Looking ahead: 2020 and beyond

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As Co-Director of Programmes, Paul Maxwell-Rose is responsible for overseeing CHIPS’s existing projects and their future development, as well as evaluating new opportunities and implementing strategy as agreed with trustees. Paul began working for CHIPS in Uganda in 2009, and moved to Ghana in 2012 to establish our project there. In 2014, he relocated to Brixton to launch the charity’s South London project tackling youth violence.

What are your expectations for Brixton this year?

I’m really excited about the plans we have in place for 2020! By the end of this year, I’m very hopeful that we’ll have increased our impact in Brixton and helped to transform more young lives.

We’re working with more students at risk of exclusion this year through our partnerships with schools, we’ve successfully raised funds to increase our community-based activities with young people and their families across three major estates, and we’re seeing increased demand for 1-2-1 mentoring and support through the referrals that we receive from our partners.

I’m also encouraged by the momentum building around tackling youth violence in London and we’re committed to action. We’re part of a broader team with Lambeth Citizens helping the City Hall Violence Reduction Unit shape a London-wide strategy, and we’re encouraging Lambeth decision-makers to be pioneers in changing how we think about school exclusion and inclusion.

Looking further ahead, I’d like to see us extend the geographic reach of our work into neighbouring areas. We’ll need to find the resource and funding to achieve it! But I believe it would further increase the impact of our work, and help bring more young people together from ‘both sides’ – across the barriers of postcodes, mistrust and fear.

And what are your hopes for your work overseas?

Last year in Ghana, we decided to take a more targeted approach, focusing our energies on the projects which best bring people from opposing sides together, and this has set us up well for 2020.

I expect our savings and loan groups, in particular, to continue to grow and flourish this year. They provide an excellent example of how we can respond to genuine local needs, while enabling people to come together and develop the depth of trust and relationships needed to build peace. We’ll continue to train up more members to lead the groups, so that they become increasingly self-sufficient.

There’s also a need and an opportunity to expand our work into the neighbouring district of Namumba North. We’ve seen violence flare up there regularly in recent years, but we are only active in two or three communities currently. We’re praying we’ll secure the funding we need to do this.

Finally, beyond Ghana, I’m very much looking forward to following up on my recent visit to Central Asia.

Can you tell us more about the opportunity Central Asia?

Sure! I felt really honoured to be invited to visit last year to discuss how we might help local communities to build peace. The first thing that struck me when I arrived was the extreme contrasts – the landscape spans everything from snow-capped mountains to the deepest of green valleys, and the climate veers from dusty 40C summers to -20C frozen winters. 

From a peacemaking perspective, it’s a region of relatively new nations. They’re forging their identities against the complexities of borders drawn up by former colonial powers, and populations formed by very different ethnicities and cultures. This has led to tension and mistrust – and sometimes serious violence.

I was warmly welcomed there. I also felt very inspired as I met people who, despite having seen the horrors of violence and experienced a real depth of pain, have the vision and confidence to imagine a different future.

Our priority at CHIPS is to listen and work out with the local communities how we might best contribute to peacemaking in the region. For example, should we partner with other local community organisations, or develop a programme of our own alongside them?

Subject to finding the funds, our next step will be to appoint someone locally to spend time getting to know the region, building relationships and developing the right model for us to take forwards. It’s an exciting moment and an exciting opportunity for us!

Finally, any other opportunities on the horizon?

We’ve been receiving invitations from communities that are new to us to help them build peace, but sadly we don’t always have the resources to be able to say ‘yes’!

One community we plan to partner with more closely, however, is local churches in the UK. We often meet with people who are concerned about a local conflict issue, but they’re unsure about how to help ‘fix’ it through practical Christian peacemaking.

Our vision is to help more local churches to take action by sharing with them our experiences and, in particular, our approach and our principles of peacemaking.

We believe there’s much we can offer as a mentor, coach and friend – coming alongside them to help them develop an approach that is rooted in listening, reflecting and challenging prejudice and injustice.

I’d invite anyone who finds themselves in this type of situation to come and talk to us, as we’d love to journey together with them and share some of the challenges and joys of learning how to make peace!