This case study looks at a few of the many individuals working across our city to improve community cohesion. They are the 2018 Cohesion Conference Honourees.
Jane Emson has worked as a Community Outreach Worker / Church Army Evangelist on the Winn Gardens estate since 2013, employed by St John’s Parish Church, Owlerton with funding from the Council, but especially moved to live on the estate in 2015 to become part of the community. She is passionate about the people and potential of the estate and actively supports a wide range of community activities, including a food bank, home work club, youth club, the local TARA, ESOL classes and community fun days. She formed a community organisation called WINNGS which puts on various events and she works in partnership with many services such as local children’s centres, social care, drug and alcohol services and raising issues with local Councillors. Jane clearly has the support of her community and her passion for cohesion is admirable.
Paul became Community Liaison Manager at Parkwood Academy, having previously been Deputy Head-teacher until his retirement in 2010. Over many years Paul has worked creatively to ensure the school is embedded in its local communities and he understands the challenges of integrating new arrivals into the school and wider community. He is tirelessly committed to finding ways to achieve this.
His observation that cohesion would always be limited unless work was also done in the neighbourhoods in which the pupils live, led directly to the creation of the RUBIC Project (Respect, Understanding, Building, Inclusive Communities) funded by the Big Lottery, with Chilypep as lead partner.
Recently Paul stood down from his paid role at Parkwood to continue the role as a volunteer and he also remains an Ambassador for the school. Sheffield is made what it is by people like Paul, who go the extra mile, time after time.
Uprooting and resettling in another country can be taxing emotionally and practically. This is often worse for women who face additional hardships. Fortunately, some women refugees not only rise to these challenges for themselves, but they also help others to advance by providing vital support and inspiring leadership at the grassroots for asylum seeking women. Few epitomise this more than Violet Dickenson who has campaigned against inhumane living conditions for asylum seeking mothers and children. She advocated with others for Sheffield Council to put an end to shared rooms for asylum seekers and works hard to ensure that mothers and children are suitably accommodated. In additional to earning her living at a local supermarket, Violet provides ongoing support for women to help them access basic services such as doctors, schools or council services. She has been key to ensuring that organisations working with asylum seeking women adhere to minimum standards across our region. Violet is a fortress to many women and we are honoured to recognise her contribution here today.
Father Shaun Smith
Father Shaun Smith is the parish priest at Sacred Heart Parish Church in Hillsborough. On behalf of the Sheffield faith leaders he played a leading role in setting up One Sheffield Many Cultures and was its first chair. Its purpose is to promote the unity of our city, celebrating Sheffield’s proud tradition of opposition to racism, bigotry and prejudice. It holds an annual festival in Barker’s Pool each summer – a celebration of diversity and the performing talents of Sheffield’s young people.
Shaun is there every year, whatever the weather. If you arrive 2 hours before the start you will see the parish priest driving up in a transit van, unloading awnings, chairs, refreshments and everything needed for success – most of all patience and a good heart.
Shaun is a founder member of the Who Is Your Neighbour, set up in 2010 to give people a way to explore their fears and feelings without needing to turn to the BNP and their divisive views.
When the EDL arrives, Shaun is a peaceful and resolute presence, speaking with generosity for unity and common purpose. At the end of this month Fr Shaun retires as a parish priest. We wish him well and know we will continue to see him at gatherings, vigils and celebrations across South Yorkshire.
Mubarak Hassan has been the co-chair of Sheffield Cohesion Advisory Group for 4 years. His particular leadership contribution was to draw attention to hot issues, so that we could work together to find solutions. This led to the Cohesion Advisory Group establishing its informal Community Inquiries, forums for examining complex and challenging issues in depth. For example, the community inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in 2014, to which colleagues in Rotherham were invited to share their learning. More recently, at Mubarak’s initiation, there have been a series of three community inquiries on the theme of ‘Responding to terrorism and hate incidents’.
Mubarak draws on his experience as a child arriving in the UK from Somalia, and is strongly committed to finding ways for us all to work together, and to live peacefully side by side. He is generous and visionary, and seems to relish the big challenges – the ones that many people would shy away from.
Mubarak now has a full time post working for the city council, bringing the same passion and applying the same skills for the benefit of people in neighbourhoods. This represents a new step in his life path, and we honour his contribution over the years to the voluntary sector.
Angela is Community Services Manager in the People Directorate of Sheffield City Council. She has had a lead role in the development of the cohesion strategic framework since the beginning of 2015, when the cabinet member for cohesion at that time committed to renewal and to a coproduction with the voluntary, community, faith sector.
Having come up through the ranks of community working, Angela moved to the council in 2007 as an Area Co-ordinator for Southey and Owlerton. She is strongly committed to working with communities. She is quietly determined and effective – now working with her 5th cabinet member in 4 years, and having survived two departmental reorganisations – indeed more than survived, on each occasion cohesion and coproduction have become more central aspects of her role.
Angela is not perfect. As a committed Blades supporter she has an aversion to mugs with pictures of owls; and when Blades supporters are maligned in the local press she takes it personally. This experience of ‘othering’, knowing what it is like to have ones social group demonised, and to have aversion to symbols of the rival group, make her well suited to her cohesion role. She models drawing on, and learning from, lived experience.
Over the past 5 years, Mike Fitter has dedicated his time to building a strategic city-wide approach to cohesion in Sheffield. This has engaged him with community activists, council leaders, police and importantly the leaders of tomorrow from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. From his deep connection to his Buddhist faith, Mike looks for what can be created from where we are at. His commitment and tirelessness has inspired those he comes into contact with, from Chief Executive to neighbourhood youth. He is currently Co-Chair of the Cohesion Advisory Group, on the ELG for Cohesion Sheffield, member of the Cohesion, Migration and Integration Strategy Group and a founder and the vice chair of Who Is Your Neighbour........remarkably, he also has time to sleep and make bread.
Please see the List of Case Studies to see detail on New Beginnings who also received an award at this Conference.