Great Get Together Iftaar Celebrates MK unity – 16.6.17

Two member institutions of Citizens:mk, Trubys Garden Tea Room and the Middle Eastern Cultural Group (MECG), teamed up to host a ‘Great Get Together Bring & Share Iftaar’ in Campbell Park Pavilion on Friday 16th June.

Inspired by The Jo Cox Foundation, this event aimed to celebrate both the unity of the people of Milton Keynes and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with a programme of talks, nasheeds (Islamic songs) and Christian hymns.  (Pictured reciting the Quran is Umar Mohiuddin from Bayt’ul Ilm Madrassa.)

More than 200 MK residents, including adults and children from all faiths and none, came together to share Iftaar, the breaking of the daily Muslim fast, in a spirit of solidarity.

Several non-Muslims, including the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire,  Peter Kara, had a go at fasting throughout the day too.

“Food fasting is something I do regularly as part of my physical wellbeing,” said Peter Kara. “But the experience of not drinking any water from sunrise to sunset required a mental discipline that made me realise why spiritual fasting is embraced by so many different cultures.  By overcoming the desire to react to a basic instinct for food and water within us, we can also learn to develop the capacity to overcome other, more negative instincts, such as greed, envy, lust and hatred.”

Mark Lancaster MP and the Mayor and Mayoress also attended and spoke in celebration of MK unity.

Mark Lancaster said:  “One year one from Jo Cox’s murder it is right that we come together and reflect what we can all do to ensure that as a community we focus on celebrating what unites us rather than that which divides.  This event is a fine example of MK demonstrating just what a united community we are.”

Kurshida Mirza of Trubys Garden Tea Room,  an interfaith community cafe run by Muslim women, said:  “The generosity of the people of Milton Keynes was amazing.  Everyone was so keen to work with us, to make the Great Get Together Iftaar a success for Milton Keynes.  The feeling of unity was very strong indeed.”

Ayser Aljawad, of MECG, said:  “This was a tribute to Jo Cox but at the same time to MK’s spirit and the Communities unity, the ‘let’s do it’ approach which is also core to MECG.  The diverse collection of passionate volunteers and generous participants shows that MK will not be divided.  This was a truly wonderful event, which I hope will set a precedent for years to come.”

The event was supported by funding from MK Community Foundation and the Rotary Club, with private donations from several individuals.

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The event formed part of MK’s celebration of its 50th birthday, with a special emphasis on celebrating MK’s unity, justice and welcome to outsiders.

Pupils negotiate Redway improvements with Council Leader – 15.6.17

Following the action on 21st April, pupils from four schools met Cllr Pete Marland and his Highways chief Sean Rooney to lay out their initial plans for Redway improvements.

Each school had 10 minutes to present images and details of their top 10 priority ‘hotspots’ for improvement.  These included over-hanging bushes, broken steps, old paintwork, discoloured signposts and lots and lots of rubbish and broken glass.  The schools involved were Jubilee Wood, Summerfield (pictured), St. Monica’s Catholic Primary, MK Academy and St. Paul’s Catholic School.

Cllr Marland agreed to meet with the pupils again once his team had drawn up a list of RAG-rated works, and following a meeting with The Parks Trust, which has responsibility for some of the Redways on which improvements are needed.

On summarising the pupils’ thanks to Cllr Marland,  Josephine Osei from MK Academy said:  “We feel privileged that you are finding time to work with us on something we are so passionate about.”

“I’ve been very impressed with the students’ research,” said Cllr Marland.  “I really like their idea of painting the Redway lamp posts in the school colours, so that hopefully former pupils and parents will take as much care of their school’s Redways as the current pupils and staff.  If this works, I think it can be rolled out to include schools that aren’t members of Citizens:mk.”

Shoosmiths takes to the Redways with Summerfield pupils – 15.9.17

Seven members of staff from Shoosmiths LLP joined dozens of pupils from Summerfield Primary School for 90 minutes of litter-picking on the local Redways.

This was another good example of local businesses doing their bit to help Citizens:mk member schools generally, and the Redways Relaunch campaign in particular.

“I simply put a request up on our intranet and all these colleagues came forward to volunteer,” said Sarah Lovell of Shoosmiths (pictured third from left).  “It’s good for us individually as well as a business to be involved in community projects like this.”

“This is fantastic,” said Pam Weston, Summerfield School head teacher.  “We want to get involved in our local community and that includes companies like Shoosmiths.”

Dentons LLP staff help pupils take on Jubilee Wood redway – 13.6.17

Four staff from Dentons LLP UMEA joined pupils from Jubilee Wood Primary School in a massive clean-up of the Redway alongside the school.  This was an action for the Citizens:mk Redways Relaunch campaign.

Working with Mitch Michener from Campbell Park Parish Council as well as Dentons, the pupils split into groups to clean different sections of the Redway.

“It’s great to see how enthusiastic the children are,” said Angela Monzione from Dentons.  “What they’re hoping to do is adopt this area and maintain it.  It’s going to happen for years to come, so it’s a project for now and for the future.”

“If we can monitor the area at least once a week, we can keep it clearn,” said a 10-year old member of the School Council.

“I’m using a litter picker and picking up some glass,” said a 7-year-old pupil, “so people riding their bikes won’t fall on it and cut themselves.”

“We love our Redways and want to look after them,” said head teacher Tony Berwick.  “Our children are learning to love Milton Keynes, and that is good news for us all.”

See short video of Tony Berwick speaking.

Josephine’s testimony

After a year of active leadership in Citizens:mk, taking on the role of student leader for the new Redways Relaunch campaign, 18-year-old Josephine Osei (pictured left) of MK Academy wrote:

“Before I started this citizens program, I was just like any other teenager. Who had something that they were angry about but did not have any power or motivation to create a change and then the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.

“And I realised that actually I could have the power to make a change and I was able to do this through leading the Redways re-launch campaign which so far has been successful and definitely part of my memorable memories.

“Through this citizens program I have learnt to be a leader, one who knows what is right and does it with the collaboration of people in power.  I was once told by a wise man if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more then you are a leader. And through this journey, I have seen my actions inspiring other people and as such I know that I have made an impact on someone else’s life and this has been very fulfilling for me.

“One thing that I have been able to overcome is the fear of speaking in an open crowd and I feel that through this program I have become acquainted with this skill and actually I feel unstoppable. Now, if I want to do something, I feel empowered to do it because my self confidence has increased greatly and truthfully, I would personally recommend this role to each and every  student who know that they also want to be apart of a change.”

Bishop of Oxford backs school competition to combat hate – 25.5.17

  • The Bishop of Oxford, Rev Steven Croft, joined other guests from  Arriva Buses and Thames Valley Police in an assembly organised by the children of Summerfield Primary School to launch a schools’ poster competition to combat hate.

The poster competition has been overseen by the Open University, who have created the rules and will be holding an exhibition of the children’s work from 12th July with an finale Awards event on 19th July.   Click here for competition rules.

Running the competition was one of the goals set by the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign which several power-holders signed up to at the 2017 Accountability Assembly.

Pupil Noorah, aged 9, said:  “We often hear about wars in other countries as well as conflicts in England. There are many times when even in this city we love so much, harmony is replaced by hate. ”

The school choir showed its love of Milton Keynes and desire to support the Fight Against Hate campaign by singing their own song ‘We Built This City’.

Jiten Patel, a member of the campaign team who works for The Open University, said:  “Summerfield School can be proud of their student who were excellent ambassadors.  They are a credit to their school and left the guests at the launch with a strong impression of the values that are being lived by Summerfield.  The head teacher, staff and parents can rightly be proud of their students.”

Head teacher Pam Weston said:  “The children thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share their ideas and perform for their visitors. The responses of their ‘VIP’ guests made them realise that they do have a voice and will be listened to when they contribute on issues of local and national importance.”

Fidele Mutwarisibo, chair of the Fight Against Hate campaign, said:  “The moment I stepped into Summerfield I knew this mini assembly was going to be great.  The welcome by the Heateacher, the staff and the pupils was second to none.  The presence of the Bishop of Oxford, the representatives of the Police and Arriva Buses highlighted the timeliness and relevance of our campaign.  The presence of Summerfield’s governors highlighted the importance of partnership.  The leadership of pupils was reassuring.  My lasting memory from this enjoyable event was how very impressive the pupils were. They made a huge difference.”

To thank the guests for attending the assembly, the children gave each guest a box of fresh eggs laid by the school’s own hens – and served them with slices of amazingly delicious cake made with eggs from the hens.

(Photo from Mubasher Maqbool.)

 

Healing through hearing the voices of hate survivors 28th June

This pilot event has been planned by the Fight Against Hate campaign in accordance with one of its four main campaign goals.  It is not for everyone, only up to 16 survivors of hate crime who have registered interest and been formally invited.

Venue: MK Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ

Date: June 28th, 2017

Time: 19:00 – 21:00 hrs

Outline of the Healing through Hearing session

The Fight Against Hate campaign of Citizens:MK has won the support of MK Council in hosting a new approach to reducing the effects of hate crime.  Hate legislation covers five grounds: race/nationality, religion, sexuality, gender identity and disability.

MK Council will host a twilight session, ‘Hearing through Healing’, to hear the voices of residents and/or those working or studying in Milton Keynes who have experienced some form of hate towards them in MK, no matter how big or small.  The aim is to reduce their discomfort by simply giving them the opportunities to listen to each other’s stories about what happened to them.

One or two small facilitated groups will come together to share their stories and be invited to explore feelings and possible next steps.   Finally, each participant will be invited to say what, if anything they are taking away that may help to re-establish their sense of self confidence and self-esteem.  The whole session will take no more than 90 minutes.

All those participating must commit to keeping whatever is said/discussed confidential to the relevant group and nobody’s contribution will be shared outside the facilitating group without their permission.

Please note that this is not a counselling or professional therapy session but rather an opportunity for sharing.

Anyone interested in attending should email fightagainsthatemk@gmail.com.

Participant guidelines

This event is intended to work through, with diverse and like-minded people who have also experienced hate crime, your reflections of your experience.

Using an action learning model the event will give you space to explore issues with the support of an experienced facilitator.

The event will also tap into individuals who may be available to answers any of your questions, for example,  how are police required to support a victim of prejudice based crime.

The event is not there to pre-empt,  so what you get out is what you put in, hopefully the attached briefing gives a good overview of what can be expected.

A key question for participants is ‘ What, if anything might I now need  to bring things to more of a closure or feel more resolved.’

The event will be underpinned by friendly, respectful,  dignified and fair conversations for all those involved.

Any actions arsing from the groups will be required to be actioned by individual members as the event is not geared to advocate or process issues on any individuals behalf.

If you require this information in a different format please do not hesitate to ask.

We require that you confirm your attendance also commit to confidentiality and consent for generic information to be used in the future.

If you wish to talk to a facilitator beforehand then please email fightagainsthatemk@gmail.com

Weaving Trust with Middle East Cultural Group – 12.5.17

On Friday evening 12th May, 50 people took  part in a Weaving Trust event hosted by Middle Eastern Cultural Group (MECG) at Bancroft Community Centre.

“I feel very happy,” said Ayser Al Jawad, leader of MECG.  “You can feel it was good because people didn’t want to stop talking when the bell rang.”

Click here to see a short clip of Weaving Trust in action.

“It was obvious just from watching people, and later from the feedback I received, that everyone enjoyed it and appreciated it,” said Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting, who chairs the Weaving Trust group.  “I think we can say that some trust was woven.”

Click here to see the text messages people sent at the end of the session.

Voter Registration – how you can help

The deadline for voters to register for the upcoming parliamentary election is 22nd May.   Leaders are encouraged to promote voter registration within their institutions, and are invited to attend a training session on Monday 15th May 5-7pm at Church of Christ the Cornerstone, to help with this.  Here are some ideas:

  • talk about it at Friday/Saturday/Sunday religious events and/or through 121s with people who may not know how to register
  • print this  ‘Register to Vote in 4 steps’ poster and put it on noticeboards
  • send through mailing lists and newsletters (include the poster as an insert, or include the blurb and link in an existing newsletter or mass email)
  • and via social media.

There is a simple Voter Registration form  online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote .  If you want to print the registration form itself here’s the link to a printable version, click here.

It can work really well to print the forms where you have large groups of people in one place, but remember to collect them all afterwards and deliver them to your local council.  If you collect large numbers then it is worth tipping off your local council’s electoral registration office so they know you are coming and they have time to process them.

The stumbling block is often that people don’t know their National Insurance number, so it is worth putting some thought into how to get around that.  It is possible to submit a paper version with a note saying that they don’t have a record of the NI number, but there is a possibility that this will delay the processing of the form.  Though that is better than not submitting anything at all.

If you have any questions, contact Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.