Thames Ward Community Project

This month we are profiling Zainab Jalloh, Communications & Outreach Officer at Thames Ward Community Project – a resident-led community development trust, created to empower the people of Barking Riverside and Thames View.

1. What does your charity do?
Thames Ward Community Project is a resident-led community development trust, created to empower the people of Barking Riverside and Thames View. We connect residents with decision-makers to create spaces for influencing positive change for their community, and build partnerships with schools, the developer, and the Council.

We also develop leaders in the community through offering training and volunteering opportunities, and support enterprise through our various community projects in the area that are led by local people.

2. What are the challenges your service users face, and how does your organisation help users overcome them?
Thames Ward is in one of London’s most deprived boroughs with some of the highest rates of unemployment and therefore impacted by structural inequalities.

It is also the largest housing development site in London, with a diverse population that’s doubled in the last decade and continues to rise. This growth and development in newer areas has isolated older residents and created a social divide.

Our organisation was created in direct response to these challenges. We combat them by championing resident voice and building people power! In the past, there has been a lack of awareness of community activities and services available to residents, and opportunities for residents to be able to represent their views on key stakeholder decisions. A key aspect of my role has involved supporting residents to share their views online through our monthly newsletter and now via our new resident-led newspaper! It has been inspiring to see how transformative resident-led content can be in driving change and bringing people together. We have continued a print issue, as well as digital issue, of our local newspaper to make sure no one is left behind.

During the height of the pandemic in 2021, with schools closed and students expected to attend lessons online, it became clear through meeting with members of the Senior Leadership Team at Riverside School just how serious the issue of digital exclusion was locally. We heard that many families with children attending Riverside School simply did not have the devices necessary for children to learn from home. As a result of the partnership between TWCP, Riverside School and Barking &Dagenham Citizens – and with support from ELBA – money was raised to support local families to get digital devices. A generous donation of 26 Chromebook laptops was also made by London City Airport. The laptops were received in February 2021 and distributed to local families in need.

3. Do you have an inspirational story/moment about your work that you would like to share?

It’s very important to us to truly be resident-led and one of our projects that especially reflects this is the Barking Food Forest, a community gardening project. The site was secured through the hard campaigning work and drive of the Young Citizen Action Group at Riverside School, who – after two years – managed to take possession of the keys for the community garden site from the developer. Community effort continued with successful grant applications supported by TWCP, and co-design sessions with young people and residents.

Gardening at the site began in August 2021 and we have since had more than 400 people engage with the project. We deliver Community Gardening sessions twice a week to local residents, with a longer session once a month – combining garden activities with a social event. We also have gardening sessions with schools: LEYF Nursery, Riverside Primary, Riverside Bridge (who support children with additional needs) and Riverside Secondary.

We have also been greatly supported by local groups and stakeholders.

Recently, Barking Food Forest and Riverside Bridge School, supported by TWCP had been successful in a joint application to the London Schools’ Climate Kick-Start Green Schools Grant, and received £10K for the project to build a rainwater harvesting system.

4. What kind of support are you in need of right now and how might volunteering fit into that?
The Barking Food Forest is designed to be a sustainable hub of permaculture and is entering its next phase of building raised beds, a presentation stage and adding a container for classroom visits. This expansion will offer even more to the local schools and residents, many of whom have limited access to open green spaces. This will require support in the form of people helping to build these structures. The team at ELBA have kindly offered to donate 300 Ecobricks to this effort. Ecobricks are made of plastic bottles that would otherwise take years to decompose, filled with plastic wrappers that are also difficult to recycle. The team at ELBA have a pool of dedicated corporate volunteers, who we are hoping will join the project on build days.

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