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Our Stories Stories of Hope from an East London Postcode Authors Destiny Agugu, Zahra Al-Aza, Zeynep Binboga, Jolanta Bujauskiene, Caitlin Burbridge, Sarah Castro MBE, Liezel Contreras, Sotez Chowdhury, Giulia Di Trapani, Liam Harney, Kathleen Herron, Rahim Miah, Jane O’Sullivan, Jean Patrick, Paula Paul, Patricia Quinn, Mafijur Rab, Noore Rahman, Julia Rodrigues, Ayesha Siddika, Eseosa Simpson, Sultana Yasmin and Azzezun Zahraah


E14

Our Stories Stories of Hope from an East London Postcode

Authors Destiny Agugu, Zahra Al-Aza, Zeynep Binboga, Jolanta Bujauskiene, Caitlin Burbridge, Sarah Castro MBE, Liezel Contreras, Sotez Chowdhury, Giulia Di Trapani, Liam Harney, Kathleen Herron, Rahim Miah, Jane O’Sullivan, Jean Patrick, Paula Paul, Patricia Quinn, Mafijur Rab, Noore Rahman, Julia Rodrigues, Ayesha Siddika, Eseosa Simpson, Sultana Yasmin and Azzezun Zahraah


Contents

Introduction 

1

Gemma Frendo 

43

Noore Rahman 

84

History 

3

Giulia Di Trapani 

44

Pat Jones 

86

Stories 

7

Hadi Suwaid 

46

Patricia Quinn 

88

Abul Hasnath 

8

Jack Gilbert 

48

Paula Paul 

90

Azezzun Zahraah 

10

Ian Darby 

51

Peter Fordham 

92

Barbara Barnes 

12

Indje Binboga 

52

Rahim Miah 

94

Betty Musso 

14

Jane O’Sullivan 

54

Rupert Monck 

96

Abdus Samad 

16

Jo Cass 

56

Sarah Castro 

98

Christine Mallia 

17

Jolanta Bujauskiene 

58

Shabana Begum 

100

Cynthia Owusu 

18

Julia Rodrigues 

62

Sister Christine Frost 

102

David Williams 

20

Kathleen Herron 

64

Shahida Begum 

105

Davina Ridsdale 

22

Latifa Achchi 

66

Soomaiya Nishat Syeda 

106

Destiny Agugu 

24

Leah Massouras 

67

Tessa Dugmore 

108

Emdad Rahman 

26

Lauren Goldstein 

69

Tom Gleed 

110

Eric 

28

Liezel Contreras 

70

Tyrone Josephine 

112

Gloria 

29

Mafijur Rab 

72

Young Gifted and Modest 

117

Eseosa Simpson 

30

Maium Miah 

74

Zahra Al-Aza 

118

Fatema Begum 

32

Marie Chillmaid 

76

Zeynep Binboga 

120

Francesca Di Fraia 

34

Patrick Harrison 

77

Zinebe Maach 

122

Jean Patrick 

37

Mohibur Rahman 

78

Conclusion 

125

Frank Chillmaid 

38

Nazma Begum 

80

Acknowledgements 

126

Fred Quatromini 

40

Noora Jama 

83


Introduction The picture on the front of this book is of a statue of Terry Baldock in Langdon Park. A boxing World Champion at the age of 19, Terry, ‘the Pride of Poplar’, embodies the spirit of the communities situated within the E14 postcode of London. A bantamweight, Teddy was small but he packed a punch and knew how to win. Born and bred in Poplar, and learning his discipline in the church halls and boys’ clubs of London’s Docklands, Teddy rose to world fame when he beat the American Archie Bell for the World Bantamweight Title. From humble beginnings in Poplar to being crowned on the world stage, Teddy Baldock was a warrior who aimed high, fought and won. His bronze statue is a fitting reminder to all who see it of the spirit of this part of the East End. It is this spirit that this book was intended to convey. This book is the product of a project, run by the school of Geography at Queen Mary University of London, to bring together 20 people who live work or study in this postcode, train them as leaders for change, and create the story of this patch of the East End. Over the course of three months in 2015, these 20 people, ranging in age from 16-69, covering 11 different nationalities and representing Muslim, Jewish, Christian and non-faith communities, went out into their community to gather people’s stories of hope that show us why and how to ‘do the right thing’.

The point of this is to shine positive light on our neighbours and friends and challenge the dominant names and stereotypes used to describe us. Equally, the aim was to create the story of E14, and present this back to the community in order to celebrate our achievements and bring different groups together so that we can act collectively to meet present-day and future challenges.

But why E14 and why now? Cut adrift from the rest of the borough of Tower Hamlets by its position on the meander of the river Thames, the E14 area is home to the communities and individuals of Poplar, Limehouse, Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. Separate communities with their own histories and identities, what unites us is our common history of being part of ‘Docklands’. No stranger to challenges and problems, the E14 communities have a long and proud history of fighting together to make positive change. Now, as always we are faced with a number of challenges that need cooperation to address. These include issues around poor quality and unaffordable housing, low wages and unemployment, the risks and opportunities associated with regeneration schemes and the expansion of Canary Wharf, the impact of austerity on our much-valued services, the

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harmful effect of sanctions in the benefit system on families, and tensions within and between our communities. It is clear to us that action needs to be taken in order to find solutions to these problems and take advantage of the opportunities for the growth of our communities. This book hopes to act as inspiration for such action. In the pages that follow you will find stories, from the past and present that highlight the commitment, passion, cunning, fight, tolerance, determination and compassion of our people. We hope that you find in them the hope to meet the challenges of today. E14 Storytellers 2015

E14: A History of Community Action In 1919, reporting at the time of George Lansbury’s election to local council, the East London Observer noted ‘A worthy cause deserves worthy effort.’ Indeed, this is a motto that rings true throughout the history of the E14 area, from the early 1900s to the modern day. Whether you’re talking about the workers movement at the turn of the century or the rent rebellions decades later, the fight of the suffragettes or battles for racial equality, the people of E14 have never been shy of coming together for what they think is right. By the beginning of the 20th century, what we now know as E14 was already a richly diverse area – benefiting from waves of immigration throughout the 1800s. A key part of this demographic were the Jewish people who came to East London from Eastern Europe. Highly skilled labourers, the Jewish community lived and worked throughout the bounds of modern-day Tower Hamlets. Nevertheless, irrespective of their talents, many Jews were subjected to horrendous sweat-shop conditions as was common at the time. Yet, inspired by the docker strikes of the late 19th Century and mobilized by leader Rudolf Rocker, 1912 saw one of the biggest strikes in East London’s living memory, with 13,000 local workers walking out and protesting their conditions. This was the direct action of a community coming together and exercising its power to say ‘We deserve better.’ It worked too, with many of the strike’s conditions being met shortly after.

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It is this community spirit that became the lifeblood of E14’s history throughout the coming decades. Just two years after the Jewish strike, it was the turn of the Suffragettes to show their strength when Poplar Council attempted to support those who opposed women’s rights. Caring not for the social codes of the time, the women took to Poplar Council Chamber and unleashed flour, stink bombs and bottles upon the local authorities. The meeting was quickly disbanded and the suffragists left with a deeper wound to their movement than just cuts, bruises and soiled clothes. Indeed, it was this spirit that helped to keep local campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst strong throughout her time in Holloway Prison, where she began a hunger strike, took a vow of silence and rejected the chance to sleep to make her point clear. Just as the Jewish tailors and the dockers supported each other throughout their strikes, it was the struggle of these Suffragettes that went on to inspire George Lansbury’s later actions in the borough. Elected in 1919 as part of the emerging Labour movement, Lansbury infamously refused to collect the increased rates that should have passed on to the London authorities. When his community was faced with poverty, Lansbury and other councillors refused to drive local people into further hardship. This was no easy feat however and the councillors were arrested in 1921 for their rebellion. Moreover one of these arrestees,

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Minnie Glassman, is emblematic of the way in which different communities came together throughout Poplar’s history. The daughter of a Jewish coal merchant from the East End and the wife of George Lansbury’s own son, Minnie was a fiercely vocal supporter of the E14 community and a member of the local women’s movement a leader who fought for those around her.

George Lansbury

Following in this tradition came the local political groups of the 50s and 60s. One of these, the Millwall Residents Association, formed in reaction to the closure of the footbridge over the already inaccessible Isle of Dogs. Thanks to this campaign, hundreds of islanders came together as members of the association in what became

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known as the Battle for the Bridge. Although as many a great tale goes - they lost the battle, it can be said the association won the war as they mobilised a community and fought for many other victories. Later that decade, when the London County Council decided there was no need for a new secondary school on the island, the association came together and took their case to the national government. Laying the foundation for their children’s future, the association proved the need for a new school and saw the opening of George Green’s school in 1977. During this time, East London began to see more changes to its ever vibrant landscape. Among these was the influx of new communities from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa - in particular Bengali and Somali groups. With cultural roots in the East stretching to the Lascars employed by the East India Company who settled in the area, a new wave of migration from Bangladesh took place after the country’s independence in 1971. However, this was not always a warm welcome. Yet, tapping into E14’s history of action and faced with issues of overcrowding, unsanitary housing, these communities took power into their own hands and organised legal squats within empty flats for families in need. With no help from the local authorities, the headquarters of the Tower Hamlets Squatter’s Union sprung up shortly after at Aston Street, E14. Yet, it was not just through squatting that migrants fought the issues they faced. In a similar fashion to the residents of the Isle of Dogs in previous years, new groups such as the Chinese Association of Tower Hamlets and the Island Advice Centre began to offer

support to migrant communities who often faced hostility in the area. In the same vein as the Irish, Chinese and Jewish immigrants of earlier decades, people carved out a space for themselves at the centre of the community. Just as Limehouse was dubbed ‘Chinatown’ at the turn of the century, now diverse places of worship, learning, eating and exploring began dotting themselves throughout the postcode – giving residents access to new, exciting cultures. But this process was not easy, with migrant communities involved in numerous struggles for dignity, acceptance and tolerance within the area, as they battled hostility and racism. Reflecting this pride in diversity is Chrisp Street Market- the bustling hub of E14. Here, communities co-exist as small businesses and traders keep the heart of Poplar pumping under the light of Lansbury clock tower, a memorial to battles previously fought and won. And it is under this glow that, during the mid-eighties, members of the East End’s LGBT community established themselves in the E14 area. Opening up pubs like The Londoner at the end of East India Dock Road, queer people created spaces where they could express themselves in safety, build community and find home. Even today, the White Swan and Old Ship in Limehouse are still standing strong as bustling pillars of the community who stand for tolerance and respect. From one hub of activity to another, plans for the regeneration of Docklands and the building of Canary Wharf also started to take shape in the 1980s. As businesses began to spring up, local communities organised themselves in response. Whilst the transformation of

Chrisp Street Clock Tower

docklands into a world financial centre caused untold disruption and chaos to local people’s lives, it also provided opportunities. Jobs, improved housing and transport were all a possibility, and a number of organisations on the Isle of Dogs, Poplar and Limehouse joined together to fight for what they felt they deserved. Opinions differ about how well Canary Wharf serves its neighbours, but being home to this global hub has certainly put E14 on the map, and having a world financial centre on their doorstep is something that local people are proud of. Moreover, the development of Canary Wharf has brought in a range of new communities from across the world to the area, who have settled locally to be nearer their work, adding to the diversity of the place.

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E14 Our Stories

Canary Wharf

To conclude, the history of E14 is a rich tapestry of various communities who have come together to work with their neighbours and do the right thing. We are a tough bunch, who know what it takes to stand up for ourselves and make our voices clear. Although we’re still learning this, we think we do it better than most. And the point of history? It teaches us lessons, gives us hope and guides us in the future. There may be battles still to be won but judging by where we’ve come from, we have the fighting spirit needed to face them head on. 6

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In what follows we present a selection of 58 people who demonstrate that this fighting spirit is alive and well in E14 today. These stories, poems and snapshots come from those who live, work or study in the E14 area. Gathered through one-to-one meetings between 20 volunteer story-tellers and people within the community, they are presented here in alphabetical order. The intention is that they offer a source of hope and inspiration for the people of E14 today as they look to meet the challenges of the present.

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Abul Hasnath Change through Football This is an individual’s strive to strengthen his community’s relationships and turn a group divided by drugs and fear into a cohesive, productive and optimistic community.

Abul Hasnath lives in Robinhood Gardens, Poplar.

Abul has been actively involved in organising youth programmes for young people in his area. He coached a football team and used to train them in Bartlett Park, in Poplar E14. But unfortunately in 2006 some of these opportunities and facilities were taken away from the lives of the vulnerable kids he trained. The community centre was closed down by the council after a group of activist tenants claimed that the centre was involved in drug dealing, despite no evidence being found.

A property consultant, he is a father of 3, and a very active and passionate member of his local community.

Later, in 2011 due to ‘estate wars’ the local football teams had become rivals. One of Abul’s player’s became a victim of knife crime and his football team fell apart due to fear. The parents withdrew their children from the team and Abul was left in despair, with the lack of facilities for young people in the area leaving the youth exposed to the temptations of drug culture. Yet, in 2010 Swan Housing association was appointed to regenerate the whole of the Blackwall area. This enlightened Abul with the motivation to build up again what he had lost within his community. His prime motivation was to re-build the trust with key local stakeholders and to re-engage the youth. This last part was the most challenging, but he slowly accomplished his goal by working alongside Swan, who had funded many of his projects. Abul did all this through football. Abul’s passion for football enabled him to redevelop his team. The team have been sponsored by Canary Wharf Trust which has been an exciting achievement for the local volunteers. Indeed, many other organisations have come forward to fund his projects, such as London Tigers, The Arbour, and Swan foundation. Abul has changed the lives of his community; he has regained their trust from scratch and has changed the perception of the Robin Hood Gardens estate. Abul’s tireless passion and refusal to give up has allowed him to create opportunities for the youth and deter them away from the enticing drug culture which was a common problem in the area.

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Azezzun Zahraah A committed mother of three, Azezzun is involved in her tenants and residents association in Poplar. She also volunteers to help with ESOL classes at SPLASH community centre on Will Crooks estate. Azezzun has lived in Poplar for some time, after to moving to Robin Hood Gardens in 1992. Azezzun plays a vital role in her community as a home carer in her local area, supporting people when they are unable to look after themselves. Despite suffering from health conditions herself, Azezzun provides much needed friendship and support to those closest to her.

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Barbara Barnes Dunkirk Spirit Barbara had just had an operation on her knees when she told me this story about her dad. She told me that when she was a kid she used to swim across the Thames from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich with her brother Frank but she knew her knee was bad when she had difficulties swimming across the pool at Tiller Leisure Centre. This story is about her dad, Charles Bennett (known as ‘Mick’), who was the eldest of 14 kids and was also born in Janet Street. He was a blacksmith at Badcock’s along Manchester Road, E14. He made big chains for the ships and he used to take Barbara and her brother to see the ships when they were launched. It was wartime and one weekend Charles disappeared. He was gone all weekend and Barbara’s mum, Elizabeth, (everyone called her Nan) was going mental with worry. She was ready to kill him. On the Monday morning she heard him coming into the flats. She heard his footsteps on the stairs and got ready to hit him with the frying pan. It was one of them great big cast iron frying pans. And she waited by the door for him. Well, when he came in he was filthy dirty and all covered in dirt and grease. And it was a good job or she would have whacked him. He’d only been to Dunkirk and back all weekend. He’d been helping to ferry troops off the beaches. He hadn’t been allowed to tell anyone what he was doing because it was a top secret operation. He’d gone because he’d felt guilty you see, because as a blacksmith he was in what was called a ‘protected occupation’ and wasn’t allowed to join up to fight in the war. A mate of his had a small boat and he’d volunteered to go with him backwards and forwards across the Channel lifting soldiers off the beaches. They did that journey seven times in all. He’d never really been in a boat before but he felt like he’d helped out. Barbara says that the moral of this tale is that people always helped people in need, you always gave help when it was needed and that’s all her dad had done.

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Barbara was born and bred in Janet Street, St Huberts House. She had a lovely childhood, a bad marriage the first time round and then the second one was happy but only lasted 21 months. She has been part of the Island History Trust and friends of the Island History Trust meetings for years. She first got involved in 1981 when she gave Eve Hostettler (who set up the history project in the 80’s) her wedding album from 1957. It was a special musical album. Her brother was a photographer working in Fleet Street and had it made especially.

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Betty Musso Payback Let me tell you a story that happened years ago in Italy, when I was still working for my first real job. At that time I was working as a secretary in an Insurance Agency and I had been in that place for 5 years of my life; I loved that job and I was really good at it. During these 5 years I got married and I was the happiest woman on earth. After that, at 34 years old, I fell pregnant with my first baby girl and back then I thought that nothing was going to change. I was expecting that after my maternity leave I would go back to my job in that agency. During my maternity leave, my boss employed another woman who substituted me whilst I was at home. After my daughter turned 3 months in November, I went back to work because as the Italian law says: ‘Pregnant women must go back to work after 3 months of their child/ children’s birth. They will be protected by the law only until the child hits 1 year old.’

Betty Musso is an Italian mum of two young women. She works as a babysitter and enjoys reading books of all types, spending days out with her family, long walks in the park and watching her two beautiful loves growing every day.

As I got back to work, my colleagues warned me saying that I should have been careful as the woman that took my place during my maternity leave was trying to take my job. Apparently she had been working overtime and during holidays and weekends, in order to take my place. After my “protection” from the law ended she wanted the boss to fire me. At first I didn’t believe them and thought they were just joking! I thought “How can she do something like this to me? After all, it was me that got her into this job. She cannot be that vicious.” Plus, in the office I was a reliable and experienced worker, so surely I wouldn’t be sacked…. However, I was terribly wrong and they were terribly right. She was trying to take my job. After my daughter turned a year old in August, I received a letter from my boss saying that he had to fire both me and this other woman as he couldn’t afford to keep us on. I was devastated, but after a few months I found out that I was the only one that he had fired. The other woman was still working there and I got fooled. I was really upset and angry. How could he? After all I did for him and all that time he said that without me, the office would have closed. Lies! So I called my lawyer and a few months later I saw my boss again, but this time in front of a barrister. It all ended with the woman getting fired for good, my boss had to pay what he owed me and after 15 days from being fired I found a new, better paid job that I loved even more and which I dedicated my life to for 20 years. I had stood up for what was right, and won! 14

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Abdus Samad Green Fingers Abdus Samad has lived in Poplar for most of his adult life. Now in his mid-fifties, he has not been able to work for the past four years due to medical reasons. Just last year Abdus had a bypass operation which has helped his health improve but still has not gained him the ability to go back to work. Before his illness, Abdus was always a hardworking man who before coming to the UK lived in Mumbai, India for two years selling musk’s and incense and in Saudi Arabia for seven years with a grocery business. Frustrated with being idle, Abdus went to the SPLASH centre three years ago to seek help on his CV. Whilst he was there, and after discussing what he could do voluntarily in the meantime, Abdus started to work on gardening fruits and vegetables in the community garden behind Wigram House. Abdus thoroughly enjoys doing this work; it gives him a chance to apply his knowledge on fruits and vegetables from when he had his grocery business as well as ensuring that he remains active and healthy to deter further heart conditions. Abdus takes care of the community garden all by himself and usually plants traditional Bengali vegetables. Every year, Abdus and the community centre hand out what was grown to the local residents for free. Last summer, up to 27 houses received fruits and vegetables from the garden. Despite his medical conditions, the job centre is pressuring Abdus to seek work as he is not yet of retirement age. Furthermore, Abdus and his family are sufferers of the benefit cap which has placed significant financial strain on them. His wife is not able to work as she suffers from arthritis and his two boys and two girls are all still in schooling, too young to work. The family’s housing situation is not ideal either; the sons share a bedroom, the daughters share the other and the parents sleep in the sitting room due to lack of space. Regardless of these unfortunate circumstances, Abdus and his family remain happy and make do however they can. Not wanting to bemoan his lot, Abdus doesn’t let his situation get him down. Instead he chooses to grow and provide for his thankful neighbours.

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Christine Mallia A family that plays together… Christine, Sue and Paul are three generations of the same family. Christine started coming to the Salvation Army in Poplar over 33 years ago. Her daughter Sue was 5 years old and her grandson Paul has been coming to the oldest Salvation Army corps all his life. Christine not only attends the Church on a Sunday, but is also an active volunteer during the week, (you may have seen her working in the charity shop). If you ask her nicely, she may even tell you about the time she met Prince Phillip. Patrick is a special member of the Poplar corps and as one of the older members at 80 years; he’s not as strong or vocal as he used to be. This however has never stopped him singing along to the hymns in a Sunday service. On one occasion Patrick decided to help Christine and Sue wash the corps minibus. In his enthusiasm, the hose didn’t quite catch the minibus. Actually, Patrick completely missed the bus but showered them! They still laugh about it to this day and it has given them all, including Patrick a great memory of his church family that he can hold onto well into his 80 plus years!

Christine Mallia has lived in E14 all her life and, as well as being a nursery assistant, also regularly looks after her grandson Paul. She is active in the community as a member of the Salvation Army in Poplar

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Cynthia Owusu How I Managed to Balance the Children and the Catering Business Cynthia Owusu comes from Ghana and has been living in the UK for 24 years. She is a mother of three and has her own catering business. She also works in the community house at St Luke’s primary school on the Isle of Dogs.

I have always balanced the children and catering business well, investing the time needed in both. Alongside running the business I work at St Luke’s school’s community house helping out with various parent activities. One day I received a huge food order for a wedding party that was due to happen in a week’s time. The day before the wedding was my children’s parents evening, so there was no problem with the order; I would be able to get it done on time and still be there for my kids. I started working on the food straight away, as well as continuing to work at the community house. A day before the wedding was due to happen, the organisers phoned me and said they needed the food a day earlier, for that very evening. At this point I started to panic. I wondered if I should cancel the order because my kids were more important to me. Yet the order was very large, and I didn’t want to throw to waste all of the work I’d done so far. I told the organisers that I could not attend the wedding because of the parent’s evening, and that I could not change this as they’d left it too late to re-arrange their order. Sadly, they did not listen and were not being considerate. They expected me to deliver the order that night, regardless. So, I thought that I just have to make the food and go to the parents evening… I went to the car, but it wouldn’t start. I had to carry all of the food and rush to wedding on the bus. When I got there, there were so many people present. As soon as I arranged all of the food out, I sped straight to the school for parents evening. I thought I was going to be late, but made it just in time. I was all in a fluster, but so relieved to have made it. The next day I received a call from the wedding organisers apologising for putting the pressure on me. They gave me an extra bonus for my work and said sorry for not being more considerate of my role as a mum. I am proud to have pulled this off, and it shows just how hard us mums have to work.

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David Williams From Addiction to Sobriety The last thing on David’s mind when he visited the William Booth College in 2006 is that he would undergo a transformation that he still can’t quite believe. David by his own words was a chronic alcoholic. Booze had become his friend and a way of numbing the pain after the death of his mother 15 years earlier. Drink had cost him his job, relationships and home, as David’s life spiralled out of control. But it was a binge drinking episode that saw him end up in hospital and an ultimatum given to him by the doctor: ‘alcohol or your life’. This was the wake- up call he needed to turn his life around.

David Williams attends the Salvation Army in Poplar and volunteers at a number of residences in and around Poplar and the Isle of Dogs. This includes ‘The Hub’ at Poplar corps and ‘Tower Hamlets Foodbank’.

On this specific evening David was invited to see one of the ‘cadets’ become an official Salvation Army Officer, and within the next few months David was not only free from alcohol but had become a ‘soldier’ for the army and is an active member of the Poplar corps. He continues to share his story with those struggling with addiction, especially those attending Grieg House Addiction Rehab clinic in E14. David has remained sober with the support of his faith, friends and the community.

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Davina ‘Dee’ Ridsdale Dee is a walking example of the adage “Don’t give up”. Born and raised in Poplar, Dee left school with no qualifications, got pregnant and was a stay-at-home Mum. Her daughter has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis from an early age so Dee wanted to be there for her.

Davina Ridsdale works as a Health Trainer at Newby Place health centre, Poplar.

As her daughter got older, Dee started questioning what she was doing with her life and wanted to make some form of contribution outside the house. She started off doing volunteer work for Poplar Harca and as a BME health guide. She availed herself of any free courses going and did a Warrior Women self-defence course. She embarked on a 14-week training course to become a health trainer and passed her first exam ever! She then passed a Level 2 exam in community development. It was when the NHS launched their Health Trainers programme that Dee came into her own. She was involved in the pilot scheme in 2007 and participated in the public launch at Mile End. Dee loves her job and loves helping people to overcome health problems. She feels that because she has weight issues, high blood pressure and diabetes, she is better able to understand and guide people to leading a healthier lifestyle. Plus, she believes because she’s a “real” woman with “real” issues, and not a stick-thin waif, women feel more comfortable coming to her. Dee is making a big difference to a lot of local women.

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Destiny Agugu Destiny Agugu lives in Poplar, after moving there from South London. She is an active and valued member of her local Salvation Army church, on Kerbey Street, E14.

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Hope is seeing the potential for something new. Strength is a community of people who care enough to make a difference. Change is when the two things come together.

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Emdad Rahman Wow, wow and wow I popped along to speak to this lovely man about a project he has just started, to be totally blown away by the amount of commitment he has shown to the community! I so wrongly assumed that was just someone taking on a bit of grass and converting it, but the more I spoke to him the more I realised this was no ordinary man. Emdad Rahman has just started a new project on the corner of Cotton Street by the Texaco garage. He has “adopted” two small pieces of land, and this project is to transform the once derelict site into a garden of delight! So far it’s just one month old and there are hyacinths and tulips growing along with a few daffodils. He has opened a blog and has contacted people from Liverpool and Barcelona who have promised to send him some seeds. From speaking to him today I doubt very much if it will stop there. Emdad hopes to involve all aspects of the community- young and old- in making the site a more pleasant part of the local landscape. At the moment a vast part of the area is full of empty bottles, cans and debris. Yet the two plots that he has adopted are pristine and well maintained. You can see how the rest will look in time, with determination and patience.

Emadad Rahman works at Mulberry Place, E14, and is father and husband to 3 sons and a wonderful wife. Recognised for his commitment and dedication to the Tower Hamlets community he has been awarded the MBE and has received the freedom of the City of London.

Our green-fingered friend is of Bangladeshi descent, but born and bred in London. He is immensely proud to be a British Bangladeshi and loves both sides of his heritage. Emdad wants to pay back and improve his community. He wants to make it proud of itself so that people can reap the rewards of the place he loves. Much travelled, Emdad says London is the best place in the world to live. London is very lucky to have Emdad. He works for local government as a child welfare and attendance officer and his dedication to his community is amazing. He has run marathons. Three in fact- running 10k for the Whitechapel Mission for homeless people. On top of this he has volunteered at St Luke’s school, Tower Hamlets food bank, the air ambulance and the Paralympics. He describes himself as passionate, determined and committed. He is full of vibrancy and enthusiasm for the city he loves and is proud of. Emdad’s dream job would to have been a teacher. How sad it is that he didn’t go down this path as he would have been a fantastic role model for many children’s lives. But how lucky we are to have him work on our behalf.

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Eric The Alpha

Gloria A fear of extreme heights

Eric was 14 when he met Harry Thornton. Harry may just have saved his life from total ruin! Eric’s parents had split some 6 years earlier and he had moved from Brixton to Stratford to live with his aunt as his mum finished her training to become a nurse. Soon he moved to the Isle of Dogs.

Gloria has lived in Poplar for a couple of years now. Her and her children were put into temporary ground floor accommodation in Robin Hood Gardens for over a year. Despite being temporary and knowing that she could be moved at any time to a different location, this flat suited Gloria as she has a fear of extreme heights from once falling down many flights of stairs in a previous building she lived at. As a result, Gloria can only live in accommodation which is only up to three floors high. The temporary accommodation was great; a good space, on ground floor, and three bedrooms which was sufficient space for her children.

He was bored, disillusioned, hanging round street corners, and breaking into cars and factories. Bunking off school was his normal day- this lead to rows; both with the school and his mum who was working long, unsocial hours as a nurse. She was at her wits end. All of her other children were first class students whilst Eric was under-achieving, as well as getting involved with bad groups and behaviour. He was in more and more contact with the police as time went on. Eric’s mum was filled with worry over where her son would end up. He felt let down at school; he was disillusioned with the staff. The other pupils were not the issue; the teachers were, and the Head Master gave him no support or encouragement. In fact, just the opposite. Gradually, the police and Eric had more and more encounters, leading to a custodial event. Prior to going to court, Eric met Harry Thornton, who was opening Alpha Grove youth centre on the island. Harry gave him work and responsibility. He let him make his own decisions, putting more and more responsibility onto Eric. Eric found that he started to grow into his new role, and soon adopted even more responsibility, with Harry letting hum ‘run’ with the sound decisions he was making. Just before he became involved with Harry, Eric had got into serious trouble with the police. He knew he could offset his behaviour in court by telling them he worked at the youth club and getting Harry to provide a testimonial. But he chose not to; he wanted to take full responsibility for what he had done. He was sentenced to 3 months Juvenile Remand in Ashford. Harry was cross with Eric for not calling him to court, but he supported him whilst going through his ‘short, sharp, shock’ inside. After 3 months, Eric picked up where he left off, working at the youth club and finding a full-time job.

Unfortunately, the council suddenly moved her with very short notice and only a few days to move to a third floor flat, which had only two bedrooms and less space. However, this wasn’t the problem! The council had decided to relocate Gloria and her family again to another place which would have been up on the seventeenth floor. This is a huge medical concern, Gloria’s fear of heights was ignited and this piece of news threw her into depression. Her 20 year old daughter went and spoke to Sister Christine of St Matthias for advice, who directed her to Nazma; a local community worker at SPLASH centre. During November 2014 Gloria went to speak to Nazma for help and since then, they have become friends. Nazma took it on herself to fight for Gloria; especially since due to her depression, she was in hospital for most of December. Nazma obtained medical reports from the doctors and continuously hassled the council on behalf of Gloria to either stop the relocation or to change the new accommodation to a flat in between the ground floor and third. In between January and March, Nazma successfully acquired new accommodation for Gloria and her family on the second floor of a different building within Poplar. Gloria is extremely thankful to Nazma for putting so much effort in to fight her cause. She is now repaying Nazma’s commitment to her by volunteering at SPLASH every Wednesday to teach local residents croquet and knitting. She juggles her voluntary commitment with her job as a cleaner in Holborn.

Eric feels pride in the fact that he turned the corner. He can still remember the tears in his mum’s eyes when he was sentenced as he left the court room. He never wanted to put his mum through that again. Now in his fifties, Eric’s life has come full circle- himself a trustee of the Alpha. Eric puts his transformation from tear away to proud father and member of the community down to the help he got from Harry. 28

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Eseosa Simpson Never allow hurtful comments to divert you from your path Eseosa Simpson came to England with her family 6 years ago from Nigeria. She currently works in mentoring and education and lives with her four children and husband on the Isle of Dogs.

When Eseosa was one of only two people to be invited for an interview for a possible place at the University of Greenwich, she was elated. She had worked hard on the access course for educational studies and this was one step closer to fulfilling a dream of becoming a teacher. Eseosa, a mother of four, was born in Nigeria. She came to England with her husband and young children in 2008. Although she knew the full-time University degree course would be a challenge, she also knew it would be a very rewarding one. The good news of Eseosa’s invite was well received by many of the students and lecturers on the access course she attended. However one of the lecturers on the course made a hurtful comment. The comment was unkind, inappropriate and affected Eseosa deeply. Any individual on the receiving end of such a comment would have likely made a formal complaint. However it fuelled her determination to complete the access course and be accepted onto university. In her 3rd year of a Primary Studies degree course at the University of Cumbria, Eseosa was introduced to the tutor that would support her with the completion of her dissertation. Who was standing in front of her? It was the lecturer who had been unkind four years earlier. Eseosa was well aware that her future was in the hands of someone who not only doubted her capabilities, but could decide whether she passed or failed her degree. This time Eseosa did not remain silent. She knew she had to communicate her feelings and ‘clear the air’ before they could establish a working relationship. Eseosa confronted her. Although the lecturer had limited memory of the event she did apologise. From that moment on both parties could move forward and Eseosa completed her dissertation achieving a very respectful B grade. Eseosa could have made an official complaint against the lecturer while at the college but she didn’t. This would have had long-term implications for the individual’s career and it is unlikely she would have been in the position to tutor Eseosa at the university. Even though she chose not to make an official complaint at the time, Eseosa was given the opportunity to voice her concerns directly to the offending individual and ‘speak her truth’ when the time was right.

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Fatema Begum Enlightenment Fatema Begum, 26, has been teaching English at George Green’s School for three years. She spent her early years between Bangladesh and Bournemouth, later moving to North London where she still resides. While she deeply enjoys the creative aspect of engaging young people in secondary education, her lifetime humanitarian goal is to help build an orphanage school in South East Asia.

This isn’t the first ever time that social injustice has tried its level best to thwack Fatema in her face, nonetheless she refers to it as a “significant memory.” Here are her words: “It was 2012, in a London staffroom no less, and I was only in the embryonic stages of training for my postgraduate qualification in teaching when a rather red-faced colleague strode in to enlighten me. I say “enlighten” with a pinch of salt, as pale-faced I stood there listening to an “enbite-ening” diatribe against Asian, Muslim, Hijabi teachers teaching Shakespeare. Preposterous, she said. My face further “lightened” as I heard her ranting also about “where on earth the British government should draw the line - we can’t have our British children exposed to these ways.” Did she mean the ways the same British Asian Muslim Hijabis go to state school, then come of age and sing along to “Stand by Me”, or that they annually belt out Christmas jingles? Or was she referring to the same enthusiastic shot of hands in the air at a question on a poem in the AQA Anthology in 2005? I confess my usually calm exterior took a beating. Was I not professional enough to uphold British values in my classroom? Was my tongue so at risk that it might slip and mention that I was from a family of closet Mafioso in Bangladesh? Was I really putting my students in danger of radicalization? Of course not. I don’t have a radical bone in my body - unless you count the eccentric loyalty to, love and promotion of bookshelf combining in the school library. So this is what I did. I told this colleague (in an amplified voice for everyone’s benefit) to test me. Test me on the ways and customs of my British culture, test me on my pedagogical underpinnings, and test me on knowledge and love of my subject and MY Shakespeare. Go ahead, I said, vet me. Well she ‘couldn’t possibly do such a patronizing thing’, and well she ‘didn’t mean to offend some people’... and it went on until the backtracking eventually came to a halt. I promised her though, that I’d go on to teach English, and I’d honour the conversation by discussing it with my students. I’d ask them if the cloth on my head was impeding the expansion of pathways in their brains or if Shakespeare had, under my wing, taken on the visage of an Ayatollah, or if they’d like to double check the pass rate in my GCSE class last year.

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Francesca Di Fraia is a Spanish and French teacher at George Green’s School. She is a mother of two lovely girls who loves Italian culture, food, Spanish culture and music, going to the theatre, vintage and spending time with her husband and her little girls. She used to be a bit shy in the past but what happened in her life made her gain confidence and turned into the amazing woman she is now.

Francesca Di Fraia Standing Up for a Colleague A few years ago, when she was still working in a shop in Canary Wharf, something happened that made Francesca stand against her own boss to protect her colleague. The customers kept complaining about her Polish colleague’s accent, saying that it was too strong and they could not accept it and if she didn’t do something about it they would never shop in that place again. The girl endured all the bad comments and scolding from her boss, who said “If you don’t fix your accent I am afraid I’ll have to fire you.” She tried hard to practice her accent and make it as clear as possible for others to understand, but she just couldn’t! Her accent was part of her and she couldn’t just change it to please someone else, but she still didn’t say anything and endured everything until one day… Francesca knew everything about this and felt really upset and angry at the same time. She wanted to stand up and protect her colleague, she didn’t want her to leave just because her boss and customers didn’t like her accent! “We like people for their character and personality, not from how they speak or how they look!”, Francesca thought. She wanted to support her friend with all her heart and that’s what she did! She gathered all her colleagues in the shop and she explained the situation to everyone saying that their colleague was being discriminated in the workplace just because she had a strong accent and she desperately wanted to help her. The other colleagues agreed to what Francesca was telling them, saying that it was not fair and that they were totally on her side. One day, her boss called Francesca’s colleague into her office and started saying the same thing over and over again, complaining about her accent and how strong it was. In that same moment, Francesca and everyone from the shop got into the office and stood in front of the boss. “It is not fair. Just because her accent is too strong and customers complain it doesn’t mean that you can fire her. It’s true, the customer comes first, but not in this case! You are discriminating her just for that. It is not fair.”

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The boss looked at them quite surprised, she didn’t expect that all her employees would have done something like that. However, she didn’t change her mind that time. “I won’t change my mind this time. Sorry, but as you said customers come first and I can’t disappoint them.” Dear reader, now you may ask yourself: “Is this how it ends?! Didn’t Francesca do anything else?” Well, sometimes things don’t go as planned and it leaves you upset. But the effort and passion you put in what you do, everyone can see it, and this is what happened with Francesca’s boss: even if she fired her colleague something changed in her and every employee saw that. “After my boss fired my colleague something changed. She started seeing people differently and learnt that it is not appearance or accent that counts, but what is inside.”

Jean Patrick Jean Patrick arrived in this country from Burundi in 1988 as a student. He studied for his City & Guilds in Travel and Tourism and did further studies in English. He then became a tour guide and learned his way around London. Shortly after, he won a scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia where he gained a degree in Arabic languages. He returned to this country and in addition to regular work as an interpreter, he embarked on a varied career of painter/decorator; electrician; fruit assistant; bus driver; IT technician; truck driver and driving buses for the disabled in Brent council. His association with E14 started with volunteer work with SPLASH (South Poplar & Limehouse Action for Secure Housing) as a teacher of ESOL classes. He is determined to work with the UN as a health worker and realises this volunteer work will form a good basis for the skills required. He is also quite determined to use his seven languages, four of which are African, which should stand him in good stead with the UN. After the recent Ebola outbreak, Jean Patrick feels compelled to become involved and will take the courses necessary and continue to study to qualify for this important work. He has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and is happy to take on whatever is necessary to reach his goal. I do believe he has what it takes to succeed.

Jean Patrick is an interpreter and volunteer health worker. He lives in Wembley, but travels to E14 to volunteer to teach ESOL classes in Poplar.

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Frank Chillmaid On the Ward When he was in hospital, he had grounding break surgery. Frank’s foot had got infected, and two of the toes had to be taken off. Frank was in hospital, waiting for the time he would be taken to theatre. He was, understandably, a little nervous. This was a big deal, he was about to lose his toes, and wasn’t sure how he’d be able to walk afterwards. After waiting a while, the Doctor, who had been performing surgery on another patient in the ward came back down to see Frank. It was time to have his operation. The waiting was up and Frank was put to sleep and before he knew it, he was with us again. This time with his foot in a bandage. The operation was a success and they had sorted Frank’s foot. Now, all he had to do was lie back in bed and recover. Frank was lucky to have got through this relatively unscathed, but hospitals can be daunting places for people. Laid up in bed, staring at four white walls and surrounded by strangers- recovering from an operation can be a very trying time. On Frank’s ward, for one person in particular this was plain to see. The man in the bed across from him was not having a good time. He had also had the same surgery. His name was Pop’s (at least, this is what they called him anyway). Pop’s was being really stubborn, and not listening to what the doctors were telling him. He was getting out of bed and walking, putting pressure on his feet when he wasn’t meant to. Pop’s was stressed out and uncomfortable, and didn’t like being told what to do. Seeing his frustrations, Frank went and sat with him; this man needed a friendly face. Frank explained to him why he should be listening to the doctors. He told him to take their advice and after six weeks he would be home. Frank told him how important it was to eat well and to stay in the bed, so that the foot does not have any pressure and it will heal well. Pop’s listened, and started behaving better. It was Frank’s compassion and sympathy that had put him at ease and made him feel calmer on the ward. Frank had succeeded in building community in his hospital ward.

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Frank Chillmaid lives in Robin Hood Gardens, Poplar. He enjoys helping out in his local community garden and providing a space for the community to enjoy. He is a proud east-ender, and is particularly pleased to have the world’s financial district on his doorstep.

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Fred Quatromini The Reluctant Activist Over the last 30 years the Barkantine Estate has been through dramatic developments and the one thing all the positive changes have in common is Fred Quatromini Born in Holborn central London in 1934, Fred Quatromini grew up through all the traumas of World War 2, being evacuated twice; the first time aged only 5. After a short period in Clapton, Fred settled with his wife and family on the Barkantine Estate, Isle of Dogs in 1970. The Barkantine Estate of the 70’s and early 80’s was an area of profound deprivation characterised by high levels of unemployment, drug use and crime. Transport links were poor and the social housing in the area was classified as ‘hard to let’. Fred has always adopted a ‘there for the grace go I’ perspective on life and refuses to judge people, whatever their situation and circumstances. He was acutely conscious of the difficulties visited on the community around him. Encouraged by neighbours, Fred reluctantly joined the Barkantine Tenants and Resident’s Association (TA). In the early 80’s Fred and a small group of TA members stared a canteen in the Alfa Grove Community Centre serving cups of tea to the mums using the Playgroup. The Playgroup was a vital link for the isolated mums living in the nearby tower blocks. The children benefited from a well-run play provision and the canteen gave carers the opportunity to meet and connect with other local people. Fred didn’t want to get involved in community activism – he was dragged into it. “Someone had to make people listen”. The estate was awarded £36 million for desperately needed repairs and refurbishment and Fred was determined the residents would be fully consulted and included throughout the process. They formed the Barkantine Management Team which brought together the local residents and landlord and Fred was made a voluntary (unpaid) member of the project team overseeing the actual works. In the 90’s Fred was instrumental in organising and campaigning to keep the land on the corner of Tiller and Westferry Rd in public hands and see development of the Memorial Garden – Opened by the Queen Mother– one of her last official duties.

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Around this time, they formed the Barkantine Social Housing Partnership (BSHIP) which brought together local people and the different Registered Social Landlords who operated in the area. Fred became a Director representing the residents and kept everyone up to speed on what was happening. The Partnership was awarded a grant and set about addressing the need for a Clinic and Nursery. The Barkantine Clinic is built on estate land and Fred acted as one of the resident’s spokes people in the Clinic’s negotiations. That said, the Clinic nearly didn’t happen and Fred along with other BSHIP members led a community demonstration to Mile End Hospital to protest and petition, the then, PCT. On top of all this, through the BSHIP, Fred worked closely with East Thames Housing Association to develop the Barkantine Nursery which was recently rated as Outstanding by Ofsted. Fred is now a Director of the Nursery. Like all heroes, he dismisses the impact of his community organising but Fred, and the people like him, are the glue the bonds our communities together.

Gemma Frendo For Tallulah Gemma’s middle daughter Tallulah was born 28 weeks premature and stayed 9 extra weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal London Hospital. Tallulah has cerebral palsy and needs a wheelchair to move around. However, her cognitive ability is absolutely fine and her sense of humour is even better. At age 4, Gemma and her family decided that Tallulah should be able to attend a mainstream school with support. So they decided for her to join her sister Phoebe who attended a small catholic school in E14. Meeting with the school, they were told that the school has no disabled toilet to meet Tallulah’s needs and that there was no funding to build such facility at that time. Racking their brains for a solution to this, Gemma and her husband Darren were made to realise that the only available resource from the Local Education Authority (LEA) was a pound for pound system, in which they had to raise half the money themselves for the LEA to match the rest . They quickly concluded it was their only hope to help provide the right facility for their daughter to get the right educational support. For the following six months, Gemma tirelessly raised money in honour of Tallulah. With huge support from other members of the family, they were able to organise various charity events. They organised events such as Pink Ball, which was held at Millwall Football Club, which, with help from Gemma’s mum they hired a hall for free. They also had a bingo night where The Troxy sent their bingo caller and equipment to facilitate the event; and numerous pubs helped organised various charity events and auctions involving a lot of bucket shaking! Eventually they were able to collectively raise over £20,000, which the LEA had to match and a disabled toilet was built in the school. Gemma and her family were ecstatic knowing that Tallulah was able to join her sister in the same school. Gemma is so grateful for everything and she understands that without the support, hard work and love from her family and community, it would not have been possible to achieve any of this for Tallulah and other children that will need the toilet in the future. Gemma Frendo has lived in Tower Hamlets all her life and is a member of St Edmunds Church congregation in Millwall. She has always been involved in supporting schools and other charity organisations through voluntary work and fund raising. Gemma has three children namely Phoebe, Tallulah and Esme

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Guilia Di Trapani A quirky and sharp linguist, with lots of love to share and great ideas to contribute to the local area and its people. Giulia, who lives in Hackney after moving to England from Sicily, is in the sixth form at George Green’s School.

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Hadi Suwaid The Coach Hadi usually takes his 6 year old son to football training on the weekends. After a while of attending every Sunday, he started to realise that the boys were not improving in their playing skills; some of the boys in the team were scared to even go onto the pitch. This became a concern for Hadi because of his passion for football. He noticed that some of the boys had the potential to become great players, if only they had a better coach. Considering this concern, Hadi decided to go for Level One training as a coach in order for him to get the skills required and be equipped to help his son and other boys from the community get the right support needed to develop their skills and help boost their enthusiasm. He succeeded with this and became the coach for his son’s team. Hadi started with about eight children and gradually others became interested. He now has a team of about 18 children. He has bought football kits for all the boys to help them play better; all that the children needed to pay is the sum of fifteen pounds a week to help cover the cost of the pitch. After a while, the children’s parents became interested after seeing how inspiring Hadi and the children were. They decided to form their own team. This development was highly welcomed by everyone; the boys’ mothers came along with food and drinks and socialised while they watched the dads play. The dads play first on the pitch whilst the children watch and cheer them on.

Hadi Suwaid has lived in the E14 area for 14 years. He loves building good relationships with his neighbours and he is dedicated to community development. Hadi volunteers as a handyman at St Edmund’s Church, Millwall. He works shifts and uses the time in the day to help his neighbours with any DIY jobs in their homes. He is greatly loved and respected by the church and other members of his community.

Hadi is very excited about this opportunity to help develop children’s health and social skills using football as a common ground. He is also very grateful to all the families involved because without their support he would not have been able to accomplish it all by himself; and most importantly his son is very proud of him. By bringing parents and children together, through two football teams, Hadi has strengthened his community. The children and their families have bonded nicely through this medium and we all can agree that this is what makes our community healthier.

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Jack Gilbert A ‘gay free zone’? Jack Gilbert is Chief Executive of Rainbow Hamlets, a Tower Hamlets based LGBTQ charity. A resident of Limehouse, E14, Jack works hard to defend and build LGBTQ community in the East End. A practicing Jew, he has a track record of working in matters to do with faith and sexuality. He sees this as his life’s work.

‘What got me really engaged was those stickers. When I saw the rainbow flag with a line through, and the message ‘Gay Free Zone’, I immediately thought of the signs that my mother saw in 1930’s Berlin, which said the same thing about Jews. For me there was no difference. The lessons are very clear. That’s what got me much more focused on building Rainbow Hamlets’. When Jack Gilbert saw a sticker on a lamppost claiming that Tower Hamlets was a ‘gay free zone’ he felt compelled to act. Jack is Jewish and his mother came to England as a refugee from Nazi Germany, so he knows just what these messages of hate can lead to. Rainbow Hamlets is a charity working to support the needs and defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. (They use the phrase LGBT+ to include everyone because not everyone finds labels helpful.) They work not just in the borough but across the East End. Jack, who lives in Limehouse E14, is their co-founder and executive director. The organisation first came about when Tower Hamlets council decided to revive an LGBT forum in the borough. Then an active board member within a local synagogue, Jack was invited to a meeting to learn more about this. In 2010, during LGBT History month the fledging group chose the name Rainbow Hamlets. Later that year, alongside Rebecca Shaw, a trans lesbian, Jack agreed to take on the role of establishing this group. It was in February and March 2011 that the stickers appeared. Within the space of 3—4 weeks around 50 stickers were put up across the borough. Small in size, their impact was huge. Displaying the rainbow flag crossed out, the words ‘gay free zone’ written across it, and referencing the Qur’an, these stickers haunted LGBTQ residents across Tower Hamlets as they adorned lampposts, road signs and public transport. Suddenly the borough had become a more dangerous place for Jack’s community. It was these few weeks that spurred on Jack and Rebecca to develop the dynamic and ever-growing organisation that he runs today. Recognising the need to bring different communities into dialogue with each other, Rainbow Hamlets works to build better community relations and develop an understanding between communities of faith and queer people; faith should never be used to legitimise hate.

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As well as this, they try to make LGBTQ life visible to other communities so that people can get used to their differences and work through these in productive ways. To do this Rainbow Hamlets aim to empower local LGBTQ people through a range of vital services. They employ case workers to support people dealing with hate crime — physical attacks from gangs; verbal abuse as they walk the street— family abuse, and same sex domestic abuse, as well as issues associated with housing, health and wellbeing. On top of this they provide cultural events that aim to build a vibrant community life by bringing LGBTQ people together from a different backgrounds, cultures and generations. For Jack, LGBTQ people have become very isolated from each other: ‘We don’t have the regular meeting places that other communities have - pubs and clubs are important but they don’t reach the whole community. So we have activities created by and for members of the community to bring us all together cutting across age, gender and ethnicity’. East London Pride, an LGBT football team, live music and poetry events— these are just some of what Jack helps organise to build community and the safety that comes with it for LGBTQ people. What about the risk of all this work. Why didn’t those stickers scare Jack off from getting involved? ‘We will get abused and attacked— but the reality is we have to get through that— we have to live the world we want to create; be the change we want to see, as Ghandi said. You can only do that by not having fear.’

Ian Darby Unlikely Character? Ian’s first step was to get involved at the students union of his University- because of his shyness as a teen this was a real challenge for him- but thankfully he was ready to face it. He was interested in creating change. Coming from a working class background himself, he was no stranger to unfairness and struggles. At the students union he was able to develop his arguing skills and confidence to stand up for others and understand different opinions, views and interests. This led him to politics and getting involved with the Labour party, which he always admired. The view from inside was not as positive as he thought it would be and soon he learned how much more complicated this world of politics turned out to be. He realised that things are not necessarily as black and white as they should be and that people were sometimes more concerned with their own agendas than the cause itself. This made Ian concerned, but the concern quickly turned into action. Ian had a desire to do things right, to talk the talk of the people- to be involved in real, honest social action. He stood 3 times for councillor, never got elected- but this never stopped. He continued his journey in trying to create social change through his involvement working with rough sleepers at Providence Row and helping mum’s to form a ‘Nursery Action Group’ whilst continuing to work with politics and local MP’s. In E14 Ian came to work at a local housing charity as a resident empowerment officer and now is involved in significant campaigns such as the Poplar and Bow Green network and other green projects in the area-which play a crucial role in informing and guiding residents to have a more green perspective on life and encourage them to be more in contact with nature. I first met Ian doing outreach work at his charity. Outreach work is hard- it takes a lot of courage to be able to engage people you don’t know and get them involved in working together. But Ian is great. He is naturally curious and interested in people and works hard to get them involved in social action. His journey and passion for social action started once he took his first step and got involved. Now he is trying to help people to take this same first step. From empowered to empowering- Ian’s journey is definitely one of discovery, understanding, involvement, learning and teaching.

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Indje Binboga Perseverance She was a refugee. From the daughter of an affluent father in Cyprus her family became refugees who needed to flee the country and leave all their possessions behind as a war took place. She dodged the bombs which wrecked her home and came to England. She moved from a large five bedroom house with a large garden to a four bedroom flat on the fifth floor of Bredel house in Burdett Road. All she had was her parents and siblings: she lost everything else. She had to start from scratch. Her friends, her house, her pets, her memories, all gone. It was a major shock to her whole family. The heart-break caused by losing everything was one of the reasons why her father developed cancer and died when she was 21 years old at the age of 62. When she moved she only had a primary level of English. Constantly bullied and mocked by her peers at Sir John Cass school, she never gave up. When asked why; she attributed her resilient nature to the determination her mother demonstrated when moving. She was in shock but later regained her resilient nature. Her mother was a nurse whose degree was not recognised in the UK so she had to go back to college at the age of 40 to retrain in order to be able to work and provide for her four children. Seeing this resulted in Indje ploughing through her own hardships. At 16 she was set free from her bullies at school. She had a fresh start away from those who battered her self-esteem. Having decided to pursue a career where she could work closely with people she began the next leg of her education. The difficulties she saw her parents endure caused the choices she made in her education. Therefore she studied and studied. She got her qualification to be a nursery nurse in West Ham College. Then studied and studied some more. This time getting a Diploma to be a social worker from Middlesex University. She worked as a Social worker for Haringey Council for 12 years. She shows us all that a horrible start doesn’t mean that life will continue to be that way, if you are resilient and confident in your ability. A negative start will only be an advantage to getting a better life because it can teach you how to self-motivate.

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Indje is a widowed mother of one who lived in Bredel House, Burdett Estate for 11 years before moving to Cyprus. Now back in London, she currently resides in Poplar with her daughter and mother. E14: Our Stories

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Jane O’Sullivan From a long line of social justice activists and civic leaders, Jane has continued her family’s proud tradition by working in community development and youth work since completing both her degrees. Originally a Midlander from an Irish background, Jane has worked across many settings and groups, from creative arts projects with Middle Eastern youth groups in west London to working now at George Green’s School and engaging students with local heroes from the Island in intergenerational projects. Jane can always been found with her students, who admire her very much, before, during and after school. We suspect that Jane doesn’t have much free time.

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Jo Cass The Pom Pom Lady Jo Cass, 52 years old, is a 3rd year student on a Textile degree course. She has been attending the Salvation Amy in Poplar for over 22 years and was married to her late husband David there. She currently runs a monthly Arts & Crafts group at the Salvation Army Poplar and ran the same group at St Matthias Church on Poplar High Street every Friday afternoon.

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Jo had always been interested in arts & craft but had little idea of how popular the classes would become when she started them 10 years ago. Every Wednesday afternoon at St Matthias Church the local over 55 community were encouraged to get creative and have a good ole natter. Jo’s weekly art & crafts sessions not only became a place where members could challenge themselves but also share issues they may be facing in their current lives. Jo’s role soon became one of linking many of the members with the right council services that would address their grievance or concern. One particular lady that Jo helped was so grateful; she made it her duty to regularly supply Jo with an endless stream of poms poms. Not any old pom poms mind you, these have turned up in school plays, have become part of the Easter story and have even been seen on Christmas trees in and around Poplar. For this local lady, making pom poms gave her a sense of purpose. And Jo was more than delighted to find them the perfect home.

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Jolanta Bujauskiene I Am What I Am Jolanta moved to England more than 10 years ago. She left her mother country Lithuania after growing sick of the way that the politicians run the country. She is extremely proud to be a Lithuanian, but could no longer live in a country where it was not guaranteed that you would be paid the wages you were due for the job you had done.

Jolanta lives in Stepney but is originally from Lithuania. She is a health trainer at Newby Place Health Centre, All Saints, E14.

Jolanta used to work in a factory that produced cans of fish. She recalled how one month, instead of being paid in money, her boss calculated the salary she was due and paid her the equivalent value in cans of fish. She was left with no choice but to try and sell this on to her friends and neighbours to make the money she thought she was due. Sick of situations like this, Jolanta moved with her partner to London. She arrived to a rented room in East Ham to live with a friend. After a while the couple wanted to move to a place of their own and saw an advert for a room available in the local paper. The flat was in Stepney and Jolanta made arrangements to move her stuff to Tower Hamlets. They were due to meet their new landlord outside Stepney Green tube, but on the day, with their belongings in a van, he was a no-show and wouldn’t answer her calls. All of a sudden, they were homeless on Mile End Road and had to find somewhere quick. Thankfully, her partner saw an advert for a spare room in a shop window and they moved into a flat in Stepney. As they entered their new home she saw the state of the room. It was filthy and not fit to live in. Jolanta sat on the bed in tears, wondering how it had come to this. Not to be put-off by life’s obstacles, Jolanta and her partner worked to get the room into a liveable condition, cleaning it from top to bottom and giving it a new lease of life with a complete re-decoration. They married and they had their first child soon after: a beautiful baby girl. When her daughter was five, Jolanta put herself forward for a once in a lifetime opportunity. She volunteered to become a Marshal at the 2012 Paralympic games. This promised to be a unique experience that would allow Jolanta to show her daughter a good example of how to give to others in life. continued…

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There was one stumbling block however. The compulsory rehearsal for the games meant that Jolanta needed to find a carer for her daughter. Her husband would always help her and look after his baby, but that day he was busy working to pay the rent so he was unavailable and her friends had their own commitments to manage. With one day to go before the first rehearsal began, Jolanta was ruing an opportunity missed. Yet, one friend in particular, with whom she had lost contact for a year, came through. Natalia Prosevic and her daughter were able to take care of her child and fit this around her job. Jolanta was able to go to the Paralympic games! The Paralympics was a huge source of inspiration for Jolanta, and she is grateful to her friend and family for allowing her to experience it. She was amazed at the bravery and positivity of the athletes who had overcome their physical impairments to do something truly special. ‘If they can be so happy despite their problems, then why can’t we all?’, mused Jolanta. The one thing she remembers from the games is a song they played at the opening ceremony: ‘I Am What I Am’. For Jolanta this sums up the spirit of the E14 community. All of our people have overcome their own specific challenges in life, and yet here they are, smiling in spite of their struggles. From being paid in tins of fish to stewarding at the Paralympic games, with her wry smile, Jolanta truly is who she is.

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Julia Rodrigues Julia is our adopted Brazilian; she’s feisty, friendly and free spirited- and possibly has the best smile in the whole of E14. At 18, Julia left home, moved to London and studied at the London School of Economics. She is curious about people and determined in her job with Poplar Harca as a resident empowerment officer to improve the lives of people and make Poplar a great place to live. She loves community organising, cycling and any opportunity to laugh!

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Kathleen Herron Introduced to the East End via her job at a national newspaper, Kathleen has been living on the Isle of Dogs for 23 years. An enterprising and determined woman, Kathleen’s love of print media was first sparked when, as a 5 year old girl in America she taught herself to read from the local paper to impress the paper-boy she had a crush on. A true character on the Island, Kathleen offers support and laughs to her neighbours and friends.

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Latifa Achchi The Missing Linc?

Leah Massouras Giving Back

Latifa Achchi (Lati) was born in the north of Morocco and came to London as a child. Initially living in Hackney, in 1990 Lati moved to E14 getting married and having children at a very young age. Lati described living on the 20th floor of a tower block, with two small children, no money, no qualifications and no prospects as one of the darkest periods of her life. She felt isolated, depressed and lacked both self-worth and confidence.

Leah is a born and bred East Londoner, growing up on a council estate in E14. She left school at 16 with no qualifications and no ambition. She got pregnant young and was a single mother with no prospects until she got involved in a bit of local volunteer work. She learned she had a natural ability for dealing with people and sorting out problems for them. She was given training and started working for Poplar Harca in 2012. Since then she has been working across both Teviot and Aberfeldy Estates. She works hard at getting locals into volunteer work and onto training courses. She remembers how helpful it was to her.

One day a leaflet dropped through her door advertising an NVQ training course. To take up the course Lati realised she would need to get involved in local life and started to get active at her child’s play group. Eventually Lati was made Vice Chair of the Play Group and was able to take a training course. As part of her course Lati completed work experience at a Job Centre, which she hated. She didn’t like the way unemployed people were treated and having been in similar positions herself she believed she could do a better job of helping people. So, Lati then went on to volunteer at the Linc Centre, offering advice and guidance to unemployed people. Lati would get the newspaper and search the ‘situations vacant’ columns to help unemployed people into jobs. She helped people to fill out application forms and write their CVs. What makes this so remarkable is that during all this time Lati didn’t even have a ‘proper’ job herself. None-the-less, she loved helping other people and found a purpose in her life. Eventually, the role of Volunteer Co-ordinator came up at a housing charity and Lati was encouraged to apply. Despite all the work she had been doing, doubt about her self-worth crept in and the day before the application deadline her supervisor noticed that Lati had not submitted an application and asked her to go home and complete one. Luckily for the people in Poplar she did and went on to get the job.

Her main target is getting locals into employment by encouraging them to take unpaid volunteer work and then organising training courses for them, thus building their self-esteem to enable them to seek paid employment. One of Leah’s success stories is a woman who we will call Carol, aged 46. When Carol’s mother passed away, she developed deep depression and would not leave her home. Leah convinced her to participate in computer classes and try for volunteering assignments. Carol’s confidence received a great boost and she was strong enough and confident enough to embark on more accredited courses in child-minding. Carol is now in paid employment at a private nursery and has come off the anti-depressants. I’ve seen Leah in action at work on both estates and she has a natural affinity for people of all ages and backgrounds. She is a genuine community worker and does truly make a difference.

When she started there was very little happening in the centre and Lati set about creating activities such as arts and craft sessions and women’s groups. The Linc centre is now a vibrant hub of activity on the Lincoln estate. Lati is as passionate now as she was when she started out and accepts that she is a role model for others. She has had a massive positive and empowering impact on hundreds of people’s lives and is a much loved and cherished member of the E14 community.

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Lauren Goldstein Smallest Biggest Impact How do we expect our staff to achieve, improve and be a dedicated team? What do we do if we have a team like this? This line manager knew what she wanted to do to improve and show her appreciation for her dedicated team. Over the last 8 years there was no incentive to increase their workload but the team did. They went beyond what they were being paid for, not just in hours but in dedication. This team was made up of many local people serving the local community, striving to give 100%. But their spirit was starting to flag in the unending, relentless battle to give 100%. This team worked under the broad umbrella of the NHS which had put a cap on all pay increases for its staff, but Lauren’s team was not directly paid by the NHS, so she felt it was possible to go and argue the case for a wage increase. She wanted to give them a Living Wage, but firstly she had to do battle with her superior manager, who was being told there was not more money in the ‘pot’ for her staff. Armed with facts and figures she pursued more senior management with lists of statistics and figures. Meeting after meeting she addressed their agenda with gusto, only to be virtually cold-shouldered, never receiving an answer. After many months of this she told them that she was not satisfied with their lack of commitment, and that they would slowly lose a good team if they didn’t take her concerns seriously. By constantly taking this same approach, the senior management gradually began to listen. It took nearly 10 months of meetings, finding facts and figures, and repeating the same argument in Lauren’s tireless pursuit to fight for her team. At last, she got what she wanted! A 10% pay rise, 3 days extra holiday at Christmas and 2.5% on London weighting. Was it a struggle? Yes it was. It took hours of her own time and constant hard work, trying to find new angles, facts and figures to convince the management to make this big change for her team. When her team found out about this victory it made them feel appreciated, and they became even more focussed on their job- hitting targets and providing an exceptional service. Lauren finds it hard to fight her own battles but is proud to have found the courage to stand up for others. Lauren has chosen to remain anonymous but works in the E14 area. 68

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Liezel Contreras Show Time! Liezel’s story starts when she was working at Oxford House in Bethnal Green. She used to work with ‘hard to reach’ women in the area, especially Bangladeshi women who needed to learn English to live in this country. Liezel was responsible for supporting these women as they adjusted to British culture and society, helping them with their housing issues, benefits, and health problems. Liezel found so much joy in this work, becoming these ladies’ friend and growing in admiration of their strength as she learnt of the courage and hardship behind their journeys to England. Then one day, Liezel and her team were dealt a massive blow. Liezel and her staff found out that the local council was to cut their funding and they would not be able to carry on with the project any more.

Liezel Contreras is married and has two children: one boy and a girl. She lives in Hackney and works at Tower Hamlets college, E14, teaching ESOL classes to women.

The team was shell-shocked and distraught that they were about lose this vital service and all of the friendships and care that it generated. They were angry that their work was not seen as valuable by the council. They decided to act. Liezel and her team informed the service users about what was happening and they all got together and decided to put on a show to show the council exactly what this service meant for them and how important it was to their lives. They had to convince the manager at Oxford House to let them put it on, and at first they were not too keen. Liezel and her team worked hard to persuade them to allow it to take place. They had rehareased their performance and everyone was ready for the big day. Now they just had to ensure that the council’s funder would show up. Liezel made it her personal mission to make sure that the funder came to see the show. And they did- she is a very persuasive woman! All of the women worked hard and put on the very best show they could. The funder was surprised by their passion and clearly understood what this project meant to them. They promised to fund the project for a further 4 years. This goes to show that if something is threatened that people love enough and you can show this love to others, then give your best shot nothing is impossible. You just might change someone’s mind.

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Mafijur Rab Searching for Harmony The connection between Britain and Bangladesh is more than 300 years old, with migration between the two beginning through the East India Company and then later through the British Empire in India. It is the E14 area of Tower Hamlets where Bengali migrants first arrived and settled. Ever since the arrival of the Lascars (merchant Navy staff) centuries ago, people have worked hard to build harmony between different ethnic communities in E14. Since the 90s Mafijur has been playing his part in this process.

Mafijur is grateful to the E14 community for helping local BAME Muslim people to find and create their own place on the island through establishing the DCO. He feels this allows the Muslim Community to step up to present day challenges, such as the threat of extremism and its consequences: “The current trend of extremism is a threat. As citizens of Great Britain, we must all work together to defeat this as we defeated Fascists in the 90s in E14 area. We all must work together to create a harmonious community for the benefit of all”, Mafijur said.

Milwall Community Organisation (MCA) was formed in 2004. Mafijur was one of the founding members of this charity. One of the aims of MCA is to create harmony through engagement and interfaith dialogue with other communities. Since 2005, MCA have been involved in interfaith dialogue with St Lukes Church at Alpha Grove and Christ Church on Manchester Road. MCA were hiring St Luke’s Church Hall and practising their Islamic faith side by side with their Christian neighbours until 2011, when they decided they needed a space of their own on the Island. The BAME (Black And Minority Ethnic) Muslim Community had been trying to get a place in the Millwall area for last 2 decades to perform their cultural activities, such as ESOL, community language and supplementary classes, but they were having little success as existing local centres were already occupied. So, MCA took the initiative to build a constructive dialogue with all local councillors, community organisations and residents, and form the Docklands Community Organisation (DCO) in 2013. Mafijur is a secretary of this Consortium Organisation.

Mafijur Rab, 45 years old, works as a library co-ordinator and lives in E14.

Working together through the DCO, local residents managed to get a place at 111-113 Mellish Street, a derelict site containing a rundown portacabin that was the former GP surgery which had been closed for 3 years. Since August 2013 the community has been regenerating the site. Mafijur and all the committee members are volunteers, and the DCO engages with children to over 50s, particularly ‘hard to reach’ BAME women who have English as a second language and teenagers through their ‘off the street’ campaign. The DCO’s work was recognised by the MADE In Europe and DCO received 2 awards from MADE In Europe: ‘Made a Difference to the Community’ and ‘Green Up Campaign’.

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Maium Miah Island Riots Maium Miah has been living in E14 since 1984, when he moved to Isle of Dogs. A father of 4, he has been a councillor for Canary Wharf ward since 2010. He is also a board member of One Housing group

When Maium Miah moved to the Isle of Dogs there were just four Bangladeshi families living on the island. This isolation from others from his community made it a very difficult time for him and his family. The racial attacks they faced were beyond belief. They could not go out of the house because they feared their neighbours would attack them or set their dog on them. Life on the island was hard, and Maium’s family showed an incredible level of bravery and resilience to cope with what they faced. Yet, merely ‘coping’ with the situation was not enough: Maium wanted to change it. One day, his father was beaten by the British National Party. The family lived in fear for years. Over time more and more Bangladeshi families moved to the island, and the number kept growing. This caused a stir amongst local residents and resulted in the election of a British National Party candidate as councillor for Millwall in 1993, with Derek Beackon winning on a ‘Rights for Whites’ campaign. This victory, and the activities of the BNP more generally, led to the fermentation of tension between different communities on the island, and local Bangladeshi people started a riot protest of their new councillor. BNP supporters and ethnic minority communities were fighting each other in the street. Finally having enough of this turmoil, Maium got involved to calm the tension down and help bring peace in the community. He wanted to be able to walk freely and safely on his streets and had had enough of the violence and tension. He worked with others to bring the local police, religious leaders and councillors together to make changes in the community. They worked together despite their differences, building trust in each other and uniting people to ensure that the sort of racial hate crimes that had been bubbling up in the area became a thing not to be scared of, but to confront and take seriously. This was not easy, but it was definitely worth it.

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Marie Chillmaid ‘It’s my angel!’ Marie Chillmaid, from Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, was working at Skillsmatch in Canary Wharf. This is the place where local people can get help to find work. She was a principal manager at the time. Marie was in one morning going about her normal tasks, helping people into training, setting up job interviews- the usual. Then, a Bengali girl came in desperately looking for work. She was newly married, just 9 months in and looked really upset. She broke down and cried. Marie was taken aback. Between the tears, the girl began to speak. ‘I have to wait on my sisterin-law’, she said, ‘And I get beaten by my husband’. Suddenly, Marie found herself in a dilemma. How could she help this woman in a way that would keep her safe? She decided to take her back home so as not to alarm her husband. But this lady did not want to go home, as she was so frightened. Despite this, Marie dropped her off home. On their journey, Marie persuaded this girl to talk to her friends and raise this problem with her parents. Marie’s encouragement made her take this leap of faith. Her parents had no idea she was suffering domestic violence and they supported her as she plucked up the courage to get a divorce. Marie didn’t stop there, as she assisted her to get work in Tower Hamlets Council. She is now a senior officer, remarried with 2 girls. Last year, in December 2014, Marie heard a girl screaming ‘Oh my god, it’s my angel’. She turned round and it was the girl. They hadn’t seen each other for years. They hugged. The girl, now a woman, was so grateful to Marie.

Patrick Harrison We All Need Encouragement Patrick works for Poplar HARCA, supporting their attempts to improve conditions with the Aberfeldy community so that people can lead healthier lives. He has helped to encourage the development of a number of changes in this part of E14 for the benefit of people’s wellbeing, including a hugely successful food co-op. I asked Patrick what he was proud of and why. This is what he said. ‘I love seeing other people develop and get involved. I am proud to be part of the process that enables people to gain skills and confidence, having a part to play in making this happen. We all need encouragement, so it is better to do things with support from other people’ For Patrick, the food co-op at Aberfeldy is a perfect example of this sort of activity in E14. Based on the idea that people should support each other’s health and look out for their wellbeing, the food co-op provides good value, nutritious food to local people to meet this need. But it provides much more than food. It is run by Aberfeldy residents so it also functions as a source of training, skills development and a social hub. ‘The food co-op adds a lovely atmosphere to the centre- a real buzz- as you come in you see the oranges and other fruit on display. Lovely’

Marie is an angel, she went beyond her duties at Skillsmatch to support this young woman on a scary journey to save herself. Much more than a job, Marie helped this woman find a life.

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Mohibur Rahman “It was time to draw a line between with freedom and racism!” Mohibur Rahman grew up in Poplar and has always been actively involved with his local community. He has seen many changes in the area. He has 3 sons and is a family orientated man, dedicated to supporting the needy and the vulnerable.

The diverse communities of Poplar faced hostile and challenging situations because of their race, culture and ethnicity as they tried to get on with their daily lives. Members of the British National Party (BNP) and their supporters roamed certain parts of the Poplar area in the 1990’s. Some of them carried iconic items to represent their identity, their main motive was to scare and intimidate the ethnic minorities. The elderly and the youth were bombarded with racial abuse and sometimes physical violence as they tried to get through some of these large groups of mainly bald men or groups of young boys, holding broken beer bottles and latching onto fierce looking dogs to show power. Many found returning home safely a mission, even though they travelled in groups themselves. Many stayed close to home hiding away in fear for years until in 1993 a group of young men, including Mohibur Rahman, plucked up the courage to face their fears and stand up to the racism and the violence. “We had enough; we needed to get our lives back, no more living in fear!” They formed a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ group and took turns in patrolling their home area to enforce community safety. They stayed up during the night, taking turns in keeping their neighbourhood safe. Mohibur, alongside his team of young and elderly men, confronted situations head on with gang mentality to fend the racism off. They faced life threatening situations, but they were determined to establish the community’s authority and safety. Overtime the local ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ became more confident and well known amongst the local communities, and as a result they brought back the sense of safety and trust back into the lives of many like ourselves who are able to walk through the streets of Poplar with pride and dignity.

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Nazma Begum Social Entrepreneur A future for a young person can start when just one person has faith in you. For Nazma this person was Sister Christine. Nazma has been at SPLASH for 7 years now, serving the Poplar community with ESOL classes, healthy cooking sessions, jobs fairs, youth activities, employment training, and friendship. She was handed the job by Sister Christine, after beating off competition from 200 other applicants. And with this achievement came great responsibility: ‘I knew straight away’, she told me, ‘that I had to make an immediate impact’. By the looks of it, she certainly has. The community centre, tucked away in the corner of Wigram House on the Will Crooks estate, is a hive of activity, with its small rooms full of people laughing, learning and growing. This is Nazma’s passion: helping others to develop. She links this to her own upbringing in East London.

Nazma works for SPLASH in Poplar as a community development worker, organising a range of programs around jobs, health and wellbeing for local people from her office on the Will Crooks Estate.

Nazma is one of nine children of Bangladeshi migrant parents. As a girl she spent her time helping her mum with her tailoring work. She remembers her joy sitting by her mother’s side, manning her sewing machine like the driver of a Land Rover speeding through her work to rack up 25 pence for each jacket-lining she created. Her family had little money but we’re always happy, and the education she received from her mother has proved invaluable in teaching Nazma the importance of basic life skills for getting ahead in life. She believes that everyone has a skill and that the world has the right job for them. SPLASH has allowed Nazma to put these lessons into practice by helping others realise their own potential. As well as getting people into training and employment, she has stayed true to her roots and runs a sewing project with local mothers. The idea is to get women out of the house and feeling less isolated and more confident in themselves by developing the skills they already have. The clothes they make will hopefully be available to buy in local charity shops in Chrsip Street market, and there are plans to establish a cooperative. ‘I’m looking for more places to sell these- you’ve got to put that in the book!’, she tells me. Despite battling her social landlord over her own housing issues for 10 years, Nazma’s commitment to her community is unending. A true social entrepreneur she tells me of her dream venture. A Community Kitchen facility and cookery school to teach people the benefits of healthy eating and getting different groups learning from one another. She is on the hunt for a site, funding and potential partners… 80

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Noora Jama Making an Effort After leaving Somalia during the war followed by living and working in Egypt, Noora settled with her husband and five children in E14. She is a formidable and charming woman whose smile, dignity and presence is engaging. She balances her role as a wife and mother along with her personal interests and ambitions as a student, carer & volunteer who is passionate about community engagement, learning, selfimprovement, language and current affairs. She was immediately drawn to a community in which “I felt I belonged: diverse, exciting and colourful but I also noticed a lack of many things, jobs, bad housing, neglect and too many people who weren’t doing things together or taking advantage of some of the opportunities”. She continues, “we are not working together as communities to share our stories and learn from each other”. Noora has concerns about the marginalization of different communities from each other, and the impacts of this on the wider E14 community. She feels that there is not sufficient engagement of the communities in learning the English language, which creates barriers to positive relationships. When prompted further to explain she cites “I am talking from experience that is why I work, study and learn from others- let me tell you a story, give you an example…” “I am a carer of a young woman of a similar age and an older English lady. When I first came to work for them they weren’t comfortable with my dress and hijab. Both women were fit and healthy, leading active lives with families and children until they were struck by recent illness and my faith teaches me to help, support and care for anyone in need, irrespective of race or religion”. Their situation was one that Noora could not ignore as it impressed upon her the vulnerability of life. Asked what she did, she said that she gave extra time to listen and develop a relationship which transcends religion and race. She regularly does extras to encourage them, not only does she tend to their personal, spiritual and emotional needs but is also “just a listener”. They have both developed more positive attitudes towards each other, not just in coping with their illness but by becoming friends through learning of each other’s life. She wants to share this story because it is just one but hopes they can become the stories of many others in her community- that if we are willing we can work towards overcoming stereotypes and build strong relations and communities. 82

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Noore Rahman Noore Rahman is a mother of three who works as a support worker at a children’s centre on Roman Road, providing for the needs of vulnerable families. She has lived in Poplar for sixteen years and is an active member of the community.

Marching to the cabinet’s office in Mulberry Place they were going to demand that their children have the best facilities for education. This is the story of the part that Noore played in the rebuilding of Woolmore Primary School in Blackwall. Initially it was proposed that the primary school should be listed as a heritage site and extended as part of the Blackwall Reach Regeneration Project. But her son was going to the school and she expressed discontent with this proposal, as did many other parents. Noore was not happy that her son and his friends should make do with a secondrate school, when all over the borough, children and their families have been provided with brand new and refurbished facilities. For this reason she decided to help rally parents and write letters to the council which stated the benefits of demolishing the building and building completely new facilities. She felt very passionate about this campaign, as did many others. This is due to the fact that she wanted better quality facilities than what a decrepit building being renovated could offer to her son’s education. She believed that modern facilities would give the children more opportunities. So, working with other parents Noore marched on the Town Hall to stress the importance of investing in her child’s future. And the march was a success. Following the efforts of these parents, planning permission was granted to rebuild the outdated building. What does Noore have to say about her victory? “If you really want something; shout for it!”

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Pat Jones Out of My Comfort Zone Pat had been working for a while at George Green’s school, the secondary school on the Isle of Dogs, when she was invited by the Head, who was Kenny Frederick at that time, to come along to a school governor’s meeting. She thought she was only going along find out about being a parent governor, but was in fact being ‘roped into being a parent governor’ there and then. The first meeting was terrifying and she thought ‘Oh my god!’ She said it was to do with her lack of confidence. All the other members of the group seemed well educated and well spoken, and quite posh. There were lawyers, a captain and various other professionals who all seemed to know what was going on. Pat said she was battling with her own lack of confidence and inferiority complex.

Pat Jones has lived most of her life in and around E14. She lived in Bow for a bit then moved back. She works at George Green’s School as the librarian. She is passionate about reading and is in training to be Pearly Queen of Poplar. She has three sons.

Other people around her had also put her off getting involved with the meetings. Friends and family members wondered why she would bother to attend or be interested as it was something ‘not for them’. Pat had a daughter Nicola, who had special needs and who had died at four years old. This was a strong part of her motivation for sticking with the meetings. George Green’s School had a special commitment to supporting kids with special needs and Pat felt that by getting involved as a parent governor she would be honouring Nicola’s memory and would be making a difference. After the first meeting, Pat decided to stick at it because she doesn’t like giving up. She also realised that her opinion was as valid as anyone else’s and as her confidence grew she realised how important it is to have a voice. She also wanted to break down the ‘them and us’ scenario that she felt existed for many parents and the school. She has now been involved as a governor for 11 or 12 years and understands the workings of the school much better and feels she has a valued voice in decisions. She thinks it is really important for people to take a step out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. She says she has learnt a great deal about how the school runs and now has a sense of the bigger picture. She feels that being a school governor has stretched her. It has also inspired her niece to get involved as a parent governor at her child’s school in Beckton, East Ham. Pat said ‘If everyone said let someone else do it, nothing would change’.

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Patricia Quinn Born and bred in Bow, Pat grew up in a house on the Roman Road. Now living in Stepney, she works as a health trainer at Newby Place health centre, All Saints. A kind and lovely person, Pat is passionate about supporting people in E14 to become healthier and happier, and is proud to be part of the team that makes this happen.

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Paula Paul A mother, grandmother and friend in the local community, Paula sells fruit and vegetables at the Aberfeldy Centre and assists in many local activities.

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Peter Fordham Guarding the Farm When Peter moved to the Isle of Dogs in 1988, little did he realise it would open a whole new world to him. The regeneration and redevelopment of the Docklands was just starting in earnest and the area would undergo a massive change over the coming years. One area that would not change, however, was Mudchute Farm, a 32acre oasis of nature in what was to become a thriving urban community. During the 1970s, the GLC (Greater London Council) petitioned to get planning permission to build sorely needed housing on the Farm but a fearless group of local residents fought and fought hard to oppose those plans. Among them were Ted Johns, George Pye, Peter Wade and Kate Heron. Peter would later take inspiration from these brave locals in his own fight to save Mudchute Farm. The Farm was then zoned as a Metropolitan Standard Open Space which forbade any development on Farm land.

Peter Fordham lives on the Isle of Dogs, and has been there since the late eighties. Now retired, he was an architect and company director.

Peter became more and more involved in the running of the farm and its allotments and most of his spare time was devoted to the cultivation of his own allotment and the expansion of more space for allotments. In the early 90s, when it was announced that the DLR was to be extended into South London, it became known that the then-elevated Mudchute DLR station was to be lowered to ground level and East Ferry Road was to be diverted, taking away a chunk of farm land. Peter first went to the House of Commons to protest and then to the House of Lords. If a slice of the farm land was to be lost, Peter wanted to ensure that the area would receive either compensation or the promise of more green space. Peter’s fight was successful and local government promised a payment of £300,000, redevelopment of Millwall Park and a guaranteed green space to be developed nearby. Work was completed on Millwall Park, but unfortunately neither the money nor the undeveloped green space were ever delivered. Various representatives of local government were canvassed but any knowledge of this agreement was consistently denied. Despite this, Peter continues to this day to take an active interest in Mudchute Farm and he deserves our gratitude for his work on our behalf.

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Rahim Miah A Community United Around a Collective Vision In the early eighties Rahim moved to a new estate on the Westferry Road together with eighty families. Working in a wide area of London as a bus driver, Rahim noticed the contrast between his privileged and less privileged counterparts. A sincere and humorous man with a deep commitment to his family and faith, Rahim noticed that there was a lack of community spaces to structure activities that would engage young people, families and their children. His concern about men worshipping in the home of a neighbour propelled him to raise the awareness of the community to organize themselves. He used his position as chair of the Tenant’s Association to oversee the provision of a Mosque by converting two shops. This was no easy feat and he had to campaign tirelessly to win support of all in order to address this need. His staunchest supporters came in the form of women, mostly mothers who recognized the need for and purpose of having a community venue even though it was initially for men. In 2010 and within a period of one year, they were able to mobilize the community of approximately eighty households to form an organization which hadn’t existed eight years previously. In order to address his initial target of campaigning for a social space to include all the community, the centre’s purpose is threefold; to create an educational space for children and young people, a religious space for all, and a social space for the over fifties. In order to sustain the centre a member’s fee is operational along with acquired funding. Rahim credits the real success to “a community united around a collective vision”.

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Rahim Miah came to London in 1984 and has since been living in Tower Hamlets. He is a Bus Driver, leads the Tenant Association on his estate on the Isle of Dogs, is married and a father to 2 sons & a daughter

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Rupert Monck Never Judge a Book by Its Cover Every day, Rupert passes Mile End Station to get to work. Each day he notices a man standing outside the station complementing passers-by. “Have a nice day madam” “I hope you have a good day sir”. This man always had something nice to say about each and every passer-by.

Rupert Monck teaches English at George Green’s School on the Isle of Dogs.

Rupert presumed that this man may have been a beggar due to the guitar he occasionally carries. Rupert says the man must have been around eighty years of age as he had lost all his teeth and wasn’t necessarily well-groomed. Despite all this, the man would stand in front of the station and compliment anyone he sees. Rupert became interested and curious as to why this man spends his time doing such an act but he decided not to question him. Two weeks passed by and one day, Rupert noticed a large queue leading on to the road where he lives, so, being the ever-so-curious man he is, Rupert walked to the front of the queue to discover what people were queuing for. When he got to the front of the queue he noticed a soup kitchen. He was surprised at the fact that he had never noticed it before and it added to his curiosity. He then discovered that this soup kitchen provides food for people who aren’t stable enough to afford a meal. When Rupert looked through the soup kitchen window, he noticed an 80 year old man, wearing an apron and a chef hat. The same man that Rupert had presumed to be a beggar, had the biggest smile on his face, and was serving soup to the people who were queuing. Seeing this man do such a good deed inspired Rupert to work in a home over Christmas, serving meals to the less fortunate and giving them the ability to enjoy Christmas despite their financial circumstances. Rupert concludes by saying “in order for society to be just, nobody should be judged by their physical appearance or their financial circumstances, because the fact is, you could come across the most unattractive and unstable person in terms of physical appearance and wealth, but they may have the most beautiful personality in the world.

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Sarah Castro Sarah Castro has lived on the Isle of Dogs for over 30 years. A mother of a grown-up daughter, Sarah works for a Tower Hamlets based chairty. An active member of her community, she is helping lead the creation of a Neighbourhood Planning Forum on the Isle of Dogs, and is a member of the Tower Hamlets Safer Neighbourhoods board, as well as chair of Tower Hamlets Met Police Independent Advisory Group and a volunteer with Tower Hamlets Street Pastors

Sarah first came to the island in 1983, moving to London after growing up in care. Sarah chose to come to E14 to live in a community that was more diverse and accepting of different people than she had experienced so far. She entered this community at a time when people were suffering the worst effects of the decline of the docking industry. People on the island were poor. Jobs in the docks were gone and families who had supported themselves through this work for generations had now been cut adrift. Moving into a council flat, Sarah found out first hand of the damage that had been done to her new neighbours. During her first few years in the area, thieves would regularly break into Sarah’s home to steal whatever they could find to make ends meet. There was a significant problem with drugs in the area too, as many people had taken to their use to escape their hopeless situation. It got to a point where the thefts were so regular that Sarah didn’t bother to replace what went missing, and if she did choose to buy anything new for herself it would always be second-hand. What was the point of buying anything new when it was just going to get taken anyway? Sympathising with her neighbours, Sarah chose not get angry with them, but at their situation. Sarah showed compassion to the community and soon became somewhat of a mother figure to people. She would take people in when they had nowhere else to go, putting them up in her living room, and used to attend various court cases acting as a witness in defence of the people she cared for. But after a while it was clear to Sarah that whilst this might have been helping specific people cope with their problems, it wasn’t making change. So Sarah made an effort to draw away from this role, and pull up the draw-bridge between her flat and the community. She turned her energies, instead, to challenging the system. Sarah now works for a charity focussing on health and wellbeing, and sees this as a much more effective way of addressing these sorts of issues. Using her position, she is able to influence decision-makers and shape policy in ways to get to the root causes of social problems so that people like those she grew to know and respect on the island are more able to make better, more hopeful lives for themselves. Sarah is a principled woman, making full use of her position of influence to do the right thing.

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Shabana Begum Together we can do a lot! Working with her friend and neighbour, Lily Islam, Shabana Begum helped to make change in her community whilst living in Shoreditch. “Our campaign started from a listening group in a coffee morning at Canon Barnett Primary School with Shoreditch Citizens. Mums were talking about issues of antisocial behaviour on the Flower and Dean estate. Our estate is full of life and family-oriented but there were issues that were causing concern: our streets were being used for prostitution and drug-abuse from people outside. We were afraid to let our children out to play and didn’t want them to see left over needles near their home. Shoreditch Citizens worked to help parents and local residents tackle these problems. Shoreditch Citizens trains local people in community organising principles in order for them to be able to take part in public life and negotiate with key decisionmakers. Working as part of this group, we raised awareness of our campaign to make changes in the community by knocking on residents’ doors. We also hosted community meetings between ourselves and our housing association, local police and the council. We did this in order to build relationships with them so that we could inform them of what our neighbours were going through and work with them to find solutions. One day, we organised a public meeting on the estate with the police Chief Inspector. Over 70% of residents attended the meeting, in which we also held in-depth discussions with our local housing association, One Housing Group. These decision-makers were left surprised by the turn-out at this meeting, and this won us their respect as serious players in local events. We earned ourselves a seat at the negotiation table.

Shabana Begum is a mother of 2: 8 year old Faizah Miah and 3 year old Tayyibah Miah. She lives in E1, but works for Tower Hamlets council’s Parent and Family Support Service at Mulberry Place, E14. An active member of the community, Shabana is involved in the local Parents and Carers Council, and received a commendation from the Borough Commander for the work she did for her community in Shoreditch.

The work to improve our estate is ongoing but we have seen some important victories, such as the opening of an abandoned community hall, the arrival of gates in key areas to stop strangers from using our streets as a cut-through space to do all sorts in. We also won a new policing team to tackle the serious issues in the area, with a Vice Squad working locally to address the prostitution problem. We also now have a good relationship with our landlord. After our fight with One Housing Group, they have replaced our windows, given us double glazing and provided new kitchens for everyone on the estate, and we meet with them regularly to discuss improvements. 100

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Sister Christine Frost Making a SPLASH Sister Christine is a local legend. Everybody knows her name. She has been living and working in Poplar for 45 years. A passionate champion of her community, which stretches along Poplar High Street and into Limehouse, Sister Christine has been battling for her and her neighbours’ rights and dignity for decades. She is a true warrior of E14.

‘I’m sure we weren’t meant to still be here now’, she tells me. ‘These planners are clever people-they make plans at least 10-15 years ahead’. How is it that a community of ordinary people of modest means has been able to maintain its position on a strip of land stretching along Poplar High Street and Limehouse at the feet of the world’s financial centre, and one of the hottest pieces of real estate in the country? For Sister Christine the answer is simple: they are organised and they act. SPLASH (South Poplar and Limehouse Action for Secure Housing) was born in 1988. It emerged in response to two developments in the area. The first of these was the creation of the administrative ‘neighbourhoods’ in Tower Hamlets, which resulted in specific areas having their own local administrators to address and hold accountable. The second of these was the development of Canary Wharf. As the towers at One Canada Square went up and the DLR tracks were laid, the people living on the estates in South Poplar and Limehouse were battered by nonstop noise and air pollution. Building work at Canary Wharf went on 24/7, with no break for local residents. The Jewish company doing the construction worked Sunday to Friday breaking for the Sabbath, but then council contractors for the DLR continued to work on Saturdays. Graffiti on West India Dock Road read ‘Wot? No Peace? Not E’en on a Sunday?’ People couldn’t sleep, and the estates rattled as pile-driving across the way shook the foundations of the community. The steel girders of the cranes also blocked out signals for the television, meaning people in Poplar had no TV reception for three years, despite still having to pay their £100 TV license. What’s more, 500 council homes were demolished to make way for the DLR and the Limehouse link. The community, which was included as part of the Isle of Dogs ‘neighbourhood’ unit went over to Jack Dash House to raise these issues with their local administrator. But people on the Island weren’t used to working with ‘outsiders’ and so told them where to go. So, Sister Christine went to Mile End instead, but they wouldn’t deal with their issues there either. The people in this part of Poplar and Limehouse found themselves without a voice at a time when they needed it most.

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So, SPLASH was born as a campaign organisation to represent the interests of local people. One of their first actions was to take on the big money of Canary Wharf by attempting to sue it for noise, dust pollution and lack of T.V. They took this fight to the European Courts, and were awarded damages of £40,000. Given that there were way more than 400 families affected by the disruption, this money was nothing more than a sop- and the community knew it. But SPLASH succeeded in giving voice to local people and standing up to the powers that be, and it grew in confidence after this initial battle with its new neighbour. Since then, the organisation has led a range of protests and campaigns to protect the interests of its people, and now provides various services to support the development of members of the community. Perhaps most importantly, during the 1990s SPLASH decided that its member estates would remain as part of the council’s housing stock rather than transfer to a housing association. This has allowed them to hold their landlord to account more effectively and avoid their homes being lost through sales and regeneration schemes as has happened with housing associations elsewhere. This fighting spirit and tactical decision-making has been crucial in maintaining the community’s place in this part of E14 and ensuring that they can benefit from the opportunities this provides. This is their place, and they are not going anywhere.

Shahida Begum Going the Extra Mile Working at Newby Place, Poplar, Shahida came across this client, after they were referred to her by their GP with concerns regarding their health. The 69 year old woman had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes a year ago but her health was deteriorating at a fast pace due to her inability to make healthy lifestyle changes. This client was adamant that her lifestyle was not the problem, as she had lived healthily for all these years, and that what she needed was more medication. Convincing this woman to make the changes she needed to save her life, was going to be hard. Shahida met with this woman on a one to one basis, and maintained contact until the client felt comfortable enough to open up to her. Shahida had to develop a trusting relationship with this woman so that she could help her recognise the changes she needed to make on her own, rather than simply telling her what to do and never seeing her again. After a while of regular meetings and chats, the client started to become more open and was more accepting to making smaller changes to her diet. She became more confident after seeing how the changes were having a positive impact on her health and was then happy to start thinking about making changes to her physical activity levels too. The client informed Shahida that she was not confident participating in physical activity and that, because of her diabetes, she tends to feel unwell during or after exercise. For her, exercise would only cause more harm, rather than do any good. In an attempt to put her client at ease, Shahida explained that diabetes can cause trouble for the body during exercise, but only if it is not managed properly, and that since this woman’s diet is now more healthy and balanced, she should be fine with increased physical activity. But this information wasn’t enough. The client was still not convinced. So Shahida went the extra mile. To support this woman, she promised to go with her to an Aerobic session for mutual support and to give her the push to make the change. Shahida went to classes with her client for a number of sessions, until she was confident enough to go it alone. Since Shahida’s intervention, which went above and beyond her job description, the woman’s health has improved and she is much happier in her more active lifestyle.

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Soomaiya Nishat Syeda Financially Savvy I work in a social business that offers microfinancing. We offer personal loans, business loans and also debt advice. Although we have targets and we have to work hard in order to make our business sustainable, we work towards the best interest of our clients. This means that we might not offer a loan or even tell them where they can get a cheaper one, if we think they’d be able to. One afternoon a customer, who previously applied, came to the office. He told me that since last time his situation had changed. On the one hand he got a new job and was no longer on job seekers allowance. On the other hand he had to leave his home and was now homeless. He had spent the night in a hotel. Although we run on an appointments basis, I decided to quickly fit him in as I was concerned about his situation. We looked at his bank statements and credit report. From these documents I could see that he wasn’t keeping up with current commitments. For example, he couldn’t make sure that direct debits were paid and couldn’t stay within his arranged overdraft. On top of this he hadn’t improved his accounts on his credit report. In fact they had worsened. He had fallen very behind with credit cards, catalogues, utility bills and more. This type of information indicates that a person cannot manage their finances well, that they are getting into a lot of debt and that they might not be committed to pay, or be reliable. I could tell from his character that he was working hard to get back on track and I hated to turn him down for a loan but I had to. If I had offered him one, he’d have more debt to add to his financial problems. Instead I had to tell him to make arrangements with his creditors and start repaying them, even if it is small amounts. This would reduce his debt and show that he is committed to pay. The customer was surprisingly very happy with my decision. Not because it was what he was hoping for, but because I saw him straight away and told him the decision as soon as possible. He knew that I had his best interest at heart and that I wanted to help him by being quick and clear with my decision.

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Tessa Dugmore Commitment Tessa’s story is about bringing people together to achieve the same positive goal. Working for a local charity, Tessa was involved in an employment scheme initiative, which was to be developed with the support of the HR department. Unfortunately that is where the struggle started, as they were not totally supportive on being involved. Tessa had to convince them of the importance of being part of her project. What struck her was the effort she had to make in order to convince them that the project was worthwhile and that they should provide support to those working with her on it. The main issues she had to negotiate with HR was to adopt a different recruitment procedure. Tessa wanted to make the whole process more flexible due to the high volume and quick turnaround of applications and interviews than normally experienced by the charity. Also, an important decision was made to pay the Living Wage, which was not yet part of the charity’s policy. This would ensure that those participating on the scheme would be paid fairly for the work they put in. This was a real struggle. HR were unsure about this, as they already had concerns over the ‘profile’ of the people being hired; some had criminal convictions and needed more support. It was definitely an organic, tricky and challenging programme- which wouldn’t have happened without Tessa’s support and desire to make it work. She had to fight for it and to make people understand the importance and value of the process. This required dedication and resilience, and shows how much commitment it takes to make something work.

Tessa Dugmore works for a local charity, in Poplar, E14. She is passionate about community work and improving the local area.

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And the hard work eventually paid out because it opened up wonderful opportunities for local people and local organisations – they placed 109 people (about 80% under 25 years old) with 33 local organisations. And about 46% of these stayed in employment when their contract ended or went on to other jobs. This story is one of the many that Tessa has- it shows her commitment to the community of E14 and the area she works for, and how much of her efforts have been put into projects to make this place better- she is definitely someone to be thanked and celebrated.

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Tom Gleed Housing Hens on the ‘Cheep’ Tom Gleed is a retired Boilermaker and Marine Welder. He lives on the Brownfield Estate, Poplar and can be found at the community garden that he has been instrumental in creating.

Tom is a genuine local hero and is well known in Poplar but his story is worth repeating. After a long career as a boilermaker and marine welder, Tom retired but it’s not in his nature to slow down. He is truly a gifted man with tools and has fine green thumbs. He soon created an exotic garden on his balcony and was seen to be creating all sorts of practical and decorative planters of all shapes and sizes out of whatever he could find. In the shadow of Balfron Tower on the Brownfield Estate, Tom spotted an abandoned tennis court. With his imagination and love of green, growing spaces, he soon rallied support and came up with a plan to turn this eyesore into a community garden. Scouring local building sites, Tom found the materials to build raised garden plots to enable those older residents to garden without the pain of constantly bending over. The garden has become a popular meeting place for the residents and each little “farm” produces fruit and vegetables, much of which is shared. Tom’s ambitions didn’t stop there. He got it into his head to rescue some battery chickens and set about creating a proper home for them. Once again, he was a man on a mission, travelling to building sites and collecting reclaimed wood, damaged fencing, wire, screws, nails, etc., whatever was needed. He and a friend found plans for an “Amish” chicken coop which sold for US$2,500 but which Tom was able to build using all “found” materials and costing £3.50 for hinges. He created a sizeable chicken run and feeding area, as well as a tool shed and feeding bins. He sourced ten chickens which were not in the best of health after their brutal life so half didn’t survive. His five remaining “girls” now have a beautiful Bantam rooster for company and follow Tom around like teens would follow One Direction! I had the pleasure of meeting Tom and his girls and was most impressed with the layout of the whole garden. Tom deservedly was named “Green Tenant of the Year” last year and was presented the award by Sir Ranulf Fiennes at a gala dinner. Tom is a wonderful example of what can be done with little money and great imagination! Unfortunately, this story has a sad footnote. The gardens were broken into for the second time in less than three months. Little was stolen but random vandalism destroyed some of Tom’s hard work. Fortunately, the chickens were not touched but now Tom is seriously considering relocating them to Mudchute Farm. It’s a sad commentary on the locals that a man who has worked so hard at improving the community should suffer so.

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Tyrone Josephine Sport on Prescription Tyrone Josephine was born in London, and has been in Tower Hamlets his whole life. He went to university from 2009-2012 to study Sport Development. He is interested in all sports and coaches tennis to children in the community. At present Tyrone is working as a Health Trainer in Poplar and Limehouse, E14.

Tyrone is a sports Health Trainer working in Poplar and Limehouse. He has been in this job for 15 months. Aiming to improve the health of local people, Tyrone’s goal was to create a new, ‘sport on prescription’ pad for GP’s in the local area to prescribe physical activity to their patients, rather than medicine and drugs. Patients would be referred to sports workers in the area who ran classes and clubs for them to join, instead of being sent home with a prescription for pills and potions. This was a completely new way of doing things that had the potential to transform local people’s health. However, this would not be easy as GPs are very busy people and were unlikely to take an interest in this new way of doing things. Tyrone had a real challenge on his hands. This challenge was made harder by Tyrone’s aim to get 100 referrals for ‘sport on prescription’. The process was slow to begin with, as he had to design the prescription, get approval from the appropriate people and then have it sent off to be printed. This took a couple of weeks to do. Once it was completed, and the pads had been delivered to all GP surgeries, Tyrone had to find a way of getting the GPs and nurses motivated to refer their patients on this new scheme. I asked Tyrone all about he dealt with this challenge. “How did you convince them to use your prescription?”, I asked. “I went to different practices when they had a team meeting and explained the whole process. Making it very simple for the patient to become more active seemed to have a positive impact, and once I’d explained the process of referring their patients, they were as enthusiastic as I was to ensure that the program was successful.” “Which GP surgery had referred the most patients since you stated ‘sport of prescription’?” “Chrisp Street. I think they have referred the most because I have managed to have had more interaction their GPs and nurses, which has helped to build a positive relationship. The feedback they’ve received from patients has been good, meaning they now trust me to get their patients into a form of physical activity.”

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“How successful would you say the scheme has been?” “It has been very successful, as the target of 100 referrals for ‘sport on prescription’ was surpassed by the end of year review, where all the surgeries came together to discuss what’s gone well and what could be improved. They all highlighted how they liked sport on prescription, and how it has made their workload much easier to manage. The accessibility of the scheme to all people, and the range of different sports available was very appealing to them”. Tyrone succeeded in making a simple, but incredibly effective and important change to the way doctors and patients manage their health in E14 and Tower Hamlets more generally. His hard work, coupled with a considerate and friendly approach is likely to have had untold positive impacts on the community’s health. Thank you Tyrone!

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Anonymous Young, Gifted and… Modest This young lady is extremely modest! She fails to notice her own “good deeds”. Life began with a terrible blow. At the age of two her mum died giving birth to her baby brother. Her father thought it would be in her best interests to bring her to live with his first wife in the U.K, while he returned to Bangladesh to bring up his baby boy. Her new “Mum” had two sons with her husband before they split. The boys were in their thirties, and to have a two year old baby girl was not what she had been planning. Their relationship was not as loving as you would have wished it to be, but our young, ‘modest’ lady is so grateful to have had a roof over her head. Her father and brother eventually moved to the U.K. her step mother had very little time for her, so she was left pretty much to her own devices. After her teenage life, she went on to volunteer at the Aberfeldy Centre, where she encouraged young girls to study and improve their chances- especially the ones with no family support. She was their encouragement and driving force. She later met and married her wonderful husband. Her beloved father now shares a home with his first wife. He is in his nineties and suffers from severe Alzheimer’s. Our ‘modest’ lady cares for him with the love of a dedicated daughter. The young lady repays father and stepmother with love and care. He is old and is battling with dementia. They are both getting older and frail and this young lady is there for them every step of the way, and they are grateful for the care and protection she gives them. She has the love and support of her wonderful husband. Life is not easy but she sails onwards looking towards a bright and happy future and she is always looking for ways to help improve other people’s lives.

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Zahra Al-Aza In year 12 in the sixth form at George Green’s School, Zahra is full of energy and life and always spending her free time involved in many projects to give back to the community. Constantly smiling!

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Zeynep Binboga Building Bridges Zeynep Binboga is a student in the sixth form at George Green’s school on the Isle of Dogs. Born in Hackney but now living in Teviot, Poplar after travelling from Cyprus. The youngest of 3 generations of strong women, she lives with her mother and grandmother in a single parent household.

Zeynep and her mum settled in London to allow her to get a good quality of education. Her mum’s high expectations and passion for education has embedded the motivation in Zeynep’s heart to become a barrister! At the age of 17, Zeynep has become very passionate about getting involved in supporting the community that she lives in. Zeynep’s past experiences with racial division has left her wanting to become pro- active in bringing different communities together. After witnessing racial hatred and verbal abuse which had resulted in a major fight amongst the teenagers at her previous secondary school, some of them being her peers and friends, she was left feeling helpless and frustrated with the situation. She spent days reflecting on how she could have helped resolve the situation, but unfortunately the issues were getting too big for her to handle so she made the difficult decision to stay out of the conflict and walked away feeling very upset and guilty. As years went on Zeynep has developed the courage and determination to build bridges between different communities. She has friends from all different cultures and backgrounds and has learned various things about them which has enabled her to get a better understanding of the differences and the causes of certain frictions She has changed her personal views of managing situations with more empathy and strongly agrees with her mum’s beliefs… ”Give as good as you get!” and to have the confidence in what you believe in.

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Zinebe is a French mum of 2 living on a boat in the Regents Canal, E14. For over 4 years she has been volunteering in the community to make a difference locally, working towards social justice, empowering women and raising awareness on autism.

Zinebe Maach Be the Change You Want to See Motherhood was a life-changing role for Zinebe. She suffered post-natal depression but was not diagnosed until after her second child when she had to stop working. She wasn’t able to focus and do intellectual work anymore. At the time she didn’t have a local network in Tower Hamlets and quickly felt very isolated. Her first port of call was the local Children’s Centre in Limehouse, where she met the right professionals who signposted her in the right direction. It was a real lifeline. She realised she was suffering mentally for a number of reasons that she explored later through counselling and she received a diagnosis of high- functioning autism. She attended parenting classes, joined the Parent Forum and was able to leave her children at the crèche with professional and caring crèche-workers. She has met lovely mums there. They all learnt together and went from strength to strength. She now has friends and a support network. Zinebe’s involvement in the Parent Forum has boosted her self-belief and forced her out of her comfort zone. This has kick-started a journey of learning and discovery for Zinebe, who went on to volunteer on a housing campaign led by Citizens UK, become a ‘Money Mentor’ at Toynbee Hall, supporting people to become financially aware, and join the organising committee for the Limehouse Festival, held in 2014. She has now become an Independent Parental Supporter at her local school to help parents whose children have special educational needs. Motivated by her work on campaigns and in the community to read up on social injustice, she is fuelled by an anger at unfairness and a belief that she can make a difference. Zinebe is the embodiment of the spirit of E14: if you see something that’s not right, then act to change it. “There are a lot of challenges we cannot ignore but it is up to us to make it work and use all the possible resources available at our level – vote, talk to your councillors, teachers, neighbours, volunteer if you can – to make that little change that will impact on the larger community and we will have enough places in schools, affordable homes and we’ll even have “I love Tower Hamlets” badges in different languages and shapes and colours, because we have a wealth of talents and everyday heroes to celebrate in our borough.

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Conclusion These are our stories, each one true and told to us by somebody who lives, works or studies in the E14 area. Take from them what you will. For us these stories illustrate exactly where we have come from as a group of people and communities that share a single post-code in East London. We have come through hardship and struggle and have showed great bravery and resilience in overcoming poverty, racism and homophobia. We have also upset the odds by proving people wrong, standing up to bullies and revealing hidden talents that others would never expect us to have. We have worked with others in unity to build tolerance and respect, and to spread compassion to those who are different. This has never been easy, but in choosing to act and take risks we have proven our fearlessness. During all of this we have shown great care for each other and have never let our challenges dampen our pride or dull or sense of humour! We can sit back, read these stories and smile. This is the essence of E14 and we should feel proud to call this place home. When listening to people’s stories, our 20 storytellers also asked them about the issues that concerned them the most at the moment in the E14 area. A number of things came up that were expressed by most people. Housing: despite all of the building that is happening in our neighbourhoods there are 124

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concerns that many of the new blocks are not for everyone and that certain parts of the community are being forced out of the area due to high prices. We need regeneration schemes that cater for all. Young People: some people are concerned about the lack of job and leisure opportunities for young people, leading to them spending their time on the streets at risk of falling into drug and gang culture. Employment: some members of the community are struggling to find work and cope with the impacts of changes to the benefits system. Many feel that more needs to be done to take advantage of the employment opportunities offered locally within Canary Wharf. Community Relations: people expressed their concerns over growing tensions between different communities in E14, with groups remaining isolated from each other. This is leading to various stereotypes and assumptions about others causing problems. There is a need to foster greater dialogue between different groups in the future. These challenges are wide ranging and big. But this doesn’t mean that we should shy away from them. No, when has anybody round here ever done that? The stories we have found and presented in this book, as well as all of the ones yet to be found, give us hope that we can meet today’s challenges as well as those in the past. E14 Storytellers 2015 E14: Our Stories

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Acknowledgements Special thanks go to every author of this book for their commitment to the project, willingness to get involved and take risks, and personality that they brought to the whole process. Thanks to Caitlin Burbridge, Sultana Yasmin and Sotez Chowdhury for their work in organising and facilitating this project. Thanks to Sean Richardson and Conor Richardson for their archival research. Thanks to Joe Lynn for photography @joelynntw Thanks to Paul Lindt at Academy Design Partners for designing this publication: http://www.academydesign.com/index.html Thanks to Poplar Harca and George Green’s School for providing training venues for this project. Thanks to Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Public Engagement for funding this publication.

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What happens when you get 20 people who live work and study in the same postcode together in one room to talk about their area? What happens when these 20 people go out into their communities to gather stories of inspiring things that people have done in their life?

This book is the outcome of a project run by Queen Mary University of London in 2015. A team of local people was formed and trained in the techniques of listening and storytelling, as part of a leadership development course. These people then went out into their communities to find stories of hope that celebrate the achievements of local people, paint their neighbours in a positive light, and detail the fighting spirit of one specific area: the E14 postcode of Tower Hamlets. This book is part of a larger attempt to bring people in this area together to address some of the issues that we have in common. This book is intended to act as a source of inspiration and hope by displaying the courage and determination of individuals and communities past and present. It hopes to become a record of people’s achievements in the past, and a resource to inspire new ones in the future.

E14: Our Stories  
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