All posts by Tom Bulman

part-time Community Organiser for Citizens:mk

Noorah Mohammed wins Fight Against Hate poster competition – 19.7.17

Noorah Mohammed, Year 5 pupil at Summerfield Primary School, has been awarded first prize in the ‘Fight Against Hate’ campaign poster competition.  The runners up were Frankie O’Connor of Great Linford Primary School and Fariss Kapaga, also of Summerfield School.

The competition was sponsored by Arriva Buses, represented by General Manager Kieran Lawson, and The Open University, who hosted the awards event.

“We are proud of what the pupils have done to raise awareness of this very important issue,” said Lucian Hudson, the OU’s Director of Communications.

“It is good for Arriva to be doing something for the wider community,” said Kieran Lawson.  “I have no doubt we will be working together on this important issue in the years to come.”

Five primary schools brought pupils who were shot-listed for an award:  Great Linford, Jubilee Wood, St. Monica’s, Summerfield and Tickford Park.

“We are delighted to have two winners from our school,” said Pam Weston, Headteacher of Summerfield.  “We want to carry on with this important campaign next year.  Our school is located in a very mixed area of MK and we love to be part of it!”

The Summerfield children’s choir sang ‘We Built This City Called Milton Keynes’ and a specially commissioned new song, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Hate’.  Click here to hear Nikki Elgar and the Summerfield School Choir on BBC Three Counties Radio (1hr 50mins and 44secs into the show).

“We’re all different but we’re all the same on the inside,” said Nikki Elgar of Summerfield School.

“The Open University has an ongoing commitment to this campaign,” said Jiten Patel, the OU’s Head of Equality, Diversity and Information Rights, who organised the poster competition.  “Let’s make hate history.”

Pictured above are Noorah and Lucian Hudson, who presented the award.  Pictured below is the Summerfield School choir in full voice.

 

 

50 Redway improvements could be 500, Council Leader tells pupils

Seven pupils from three schools attended a second meeting with Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, and Sean Rooney, Head of Highways.  Also attending were David Foster and Rob Riekie, Chief Executive and Operations Director of The Parks Trust.

This was the second formal meeting between pupils and the main power-holders in Citizens:mk’s Redways Relaunch campaign.  The schools represented in the negotiations this time were MK Academy, St. Monica’s and Summerfield Primary School.

Sean Rooney explained that his team had been researching the feasibility of the Redway improvements proposed by pupils at the last meeting, and that most would be implemented.  The changes will include new lamp posts, clearing bushes and applying new surface treatments.  He said these would be detailed in a RAG-rated list, including improvements on Parks Trust land, and this would be shared with the schools for accountability.

Sean Rooney pledged that works would begin this summer and some of the new lamp posts would be ready this autumn.

He also proposed that pupils could design with individual school branding the heavy-duty stickers that would be used on lamp posts to identify the relaunched Redways surrounding each school.

“We have listened to you,” he told the pupils, “and we need to keep on listening”.

Councillor Marland said:  “The 50 improvements you want could be 500 improvements if we involve other schools and some of the businesses you are working with.”  Various business partners are already engaged in the campaign – Dentons, Network Rail, Santander, Shoosmiths –  and the meeting agreed it would be good to engage them further.

“Let’s do this across MK,” said David Foster.  “It’s unusual to hear directly the voices of young people…and we want to hear more of them.”   Rob Riekie offered that Parks Trust staff could walk with pupils around the Redways on Parks Trust land to look at other ways they can be made safer.

“Talking to these important people has helped me become more confident,” said 11-year-old Miriam from St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School.

“It’s clear that they’re taking us seriously,” said 14-year-old John from MK Academy.

Researching young people’s priority mental health issues – 11.7.17

Roz Mascarenhas from the Youth Participation Team of MK Council invited Citizens:mk’s Mental Health campaign team to lead a Mental Health workshop at the MySayMK Conference for pupils from local secondary schools.  The conference was held at MK Christian Centre in Oldbrook (pictured).

The workshop was facilitated by campaign leader Tess Price and two new team members, Brett Farrier-Smith and Laura Gaskell from the YMCA, along with Community Organiser Tom Bulman.  The workshop was delivered twice to a total of about 50 young people aged 11-16.

Through structured conversations (121, small group and whole group), short-listing and a process of voting at the end, the following mental health issues were prioritised for action (in priority order):

  1. Teacher Support and Awareness of Mental Health Needs and Issues in School (20 Votes)
  2. Support at School for Individual Needs (16 Votes)
  3. Teacher education/training on Mental Health (12 Votes)
  4. Improving Access to Services and Support for ‘Lower Risk’ Young People who can’t access CAMHS (9 Votes)
  5. De-stigmatising Mental Health needs, especially taking into account students/young people’s individual backgrounds, cultures and religions (9 Votes)
  6. Treating everyone the same, in school and outside school, so that young  people don’t feel further isolated/stigmatised by their mental health needs/issues (9).

It was agreed that the outcomes would be shared with MK Council and other stakeholders including the Joint Commissioner for the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Director of MK Mental Health Services.

Pupils get creative in fight against hate – 3.7.17

From 12th to 19th July, The Open University is hosting an exhibition of children’s art work to raise awareness of hate crime.  In a campaign organised by Citizens:mk, posters created by pupils from four MK primary schools will be judged by a panel including Arriva buses, whose marketing manager has agreed to display Fight Against Hate posters on MK buses this Autumn.  The poster competition was launched by the Bishop of Oxford in May.

Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications at The Open University and Chair of Citizens:mk, said:  “The Open University is delighted to be hosting this exhibition.  Raising awareness of how hate crime affects us all  is important to our shared vision of MK as a thriving, more inclusive and fairer MK.”

Sophia Kibirige, Treasurer of MK Muslim Association and School Governor at Summerfield Primary School, said:  “This competition is a great way for the children to express their natural kindness and show how much they want to live in a community without hate.”

At the competition awards event on 19th July, the Summerfield School choir will perform a song written especially for the campaign, ‘Love not hate’.  Prizes for competition winners include Apple computers.

Fidele Mutwarisibo, member of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and leader of the Fight Against Hate campaign, said:  “Raising awareness through this poster competition is one of our four goals for the campaign in its first year.  I am so pleased that we are all getting a chance to see and hear how much the children of MK care about this issue.”

To see and hear the pupils’ views and voices, sign up to attend the Poster Exhibition & Awards event at The Open University on Wednesday 19th July, 10.00-11.30am (arrival from 9.30).  Contact Jiten Patel, organiser of the competition,  jiten.patel@open.ac.uk .

(Pictured above are pupils of Summerfield Primary School Council after receiving their ‘Young Citizen 2016-17’ awards at the end of June.)

Successful Healing through Hearing pilot – 28.6.17

On Wednesday 28th June, two groups of five hate crime survivors met to share their experience and ask one another questions.  Among them were men and women of different ages who have experienced hate because of their religion, race,  LGBT identity or disability.

Running this pilot event was one of the four goals of the Fight Against Hate campaign launched in February 2017.

Hosted at MK Civic Offices, and facilitated by two campaign team members from The Open University, the pilot event was seen to be a success because the participants, who had not met before, said they would like to meet again.

Themes discussed included verbal sexual abuse, bullying/victimisation, isolation, fear for personal safety, anxiety, not knowing where to turn, futility of reporting to police, anger and frustration, inter and intra community tensions and  violence.

One  facilitator observed that people left feeling more supported as a result of having shared.

Santander clears St. Paul’s School Redway – 26.6.17

On Monday 26th June, 16 staff from MK’s Santander office spent a full day clearing over-grown bushes from a Redway path used by hundreds of pupils from St. Paul’s Catholic School.  It was part of a ‘Discovery Day’ scheme through which Santander encourage their staff to engage with the local community.

It was also a vital action day for the Citizens:mk Redways Relaunch campaign, with students wearing ‘Redway Warriors’ t-shirts and using litter-picking equipment purchased by Santander.

“We’ve coordinated well as a team.  It was so over-grown, litter everywhere!” said Luke Farrell, Contracts Manager at Santander, who spoke at the big outdoor meeting with the Leader of the Council on 21st April.

“We’ve found so much rubbish in the bushes,” said Jarrod Glover,  Head of Third Party Management (pictured above with Greg Maw, Assistant Headteacher of St. Paul’s Catholic School), “…cans, bottles, plastic bags, even nappies!”

“Working with the St. Paul’s students has been brilliant,” said Karen Robson, Santander’s Head of Third Party Management & Procurement (pictured below with student Tegan Dodimead).

“Suddenly this whole redway has opened up and all it’s taken is some people wanting to do it and a little bit of time.  All of my team has gained something from today just by being among the pupils and getting positive comments from the wider community.  It’s probably the most beneficial Discovery Day we’ve done so far.”

14-year-old pupil Tegan Dodimead said:  “It was great working with the Santander people.  They’re so friendly!”

A younger pupil, walking through on her way out of school at the end of the day, said:  “Wow, it’s got so much wider (the Redway path)…I feel safe now.”

“Working with the Santander team has been amazing,” said teacher Meghan Jones, who co-ordinated the action.  “We’ll definitely be doing more together.”

Another Santander staff member, Alan (pictured below), was happy to put in the extra effort because he’s training for a triathlon!

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.  See video.

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.”

Mayor David Hopkins later wrote:  “It was a pleasure to attend.  The atmosphere from the moment we arrived and the smiles on the faces of those attending confirmed what a warm and comforting evening had been generated.”

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.

and

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.”

Pupils pictured outside Civic Offices below.

Shoosmiths takes to the Redways with Summerfield pupils – 15.6.17

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 out by email 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.”

Click here to see short video of Tony Berwick speaking.