Author: Andy Walton
Date: 01 February 2014
In 2010 a group of residents from the Rockingham Estate in South East London engaged in a process called ‘Conversations for the Soul’. The women who took part, from Christian, Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds, found there was much they wanted to discuss together. They began to develop trusting friendships in which they were able to discuss their approaches to life. At the end of the process they decided to keep their friendship group going, continuing and broadening the range of activities. Initially the group had been brought together by Southwark Diocesan Inter Faith Officer Siriol Davies and Southwark Council Community Engagement Worker Tasneem Husain. Both Siriol and Tasneem agreed to continue to support the group as it expanded and developed.
Some of the women had young children who began to come along to the meetings. The children began so ask if they might have a group too. With a small Near Neighbours grant Next Generation was formed. 2012 saw a flurry of activities:-
They were invited to speak at the Buddhist Centre Spa Road, in Bermondsey, about their views on the environment during a Year of Service activity. They also gave out info postcards they had designed and wildflower seeds. This involved about fifteen children and their parents.
They were invited to take a guided tour around Lambeth Palace.
They took part in an Activity Day when the Olympic Torch relay passed along Borough High Street, including games, making replica torches and making a peace pledge together.
The children designed another postcard with the peace pledge on it – these were given out as a souvenir to everyone.
They also took part in Apple Day in Borough Market.
At first the adults organised everything but as the youngsters have grown responsibility has devolved to them. It has been an important lesson to learn that things don’t just happen. ‘There will always be problems but you have to work through them’ one youngster reported. They are excited by the idea that things don’t always run to plan as they know from experience that this often offers opportunities rather than a sense of failure. With each new event their confidence and expertise grows as they are open and willing to learn from mistakes. For several youngsters Citizenship is their favourite subject in school and they bring this enthusiasm to the group. Next Generation encourages the adults to try new things – role modelling, reversed!
The 2013 Eid party was organised entirely by the young people from invitations through to the fund raising stalls for Christian Aid and Islamic Relief. Some of the Christian youngsters have now moved away from the area but the Bengali Muslims both keep in touch with their friends and are working to find new recruits to the group from young people in St George the Martyr Borough High Street, St Peter’s Walworth and St Matthew’s at the Elephant.