friendships, build their confidence and try out new experiences – all key ingredients to building a dynamic and peaceful community!”

Who’s involved

The project is a fantastic example of community collaboration and partnership. As well providing an opportunity for CHIPS and San Mei Gallery to expand their existing relationship, a diverse group of local organisations will contribute and bring their unique skills and expertise to the table. The beneficiaries of the project will be the young people who attend the CHIPS Youth Experience Club, students we mentor in partnership with Lillian Baylis School, and their families. These are:

  • Brixton’s San Mei Gallery is an art gallery on Loughborough Road that hosts emerging artists and runs lots of events and workshops for the community and will be home to the exhibition The Herbarium’s Shadow around which this education project grew.
  • Myatt’s Fields Park is a tranquil, community-run park not far from the Angell Town estate and their horticultural manager, who knows all about plants from all over the world as well as speaking seven languages, is lending his green expertise to the project!
  • Cullinan Studio are collaborative architects and ‘masterplanners’ committed to restoring the connection between people and nature. They built the herbarium at Kew Gardens and also run Saturday Clubs for young people interested in architecture with the Sorrell Foundation. Both architects involved in the project live in Brixton.
  • This Is Progress is a charity working with Angell Town residents on an amazing food growing project on the estate. They tackle food poverty by growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
  • Angell Town Resident Management Association, which manages more than 400 properties on behalf of Lambeth Council and whose services include provides repairs, estate cleaning and grounds maintenance.
  • Avory Smith, a Brixton-based estate agency who donate a percentage of the fees on every house they sell to community projects.
  • Ollie Wiggins, an award-winning filmmaker who is voluntarily giving up his time to teach the young people recording and editing skills for a short film journaling the project.

The project will initially be cultivated around four key activities:

Growing together

On 14 April, the exhibition The Herbarium’s Shadow opened at San Mei Gallery, the result of a residency that artist Matthew Beach undertook in the Amazon rainforest. The exhibition talks about how important plants are to human life and the relationships we build with them, historically and today.

At a special artist workshop, our young people will hear from Matthew about his time in the rainforest and learn how caring for plants is a calming activity and it is very satisfying to watch them grow! As well as getting to know each other and playing some green-themed games, we’ll chop up a houseplant together and everyone will be able to take a part of it home and watch it grow new roots in water.

Building together

On 22 May, with Cullinan Studio, we’ll build a pergola together – from natural materials such as bamboo – on a flower bed in the Angell Town Estate growing project.

We’ll learn how to breathe new life into old things, think creatively about design, and build standing structures so they are sturdy enough to support the growth of new plants!

Planting together

On 29 May, with Myatt’s Field Park gardeners and Angell Town Growers, we’ll plant the plants which will climb up the pergola and produce gourds. We’ll learn more about what is grown in Myatt’s Field Park and about the growing project on Angell Town Estate which helps to feed hungry neighbours in need with fresh and healthy produce. We might even have a socially-distanced picnic by the pergola!

Journeying together

On 12 June, we plan to visit Kew Gardens to see their world-famous glasshouses and find examples of tropical Amazon plants featured in the Herbarium exhibition. We’ll do a nature photography workshop with the Kew Gardens youth educators in which the young people will learn about plant science and conservation, and how to take photos of plants.

During the summer, we’ll go back to water the gourds and watch them grow, in autumn we’ll harvest the gourds and create sculptures from them, displaying them in an exhibition at San Mei Gallery. And our young people who are interested in film-making and vlogging will make a small documentary film of the project as we go along.

“I hope the project shows what building within a community can achieve, by developing within young people the importance of team work with others,” says Michelle. “Harvesting life and love for where you live by caring about your environment is key to a sustainable community!”

In the spirit of collaboration, the project team is happy to hear from other community groups in the area who work with young people and might wish to participate – please contact Michelle.

 

One year on…Brixton family work update

Showing love to make peace

At CHIPS, we know that poverty and inequality are two of the key drivers of division and violence. Since spring last year, we’ve therefore been working hard to support some of the most vulnerable families in Brixton, Lambeth and neighbouring boroughs with the challenges they face due to the pandemic.

CHIPS Director Andrew Jackson explains: “Our aim is to show God’s love in practical ways by giving them a helping hand with their immediate needs, while helping to reduce some of the pressures that cause division and support a more peaceful community when the pandemic is over.”

Our emergency funding finished at the end of October. “But thanks to the infrastructure we put in place last year and our network of fantastic volunteers, we’re continuing to support as many families as possible, even with our limited resources” says CHIPS Volunteer Co-Ordinator Zehra Hussain.

She adds that we’ve now worked with more than 70 families on issues from debt, hardship and food poverty; to digital exclusion and general isolation; and mental health and wellbeing.

From broken beds to no hot food

Bev, our Family Support Worker, shares a few of her stories from the frontline.

She’s helped a parent who lost income from both their part-time jobs due to the pandemic on the same day and given advice on employment and bills. When she discovered multiple children sleeping in one room on a broken bed, she and volunteer sourced a new one, loaded it into a people carrier and delivered it. In a similar vein, several families have been unable to cook hot food or wash clothes during the winter due to broken appliances they can’t afford to replace, and the team has successfully helped them to win grants to buy replacements.

Bev has also been shocked to learn just how many schoolchildren are unable to access online learning – for example one family with three kids desperately trying to do their online learning on mum’s mobile phone because they have no laptop or broadband – and we’ve helped them by providing equipment ourselves or signposting them to other sources of support.

Meanwhile our volunteer Jasmina, in particular, has worked with mums trapped in domestic abuse during lockdown and supported them emotionally and practically to make their escape.

Bringing a smile

Every family, and every week, is different. But sometimes a little support can go a long way. Even just listening can make a big difference – providing a friendly ear and a virtual shoulder to cry on when there is nobody else to hear their worries and stresses. “There’s a lot of loneliness right now and some people only have CHIPS to speak to” Bev explains. At other times, little things such as delivering emergency food parcels during school holidays or a little treat on birthdays can bring a smile and turn a struggling family’s week around.

“In other cases, the challenges families are facing are multi-layered and more complex”, Bev adds. “We’ve come across children with special needs or who have been excluded without any educational support and need help and advocacy as they navigate multiple agencies. We’ve met several families stuck in unhealthy and overcrowded, damp and mice-infested homes during lockdown who face a challenging process with their local authorities to get on a list for rehousing.”

“We can’t provide all the specialist support ourselves so we feel really blessed to be part of a network of great local partner organisations that we can signpost people to” she says – for example, Black Minds Matter and Talk Counselling Services who provide mental health and therapy support.

An enduring challenge

Sometimes the pain and distress can be hard to observe. “But it’s been our privilege to get to know these families and it’s so fulfilling to be able to bring light to their darkness in practical ways” says Zehra. “And thankfully, we’ve seen a number of families get back on their feet during the year, as we’ve helped parents search for new jobs, access the support they need on payment holidays, or find the therapy they need.”

Many families have moved off our “red” list and no longer require a weekly call – a quick monthly check-in is now enough. But at the same time, some families who were “green” during last spring’s lockdown have turned “amber” or “red”. “Other families were only ‘just about coping’ before and have now reached breaking point as the pandemic drags on,” Zehra explains.

During February, CHIPS took part in a campaign called ‘South London Listens’, organised by Citizens UK and others. This seeks to learn more about the challenges that are putting pressure on the wellbeing of people in BAME and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, and then develop a two-year action plan in response.

As Bev concludes: “This pandemic isn’t over, not by a long shot, and many families are going to need support for a long time.”

An encouraging start to the year!

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!

Check out our impact report!

Our 2020 impact report is now ready to read or download. And it’s full of stories of hope, fun facts and details about how our peacemaking projects have made a difference over the past 12 months!

Did you know that, in Lambeth during 2020:

  • We made over 1,000 family support calls lasting 190 hours during the height of the pandemic
  • We donated around 27 laptops and 15 WiFi modems to help students continue learning while schools were closed
  • We provided almost 500 hours of mentoring to around 40 students at risk of exclusion

And in Ghana:

  • 617 people from different tribes participated in our animal rearing groups, farming sheep, goats and chickens!
  • 602 members of our susu groups saved almost £18,300
  • We built 60 new toilets, for use by more than 7,000 villagers!

For more like this, read or download the report here!

Brixton project update

Breaking the cycle of youth violence

“Due to the pandemic, our work in Brixton took a slightly different shape this year! When lockdown arrived, we rolled up our sleeves, made changes to our operating model and quickly expanded our staff and volunteer team to support some of the community’s most vulnerable families and young people through the height of the crisis.

I have to celebrate and give my heartfelt thanks to the incredible team of staff and volunteers – many of whom live locally and were facing their own challenges from the pandemic – who have thrown themselves into this work and done some fantastic peacemaking work over the last year.

Before and after lockdowns, we made strong progress in taking forward our Voices for Change project. Through this work, we seek to empower people to drive change in their neighbourhoods through community organising and by helping secondary school students at risk of exclusion fulfil their true potential through regular mentoring.

Sadly, violence on our streets began to increase again as the year progressed and, as we approach 2021, we believe it’s more important than ever to tackle the root causes of youth violence. Throughout the less restricted summer and following the most recent lockdown, our dedicated team have continued their incredible work creating brilliant art, building relationships, developing leaders and working for peace whether socially-distanced or online. 

With the fantastic team we’ve grown and the wonderful youth and parent leaders we’ve worked with this year, we’ve very well set for more peacemaking work in 2021!”

Paul Maxwell-Rose, Co-Director (Programmes)

Coronavirus support for families

Between March and October, our team of staff and 14 volunteers supported 70 vulnerable families with more than 100 children between them. This included ten Spanish-speaking families, for whom we recruited a dedicated family worker to provide assistance in their home language. Many people were already struggling before the pandemic, however the arrival of Coronavirus – and the loss of jobs, reduced income and the mental health and other issues that came with it –  only exacerbated their challenges and brought many to breaking point.

We provided the vast majority of families with regular weekly, often intensive, phone-based support. The issues they faced were wide-ranging, including debt, hardship and food poverty; digital exclusion; physical and mental health; childcare and family support; and the general frustrations of isolation. We supported them by providing help directly where we could, as well as signposting them to specialist support from partner organisations, and helping them to navigate and access council and social services. 

“Thank you so much for trying to help me. Yours is the only call I get where someone is trying to help” A Brixton parent who received regular support from our family support team  

Voices for Change schools work

Before and after lockdowns, we further built on our work mentoring students at risk of exclusion thanks to our funding from The Walcot Foundation. At the heart of the programme, we organised weekly group mentoring sessions with students at three Lambeth secondary schools, listening carefully to understand their frustrations and concerns and empowering them to take action on the issues they care about most. This year, for example, the issues included school behaviour policy, police-community relations and climate change.

While schools were closed during lockdown, we also provided daily virtual activities to help young people stay engaged, connected and learning. These included a wide variety of online challenges and activities from virtual street dance classes to BoxCercise!

The closure of schools served to highlight the full extent of digital exclusion in our communities. In the UK, an estimated 1.9 million households had no access to the internet during lockdown, and many millions more are reliant on pay-as-you-go services to access online education. It quickly became clear to us how widespread and unacceptable this situation was for many households in Lambeth and we decided to take action. In response, we sourced laptops and WiFi modems ourselves and donated them to some of the most vulnerable families struggling to keep up with schoolwork but with no means to pay for equipment, and we supported our partners with their campaigns too.

“This is the best thing that’s happened during lockdown!” The Vice Principal of a Lambeth secondary school when we provided a laptop to a family whose child had been unable to do any online learning and was in danger of falling behind.

Community organising

Our wider community organising work was naturally curtailed by Coronavirus restrictions. However, at the start of the year we launched two weekly after-school youth clubs – Youth Experience Club and Girls Group – which we continued to run virtually during the pandemic. This followed discussion with local young people, who told us that a lack of afterschool activities is a reason why they see their peers being led into crime. Our sessions offer a safe space where young people can build friendships, play games and eat together.

This year, Coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement have helped to further highlight the racism and inequalities that many people face. We offered a safe space for the community to talk and to share their experiences, and this emerged as one of the core themes in our summer youth programme, ‘A Summer of Film-making in Angell Town’.

Through a series of workshops and the production of a professional short film, we brought together young people from at least four different estates and helped them tell their story of what it’s like growing up in Brixton, including the prejudices they face – and how they would like to be perceived in contrast with the negative stereotypes that often portrayed in the media.

The project was very much youth-led, and participants played an active role at every stage from concept, to script development, to acting on camera and behind-the-scenes production. It was inspiring to see their confidence grow and, as well as supporting their personal development and building new friendships across different postcodes, it helped them to gain new skills and experience of teamworking.

Around lockdowns, we also organised three trips for young people – one to Van Gogh House to learn about Brixton’s cultural heritage and the positive things that come out of the area; a hiking trip to Hampstead Heath; and a visit to Sydenham Hill Wood to learn about nature and the environment.

“We provide a safe space inspired by young people for young people, who may not have other positive ways to occupy their time after school. They can come, relax, enjoy themselves and take advantage of food, games and homework support that they may not otherwise get and then return home with a positive energy that benefits the whole family.” – Abdoul is one of our Youth Club young leaders

Read more project updates in our latest impact report here!

Stories of hope: Brixton

Meet Marvin: “I can see a future for myself for the first time!”

When we met Marvin at school, he was angry and disruptive. By his own admission he was always getting into trouble and had already been arrested once. Through our group mentoring, he began to open up and talk about the challenges he faced. And through one-to-one discussion, we helped him identify his anger triggers, develop coping mechanisms, consider changes he could make, and understand his personal strengths.

As we reached lockdown, he was managing his behaviour much better and showed positive signs of change. He expressed a desire to engage more at school, asked for our help in setting up a work experience placement and had begun to consider his future for the first time!

 Meet Abdoul: “My experience has helped me see the positivity in life!”

Abdoul, age 22, is a young parent living in South London. He’s currently doing a course in youth work to better his professional life and has spent time with CHIPS this year, gaining practical experience as a young leader at our youth club and as a mentor. He helped organise group trips, creative activities, and virtual events for young people during lockdown. He’s also been checking in with them individually and giving them words of encouragement.

Abdoul says he’s been inspired by how engaged the young people have been. Seeing them smile and explore their creative side, and helping them better their lives, has really motivated him to continue and develop as a mentor and youth worker. During the year, Abdoul has lost friends and family members due to various reasons. But he says that his work with CHIPS has given him the drive he needs to push to the finish line with his course – as well as to see the positivity in life despite the challenges all around.

Meet Rosemarie: “I wish my mentoring sessions would never end!”

We immediately found Rosemarie to be very outgoing, but she admitted that she got frustrated very easily and faced challenges at home. As a result, she had run away before and been excluded multiple times from school. In our weekly group mentoring sessions, she appreciated the space to talk and said she wished they wouldn’t end.

Rosemarie learned to manage her emotions better in the heat of the moment, began to think about where she wanted to go in life, and told us proudly that she’d begun to engage more in lessons. We were encouraged to hear from the school later just how much her behaviour had improved.

Some names and details in our people stories have been changed to protect privacy.

Read more project updates in our latest impact report here!

An interview with our young film stars!

A summer of film-making on Angell Town

We asked two of the teenagers who took part in the making of our film, ‘What Happened to Karen?’ about their experience. Samuel, who plays Solomon in the film, is 14 years old. Tavia, who plays Louise, is 13 years old. 

How were you feeling about life before we started filming?

Samuel: I was feeling tired in lockdown and like I had no use. I felt like I should be doing something better with my life!

Tavia: When we stopped school, I was worried about not seeing my friends – and kind of scared because the news every day was all about the pandemic.

Why did you decide to get involved in the film project?

Samuel: What made me keen was the thought of conveying an important message about racism. We also wanted to show the world that young people can accomplish things too!

Tavia: What made me want to do the project was the fact that I wanted to experience acting – and the people there were so nice and welcoming, which made it even better!

How do you feel the project helped you?

Tavia: I think the project really helped me at a challenging time because it gave us young people a chance to build stronger bonds and spend a lot more time together. It has also impacted me, and the way I feel about myself, by knowing I can count on people – not just in acting but the rest of my life as well.

Samuel: I feel like it unlocked issues that not only my friends were battling with, but people in general. A lot of people bump into ‘Karens’ and it can be a very confusing or embarrassing time. It has also impacted me positively, because now a lot of people recognise me for what I did – not only on the internet, but also in my community. 

What did you learn about yourself?

Tavia: I learnt that I have a lot more patience than I thought – there were a lot of challenging moments behind the scenes as we were working with each other every day! I also think I’ve grown in confidence because the team would uplift us and make sure were all OK personally (and not just while filming).

Samuel: What I learnt about myself is that I have excellent acting skills I didn’t even know about!

What are you most proud of?

Samuel: The thing I’m most proud about is accomplishing the release of a professional film. Now I’d like to be a successful actor and, if possible, a successful rapper!

Tavia: I’m proud that me and my group have become a lot closer, and that we stuck to the end to complete this project, even on rainy days! Hopefully I can now get more acting experience – I’d also like to become a midwife or a mentor because I think that helping others is important!

To view the film for free, go to YouTube

If you are interested in screening the film with your church, youth group or community organisation, please contact Naomi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights from 12 years with CHIPS!

We’re sad to say that after 12 years with us, Paul Maxwell-Rose, our Co-Director (Programmes) has decided it is time for him to open a new chapter and explore other opportunities outside CHIPS. We caught up with him this week to chat about his highlights!

Tell us about one highlight of your time at CHIPS…

There are so many choose from! I vividly remember one brilliant training session for our Community Animal Health Workers in Ghana, where so many things just came together. We had a fantastic mixed-tribe group of people. living together for three days of intensive learning and sharing experiences.

I could see before my eyes all this amazing bonding taking place across the ethnic divides and new relationships being built. It was really special and was such a great case study of our practical peacemaking projects in action.

The photo on this page shows Paul (left) and Desmond (right) at this meeting in Ghana while newly-trained community Animal Health Workers tell the group what they have learnt, and make a declaration of how they are going to use their new skills to help their community.

And which moment will last with you from CHIPS’ work in Brixton during the pandemic?

Towards the end of our summer film-making project this year, there was a fatal stabbing outside our office. It was an awful moment and so scary for all our team and the young people – especially as many of us knew those involved personally.

But on the following day something remarkable happened. We all gathered together – the young people, the film crew and our CHIPS team. We talked, we cried, we prayed, we shared our anger about the brokenness and injustices around us. There was such openness and honesty, but we refused to let the incident break us and above all we came away with a great sense of hope and a determination to change things.

In that group, among the young people and the team, I could see so many leaders who were determined to not have the attack the day before define them or their community. They were imagining a different future and were committed to bringing about transformation in their area. That will live with me for a long time.

And dare we ask, what’s your funniest moment?

That’s got to be when Desmond, our Ghana team leader, and I fell off a bridge in Ghana! We were negotiating a fast-flowing river on a motorbike and the ‘bridge’ was really just an old tree trunk. The bike slipped into the water, along with ourselves and our belongings.

Thankfully, someone appeared just at the right moment to help pull us – and the bike – out. We allowed the bike to dry for a few minutes and amazingly it started up again straight away, so we merrily continued on our way, looking like drowned rats!

What are you most proud of?

This is an easy question – it’s the team we’ve got now! I always felt I would want to leave CHIPS when we had a really good team who didn’t need me anymore. And that’s where we are today – we have bigger, stronger and simply fantastic teams of people in both Brixton and Ghana. I have real confidence not only in their talents and abilities but also in their approach to peacemaking.          

In Brixton in particular, the pandemic has forced us to adapt and evolve quickly and we now have a group of local people with real, lived experience from the communities we partner with who are incredibly talented and capable. You couldn’t ask for a better team and it’s been a privilege to help build it.

What leaving message would you like to share with our supporters?

First, I want to say how incredibly grateful I am to each of you for your support in every way, from prayer to giving, to sharing advice and helping us to make connections – and on a personal note hosting me in so many of your homes and at your churches. Believe me, we simply couldn’t do our work without you: you have really helped us to get to where we are today.

Second, we should remember that peacemaking is not all about charities ‘running projects’. Peacemaking is a calling for all of us, and we can fulfil it in so many different ways and in many areas of our lives – from challenging injustices and inequalities and campaigning for change, to building relationships with our own neighbours and across our communities.

Practising peacemaking does not have to be complicated. But it always requires plenty of reflection, prayer and a willingness to throw ourselves into it, taking action and getting alongside God in our communities to join him in his peacemaking work. When we truly grasp that and respond, I believe we’ll be a lot closer to seeing the Kingdom of God come in our communities!

Please join us in giving thanks for Paul’s service to CHIPS and to peacemaking over the past 12 years, and in praying for him and his family as they seek God’s leading for the next chapter of their lives!