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!

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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Van Gogh help fight youth violence in Brixton?

During the October half-term holiday, CHIPS arranged a visit for Brixton young people to Van Gogh House and its sister venue San Mei Gallery, in a ‘first’ for CHIPS and for the Van Gogh team!

Access to arts for all!

“It’s so important to give young people the opportunity to access to places of interest on their doorstep and become submerged in the cultural landscape, instead of feeling disconnected from it”, says CHIPS volunteer Michelle Killington.

Michelle came up with the idea of the visit and helped make it happen after coming across the House and Gallery through her work with another local community organisation, Longfield Hall

Janet Currier, Special Projects Manager at Van Gogh House, explains that they have been developing their education programme over the past year, focusing on primary school children and families. “Our visit with CHIPS was the first time we have worked with teenagers, so we were really excited and curious to see how they would respond!” she says.

The response was a very positive one as the group of young people toured the House with Janet and listened to a talk given by local artist Emily Moore in the Gallery.

“We were all so impressed at how they engaged with Emily and asked about the practicalities of being an artist”, says Janet. Part of what we want to do is to help young people to see that it is possible to make a living through being creative, so having Emily there as a living role model was really important to us.”

Michelle agrees. “The young people really enjoyed speaking with the artist and asked some really interesting questions. The tour from Janet was also fascinating and the group was extremely attentive throughout the visit!” she says.

As with younger children who have visited Van Gogh House, the way the young people engaged with the environment was different to adult visitors, explains Janet. “They were particularly interested in the hidey-holes, the secret histories, and uncovering things”, she explains.

“It was also lovely to see how they projected their own ideas – they had a lot to say about how they would create their perfect bedroom upstairs, for example. They seemed really at home – enough to start making TikTok videos in the kitchen – a first for Van Gogh House?!”

Janet says that though they are a small team at Van Gogh House, they have big ambitions for their education programme. The fact that nearly everyone has heard of Van Gogh makes it a really easy starting point for all kinds of learning and development, she says. “The story of Van Gogh is such a great way in to thinking creatively about many things that are still relevant now – like social justice, social change, migration, mental health and wellbeing.”

 

Looking to the future

Looking ahead, the team’s hope is that as many young people in Brixton as possible will come to know Van Gogh House and San Mei Gallery and feel that these are places they are welcome, and which have something to offer them.

“We would like to be part of an area-wide movement to support young people to have greater access to opportunities in arts and heritage”, Janet says. “How we do this and how we resource this something we now need to work out, but our workshop with CHIPS was a very positive start that we look forward to building on!”

Michelle also sees a number of specific opportunities for Brixton young people as a result of partnership. “One of my hopes is that local young people will learn more about history and the art of oral story telling which is an amazing skill,” she says.

“There are also some very practical opportunities to gain work experience as a tour guide to the public. And I’d love to explore the possibility of local young people interested in art working together on a creative project to be exhibited at San Mei Gallery – I’m already looking at ideas!”

“Ultimately, as peacemakers, we want young people to feel included and proud of their area and its history”, she concluded. “We hope they will see that good things can and do come out of Brixton and engaging with its history can also help them to be a part of a positive future!”

If you’re part of a local community initiative interested in exploring ideas for partnership with Van Gogh House and San Mei Gallery, you can contact Janet at janet@vangoghhouse.co.uk

Fun facts

  • Many people are surprised to know Van Gogh lived in South London. This had been lost in the mists of time until 1971, and the house has only been open to the public as a heritage site since May 2019.

  • Van Gogh’s time in London was significant to his life as an artist. He was very taken with the city – roaming around on foot to visit galleries and enjoy nature!

  • Not many people know that Van Gogh learned to swim in Brixton!

  • When Van Gogh was there the landlady Ursula Loyer ran a school from the front parlour and that there were often 8 or 9 people living in the house sharing one outside toilet.

  • During his time in the house, it is often said that Van Gogh reportedly fell in love with the landlady’s daughter Eugenie and that his feelings were unreciprocated. She went on to marry someone else shortly after.

Cover photo by Van Gogh House.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION… in Brixton!

In between lockdowns, CHIPS organised an exciting summer programme for young people in Brixton, the highlight of which was making a professional film, called ‘What Happened to Karen?’

The idea emerged from our discussions with young people earlier in the year, who said they would like to capture the story of what it’s like to be a young person living in Brixton.

The film was shot in and around the Angell Town estate in late summer outside a school, in a local shop and in the park. In it, they tell their story, confront some of the issues they face in their day-to-day-lives, and give a different perspective to the usual story we hear about young people today.

Challenging the stereotypes

“The film encourages us all to challenge the stereotypes that society, and the media, can often present – that all groups of young Black people must be up to trouble”, says CHIPS volunteer Naomi who led the project.

Each of the young people played an active role, from shaping the script, to acting and working behind the scenes. “As well as offering young people the chance to do something creative during a challenging summer, it’s helped them to gain new skills in teamwork and creative production and to find a voice, learn about themselves and grow in confidence,” she adds.

Local mum Kamika helped manage the project and agrees: “I am super-proud of the young people for choosing to spend their summer on this project. Their level of commitment has been amazing and what they have achieved together during such a challenging period is nothing short of miraculous!”

Watch the film for free!

The film is available to view online free of charge thanks to Million Youth Media, a youth-led organisation which uses the power of film to challenge minds and transform lives.

To watch, go to YouTube. If you’re interested in screening it with your youth, community or church group, please contact Naomi at naomi@chipspeace.org

Q&A with Naomi

CHIPS volunteer and part-time team member Naomi helped lead the film-project on behalf of CHIPS, working together with directors Carlos and Cas. Naomi has a background working in TV drama for the BBC and ITV and we asked her tell us more about her highlights from the project!

What was your personal highlight from the project?

I guess the overarching highlight was seeing the contribution of the young people on every level. From watching Jayshaun persuade the shopkeeper to take part as a character in the film, through to Zian running the scenes and using the Clapperboard, and Renee assisting with camera… to see their ideas go from the whiteboard to the screen was an honour to watch!

Also, they are incredible actors which made the edit much easier for our wonderful Director of Photography, Lolly Michaels. 

What was the most challenging part, and how did we overcome it?

There were lots of challenges – not least finding a willing ‘Karen’, but through prayer and good connections, Geraldine proved to be the perfect actress for the role!

What was so special was that every single obstacle, big or small was overcome through prayer. At one point, the technology wasn’t working so we genuinely laid hands on the hard drive!!

Another concern of mine was finding a director. I prayed and we found two absolutely fantastic directors Carlos and Cas who worked together to create a masterpiece and who invested in the young people right from the word go. Kamika, my co-producer, is also a constant answer to prayer. 

In what ways has the project helped the young people taking part?  

Watching them grow in maturity and also talent was incredible. I look back now at the workshops and think – wow, I never thought I’d get so much focus, ambition and energy from them at every stage.

Seeing each of them choose what they were most passionate about and developing their skills in those areas (and in turn, gaining experience which can help them in their careers) was phenomenal. It gives me so much hope for their futures.

While we were filming, tragically, there was a major incident on Angell Town. But instead of being focused on the negatives, they chose to focus on the film and come together and pray for their hometown. It was so, so special.

Why should I watch the film?

Well firstly, it’s very, very good!! It is so professionally made. It brings the stories of the young people to life, it challenges racism, it brings hope, and it’s a film that the nation should be proud of, let alone Brixton.

I hope by watching it, we will all be encouraged to do a little bit more to help move society into action. I hope it causes all of us to think twice and think differently and I hope it inspires conversation. And I hope that those white people who are inclined to be rude or racist to black young people have a complete transformation of heart and action.

What would you like to be the project’s legacy?

I hope with all my heart that it helps to set these young people on a course where they are able to fulfil their potential, focus on their talents and make difference in a world that they’re called to lead in.

I would also like to think that it could help to increase faith in God and what he has planned for his people. Ultimately, I hope the story of the film points people to the values and person of Jesus!

Photos by Vanessa Byles Photography

It’s a wrap!

Film-making in Angell Town

This August, CHIPS launched its Brixton summer programme, A Summer of Film in Angell Town. It’s an exciting six-week programme of storytelling, designed for and led by Brixton young people.

The idea of making a film emerged from our programme of activities with local young people during lockdown. Local mum and part-time CHIPS team member Kamika explains:  

“During the pandemic, CHIPS has been a prominent source of support for many families and young people in Brixton, providing a virtual youth club and mentoring sessions five days a week.

“It was during one of these sessions, when the young people and I were discussing plans for the summer, that they suggested they would like to make a film capturing what it is like to be a young person living in Brixton. I took this idea back to the team and they worked their magic!”

A clear objective was set for the film – to have young people tell their own story, confronting some of the issues they face in their day-to-day-lives, while giving a different perspective to the typical negative stereotypes so often communicated about young Black people.

Kamika and CHIPS team member Naomi, who has a background working in TV drama for the BBC and ITV, assembled ten enthusiastic local young people. And with the expert help of a drama workshop leader, two film directors and a director of photography, they got stuck straight in.

What Happened to Karen?

The first step was to discuss potential story ideas in a series of drama workshops. Some of the issues the young people explored included peer pressure and gangs, family and school relationships, and racism. From these discussions, they began to narrow down the theme and write a script. Soon the film, ‘What Happened to Karen?’ was born!

‘What Happened to Karen?’ was shot in and around the Angell Town estate over four days, including outside a school, in a local shop and in the park.

The story follows of a group of friends who, during their after-school routine, meet someone who accuses them of shoplifting and becomes aggressive and racist towards them. We don’t want to give away too many spoilers – but as the story develops, events do not pan out quite as you might expect!

“The film encourages us all to challenge the stereotypes that society, and the media, can often present – that all groups of young Black people must be up to trouble”, says Naomi. “Ultimately it’s a story of hope, and one that suggests that change is possible.”

A team effort

Each of the young people played an active role, from shaping the script, to acting and working behind the scenes.

“As well as offering young people the chance to do something creative with the summer, it’s helped them to gain new skills in teamwork and creative production and it’s helped them to find a voice, learn about themselves and grow in confidence,” says Naomi.

Kamika agrees and adds: “I am super proud of the young people for choosing to spend their summer on this project. Their level of commitment has been amazing and what they have achieved together in this short space of time is nothing short of miraculous!”

The film is currently being edited and set for release in September. If you are interested in learning more about the film and screening it with your youth, community or church group, please contact office@chipspeace.org.

CHIPS would like to express its grateful thanks to the staff of Low Price Food and Wine, workshop leader Rachel Griffiths, Film Directors Caspian Ajani and Carlos Byles, Director of Photography Lolly Michaels, and everyone who has given their time and support to the project.

Brixton school exclusions: project update

We recently reached another small but encouraging milestone at CHIPS – half-way point in the first year of our latest project tackling school exclusions in Lambeth!

Launched with the support of the Walcot Foundation in September 2019, we expect to work with up to 150 pupils at risk of exclusion over our three-year Voices for Change project.

We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far. Rishan Walker, our CHIPS Youth Worker, has been a facilitator at nearly every group mentoring session since the programme started and says: “Six months in, I can already see how the work we’re doing is helping them to become better students – and more importantly better people!”

Tackling hot issues

One of the key aims of the project is to engage young people by drawing out their anger and frustration, and helping them to channel it into the issues they care about and make change happen.

Two CHIPS youth workers facilitate regular group mentoring sessions with them at school, and also organise activities with them outside the area, to help them see the bigger picture and encourage them to explore new ways of problem-solving.

Hot issues which have emerged so far, where we are now helping the students to explore ways of taking action, range from school behaviour management policy to police-community relations and climate change.

Please come again!

Rishan says one highlight of her work so far was when one of the groups, who started the project with great scepticism, started to ask “Can you guys come again on Thursday?” even though their sessions are only held on Tuesdays!

Darnell, aged 14, was one of the most disruptive students at the beginning of the school year, which was displayed through aggressive talk and horseplay. Since the first session, his behaviour has improved week by week, and he has since begun to engage actively in the group discussion.

Happy teachers

Teachers seem pleased with progress too – if not a little bemused that their students are suddenly keen to come to school! One senior teacher says “The students really like it and are always asking if sessions are happening today” while the pastoral manager at another school says that the students always look forward to their sessions.

The work is one strand of the CHIPS Voices for Change project, which brings together, and builds on, two of our most successful areas of work in Brixton to date – community organising and partnership with schools.

Paul Maxwell-Rose, Co-Director of Programmes, oversees the project from the CHIPS base in Brixton. “Through community organising, we help young people and families on the estates drive change in their communities, while our partnership with schools means we can help those at risk of exclusion to turn their lives around”, he says. “By delivering these together, I believe we can have a real impact as we work to build peace in Brixton.”

CHIPS launches Christmas appeal to bring peace to the streets of Brixton

For one week, donations will be doubled at no extra cost

London, 2 December 2019 – CHIPS, the international Christian peacemaking charity, today launched a Christmas fundraising appeal to raise money for its project tackling youth violence in Brixton.

The charity is participating in The Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s biggest match funding campaign. For seven days, from midday Tuesday 3 December until midday Tuesday 10 December, The Big Give offers people the opportunity to have their donations doubled while matched funds last.

CHIPS is seeking to raise £18,500 for its Voices for Change project. Voices for Change brings together and builds on two of CHIPS’ most successful areas of work in Brixton to date. These are community organising with young people affected by or at risk of serious youth violence, and partnership with schools to reduce the number of exclusions. CHIPS believes that both areas of work are important to tackling the causes of youth violence, and that delivering them together can have a powerful impact in helping building peace in Brixton.

The money the charity receives from the appeal will go directly to its community organising work, which builds on CHIPS’ experience in Brixton over the past six years. Through this work, the charity will engage and listen to young people and families in three of the area’s largest estates to understand their frustrations and concerns, and then partner with them and other local organisations to help them drive practical change in their communities.

Donations must be made online at chipspeace.org/biggive between midday Tuesday 3 December and midday Tuesday 10 December in order to qualify for match funding.

Richard Asomaning, Lead Youth and Community Organiser at CHIPS, said:

“Too many young lives have been lost to violence again this year but we believe that by listening to young people and empowering them to take action, we can help them to become positive changemakers in their communities.”

“Raising our £18,500 target this Christmas would make a big difference to us, helping to fund more grassroots youth workers and to develop more young community leaders for the future.”

Andrew Jackson, Co-Director for Development at CHIPS, said:

“At CHIPS, we rely on the generosity of the public to help us deliver our Brixton peacemaking work and The Big Give is an incredibly effective way to give to us this Christmas. From midday Tuesday 3 December until midday Tuesday 10 December, every donation to CHIPS will be doubled while matched funds last thanks to our partners, The Childhood Trust and The AS Charitable Trust.”

About CHIPS (Christian International Peacemaking Service)

CHIPS is a charity of Christian peacemakers, who have been living at the heart of conflict for over 50 years. From Brixton to Ghana, the charity is invited to join communities and help build a sustainable future free from violence and division. Inspired by the life of Jesus, CHIPS believes that the best way to bring about lasting peace is to take sides. Both sides. For more information, visit chipspeace.org

Follow us at facebook.com/chipspeace twitter.com/chipspeace and instagram.com/chipspeaceorg

About The Big Give

The Big Give offers the public the opportunity to discover charities and projects of interest, to make donations, and to double donations through match funding campaigns. It is responsible for the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign, the Christmas Challenge. In addition to match funding campaigns, it also provides a number of other services to help charities, individuals and philanthropists to connect and raise more money online. Since being founded by Sir Alec Reed in 2007, the Big Give has helped to raise over £112 million for UK-registered charities.

thebiggive.org.uk

About The Childhood Trust

The Childhood Trust funds grassroots charities and their projects to alleviate the impact of child poverty in London.  It uses its funds to generate and match other donations, primarily through online fundraising campaigns and fundraising partnerships. Since 2013 its matched giving campaigns have raised £12.56m. It makes grants to proven charities that are working directly with disadvantaged children and its work is themed across three areas; meeting children’s practical needs, supporting children’s emotional needs and inspiring children with new experiences and opportunities.

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CHIPS launches programme to help tackle school exclusions

Charity’s partnership with schools will empower young people at risk of exclusion to drive change in their communities

CHIPS, the international Christian peacemaking charity, today announced the launch of a new programme to help reduce the number of school exclusions in Lambeth.

The announcement follows the publication of a report this summer by the Home Affairs Committee, which calls for urgent action to tackle school exclusions[1] as part of the fight against serious youth violence. The number school exclusions has risen nationally since 2012, and the latest data shows a further year-on-year increase in permanent and fixed period exclusions for the 2017/18 school year.[2]

At the heart of the programme, two CHIPS youth workers will facilitate weekly small group mentoring sessions with students at participating secondary schools. The sessions are designed to channel the students’ energy into identifying the shared causes, interests and issues they care about most and will empower them to take action and drive change in their communities. To complement the mentoring work, CHIPS will also organise regular visits outside the neighbourhood, helping students to build new relationships and explore different ways of thinking and problem-solving.

Success will be measured by the number of students successfully completing the programme and avoiding exclusion. Other expected outcomes include improvement in school behaviour and attendance, improved communication skills and greater engagement in the community.

The Walcot Foundation, an independent grant-making organisation and Lambeth’s principal independent funder, has contributed to the funding of the programme over three years and Citizens UK has provided training in community organising to the CHIPS team.

Paul Maxwell-Rose, Co-director of Programmes at CHIPS, said:

“The number of young people being excluded from secondary schools in London has risen in recent years, to reach over 40,000 permanent and fixed-term exclusions in the last year for which statistics are available[3]. At the same time, the link between school exclusions and youth violence has become increasingly clear. We need to take action now and society needs to hear these young people’s voices.

“We are very grateful to the Walcot Foundation for recognising the importance of this issue in Lambeth, and for their generous contribution towards the funding the programme for the next three years. Our experience shows that, by drawing out the anger of young people and focusing their energy on shared issues where they can make change happen, we can not only reduce the risk of exclusion but help them to become positive changemakers in their communities.”

 

Notes for editors

About CHIPS (Christian International Peacemaking Service)

CHIPS is a charity of Christian peacemakers, who have been living at the heart of conflict for over 50 years. From Brixton to Ghana, the charity is invited to join communities and help build a sustainable future free from violence and division. Inspired by the life of Jesus, CHIPS believes that the best way to bring about lasting peace is to take sides. Both sides. For more information, visit chipspeace.org

About the Walcot Foundation

Walcot Foundation is Lambeth’s principal independent grant-maker that aims to tackle poverty by creating opportunity.  The Foundation makes grants totalling £2 million a year to individuals, schools and community organisations.

For more information, visit walcotfoundation.org.uk

[1] Home Affairs Committee report, 31 July 2019

[2] Department of Education, Permanent and fixed period exclusions in England 2017/18, 25 July 2019. Statistics are for state-funded schools and all school types.

[3] Department of Education, ‘Permanent and fixed period exclusions by type of school’, local authority statistics 2017/18, table 17. Statistics are for state-funded secondary schools.

 

Stop, search, peace?

The rules around ‘stop and search’ have recently been relaxed. A pilot programme increasing the powers of police to challenge people without ‘reasonable suspicion’ was tested earlier in the year across seven police forces and has now been rolled out to the whole of England and Wales.

Meanwhile, as part of a trial, new technology capable of screening 2,000 people an hour for concealed guns, knives and explosives was used by transport police at a station in East London for the first time this month.

But will the increased use of stop and search help to bring peace to our streets?

At CHIPS, our experience as Christian peacemakers on the ground in Brixton and Tottenham – and indeed everywhere we’ve worked around the world – is that relationship-building is a fundamental pillar of peacemaking. In that context, we see several issues with the increased use of stop and search in Britain today.

Does it really work?

Recent research on the success of stop and search is not encouraging. In 2017, the College of Policing analysed Metropolitan Police data over ten years and concluded only that higher rates of stop and search led only to ‘very slightly lower’ crime rates. It also found that increasing ‘without reasonable suspicion’ searches did not appear to affect violent crime.

In addition, in 2017/8, fewer than one in five searches in London led to an arrest. Worryingly, when stop and search was last at its peak in 2008/9, the rate was even lower – at little more than one in twenty. We therefore see a real risk that increased use will simply make some people feel safer, while society actually becomes less safe as more people have negative experiences of law enforcement and community relationships deteriorate further.

A blatantly discriminatory practice

Stop and search is a blatantly discriminatory practice. It continues to be disproportionately used against black people and young people. For example, as recently as 2018, black people were almost ten times more likely to be searched.  

Amazingly, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) concluded in 2017 that many police forces are “unable to explain” why BAME people are disproportionately searched. This simply isn’t good enough. They must explain it and, working together with their communities, agree any response needed. Stop and search is an intrusive tactic, and we cannot alienate large sections of the population.

A crisis of confidence

HMICFRS reports that, as recently as two years ago, some police forces lacked external panels to examine their use of stop and search. Others were not independently chaired, while many didn’t reflect the diversity of their communities.

These apparent gaps in community monitoring and scrutiny concern us. Even recently, we (and those we work with) have seen police officers in Brixton being provocative and verbally and physically aggressive, seemingly without good reason.

We know from bitter experience that, when misused, stop and search actually leads to increased tension – not peace. If we want people to be good citizens, we need to set the right tone and give the right examples. But an open mind and a little creativity can help. One idea we like is involving young people in the training of police officers – helping them to understand how it feels to be searched through role play, and sharing practical insights to help shape policy and procedure. 

Prevention is better than cure

It is clear to us that if the use of stop and search is being stepped up, then the rigour and discipline around it – including research, community engagement and monitoring – must be stepped up too. But all of this takes time and money, reinforcing our view that that resources would be better spent on community relationship-building in the first place.

Ultimately, any amount of enforcement can never replace effective prevention. In recent years, the loss of safer neighbourhood policing teams, who knew the streets of London backwards, has been sorely felt. So has the reduction in police community support officers who play such a critical role in learning from the community, acting as a visible presence on the street, and supporting children on the edge of crime.

Police have informally told us that they understand how important relationship building is, and they feel frustrated that they only have enough resources to prioritise enforcement. But recently announced plans to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers provide an opportunity to help address this. If a meaningful proportion of this investment is directed towards community engagement, it would be money well spent.

Ultimately, as a charity that has worked in some of London’s most challenging boroughs, our experience tells us that strong relationships – and not intrusive enforcement tactics – are the key pillars of peacemaking. Without them, the increased use of stop and search will only bring more tension to our streets – and not the peace we all long for.

That’s a scenario everyone should work to avoid.