All this week BBC news is running a season called Crossing Divides reporting on how people polarised by politics, religion, race, class or age are making connections. Crossing Divides will showcase solutions-focused journalism, highlighting some of the varied ways people are tackling the problem of divided communities and coming together. NCVO’s Constructive Voices has also been looking at how people are making connections and being ‘different together’. Here are some of the initiatives that have hit our radar, also including ones involving people living with disabilities.
SASH brings together young people in Yorkshire and Humberside at risk of becoming homeless with a volunteer host who has a spare room. SASH recruits, trains and supports the hosts who also act as mentors for the youngsters to help them develop the skills they need to live independently. You can read about the positive impact of the connections between the young people and their hosts. Some volunteer hosts also offer emergency overnight accommodation to a young person who’s been made homeless through SASH’s Nightstop scheme.
Salaam Peace in East London use sports, media and education initiatives as a way of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and tackling issues that could lead to communities becoming polarised. The organisation was founded by Sabir Bham following the 7/7 attacks to bring the community together, promoting positive images of Islam as well as providing positive activities for those that may be at risk of anti-social behaviour or have been in the criminal justice system. Their flagship events include the Eid Cup and Inter-Faiths Cup, one-day events to encourage young people of all religions to participate and build links in the community.
‘For me sport is a great way to bring people together, develop friendships and build respect.’
– Sabir Bham
Undivided was set up the day after the EU referendum by a diverse group of 30 young people who voted Remain, Leave or didn’t vote at all. They are a nationwide, youth-led campaign aiming to get the best possible Brexit deal for the under 30s working across the Remain/Leave divide. They want to make sure young people have a say going forward to shape post-Brexit Britain, both during the negotiations and beyond. They co-founded the APPG on young people and Brexit and have held ministerial roundtables and meetings with Department for Exiting the EU around youth engagement during the Brexit process.
Create runs creative:connection, a programme which tackles disability prejudice by bringing together disabled and non-disabled young people to make collaborative art. The programme pairs SEN and mainstream schools, giving disabled and non-disabled children and young people the opportunity to work together with Create’s professional artists to make visual art, music, film and more. Since 2013 Create has run creative:connection across England, from Cumbria to Kent, involving nearly 1000 participants. The programme won the 2017 Charity Awards’ Arts, Culture and Heritage Award.
Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union runs REACH, a project created by a student volunteer Harry to enable students to engage with the community by directly helping vulnerable people and forming meaningful relationships with local residents. The name REACH comes from the focus of the project: Relationships, Engagement and Community Help. The team of student volunteers have organised a series of sessions with Sheffield groups and organisations including a residential care home, a community project providing support and hot meals to homeless and vulnerably-housed people, and a community centre that supports people with learning disabilities. Here’s Harry at a knit and natter session!
The New Beginnings Project
Voluntary Action Sheffield runs The New Beginnings Project which supports asylum seekers and refugees to integrate into Sheffield life, through volunteering, employment, education and mentoring. You can read some of their stories.
‘I volunteer with four organisations in various capacities. It gives me satisfaction knowing that I am doing something good in my community and gaining valuable experience at the same time. It has also given me a sense of purpose and visibility.’
Time Builders enables people who feel marginalised – because of social disadvantage, loneliness, poverty, unemployment or mental illness – to feel needed and useful by helping them make a meaningful contribution to society via a system of time credits. Time Builders create a range of volunteering opportunities that use the skills of their members, such as growing vegetables, cooking meals with surplus food, making things with waste materials, teaching English. Their volunteers earn time-credits (a currency based on time) for each hour they contribute. Time-credits can then be spent on one hour of classes or events as a thank-you and also a way of bringing people together again.
Leonard Cheshire Disability runs a programme called Can Do to get young disabled people actively involved in their communities, gaining work experience at local organisations and volunteering at charities and projects. That could be anything from helping to tidy a community garden to creating care packages for homeless people. Watch a video about the programme.
The Women’s Health Information and Support Centre
This centre in Liverpool runs a Saturday Club to enable refugee and asylum-seeking women to meet with local women and make friends. They offer the women free Zumba, massage, nail art and henna as well providing English Language lessons. The idea came about because refugee and asylum-seeking women didn’t have anywhere to go at the weekends and often felt isolated due to poverty, lack of English and cultural barriers against women socialising in mixed gender settings. Some of the local women too were affected by loneliness and anxiety. The club enables all the women to mix – and share food, helping break down stereotypes of asylum seekers and refugees, who come from a range of countries, including Gambia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Albania, Pakistan and India.
Intergen Trafford, a social action charity in Greater Manchester, brings together primary school children with older people who are placed in the classroom as volunteers. Teachers report that the children are more confident and higher achieving while the volunteers benefit from knowing they play a valuable role within the school communities. The intergenerational benefits for both are particularly clear for children and older volunteers whose families live far away.
The Naz Legacy Foundation
The Naz Legacy Foundation organises high profile community integration events, bringing together young people from different faiths. In 2016 the Foundation organised the first interfaith iftar at Lambeth Palace which brought together the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, the Mayor of London and over 100 youth leaders from each of London’s boroughs representing all faiths and none.
Movema (MOO-veh-ma) is a dance company which brings people together from many different backgrounds to perform in festivals in Liverpool and Bristol, and runs one-off workshops and short educational projects with their specialist dance artists in schools and community centres. They also work with people with mental health issues, women’s groups, families, refugees and asylum seekers, the unemployed and people from different areas of Liverpool with the aim of creating a safe space where people can learn about each other and express themselves creatively. Their award-winning programme ‘Unlock the Box‘ engages children in the most deprived areas of the city.
The My Guide Service
Did you know that not all guides provided by Guide Dogs are actually dogs? The My Guide Service brings together sighted people and those with sight loss to help them get out of their homes to do the things they want to do. For some, that’s taking part in local community events and activities; for others it might mean visits to the theatre, going to the gym or the local shops. Watch Holly and David’s story.
RECLAIM brings together working class young people from across Greater Manchester and across the divides of gender, race and religion, to challenge the status quo, ensure their voices are heard and show that postcode shouldn’t dictate potential or a pathway to power and influence. They support young people by giving them the leadership and activism skills to challenge issues within their communities, as well as the strength and resilience to shift wider perceptions of working class people that play a part in excluding them from society. They have worked with over 800 young people from across Greater Manchester and connect young people to the networks and influential leaders that their class keeps them from.
The Gig Buddies project from Stay Up Late matches socially isolated people who have learning disabilities with volunteers who share the same interests in music or other cultural passions so they can go to gigs together – and hopefully enable ongoing friendships to develop. Based in Sussex, the Gig Buddies model has now spread to other organisations around the country and as far afield as Australia.
Plymouth Hope Football Club
Plymouth Hope is a Devon-based charity that organises multicultural events to prevent social exclusion and promote racial tolerance, community cohesion and good health. One of its key programmes is its Plymouth Hope Football Club which brings together players from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds from countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Guinea, Iran, Somalia, Zimbabwe, China, Sudan, Mexico, Uzbekistan and of course England! The club joined the local football league in order to shine a light on diversity and encourage acceptance of people regardless of their background to the other teams across Devon and Cornwall.
Halifax Opportunities Trust
Halifax Opportunities Trust works to foster multi-cultural and self-sustaining communities across Calderdale, strengthening community cohesion by bringing together diverse members of the community who would never normally mix. Their Outback Garden enables local people to come together for volunteering opportunities. It’s also home to a straw-bale community kitchen which, among other things, organises holiday kitchens during school holidays to encourage families to come together and learn about healthy eating, how to cook from scratch and share lunch with all the other families taking part.
ACH is a social enterprise operating in Bristol and the Midlands specialising in the resettlement of refugees through social integration and the labour market. They provide accommodation, training and employment support. They’ve recently joined forces with non-profit CodeDoor to teach refugees computer programming to aid integration by improving their employment opportunities.
The BBC wants to hear your stories. Use the hashtag #CrossingDivides to tweet about your own encounters – and you may be featured on the BBC website.