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 of MK Academy wrote:

“Before I started the Citizens:mk 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.  Then the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.

“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 by collaborating with people in power.  I was once told that 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,

In her role as campaign leader, Josephine addressed  various audiences including 70 business people gathered at MK’s City Breakfast Club at thestadium:mk.

“I would personally recommend this role to each and every  student who know that they also want to be a part of a change.”

Pictured above, Josephine speaks directly to the Leader of the Council in front of 400 school pupils outside Marks & Spencer in the city centre.  On behalf of the pupils she asked for, and won, a pledge in MK’s 50th birthday year to make 50 improvements to the Redways.  Click here for more on that action.

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.

Accountability Assembly 2017 pledges to build bridges, not walls

259 individuals from 18 member institutions staked their claim in Citizens:mk for the year ahead and heard pledges of commitment from power-holders to build ‘bridges, not walls’ between MK’s diverse communities in this, its 50th birthday year.

Mayor Steven Coventry shook the hands of each member institution’s representative as they came up to call out their institution’s commitment – people brought and dues paid – for the year ahead.

The Assembly were shown a video of the MK Council Leader’s apology for absence and accountability for actions he has taken over the past year – click here to see the video.

Jo Astor of Network Rail pledged to host the biggest-yet Living Wage Business Breakfast at Quadrant:mk on 7th November 2017,   “We plan to welcome 50 Living Wage employers,” she said, “and wish the Citizens:mk campaign team every success in achieving that target.”

Having earlier performed a mime of ‘building bridges, not walls’ to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ song by the Youth Choir of Church of Christ the Cornerstone, the pupils of Summerfield Primary School performed ‘We Built This City’ (pictured above) to great applause.  “I just wish we’d all got up and danced to that one!” said Carmel Schmid, a seasoned Citizens:mk campaigner, after the event.

Harry Smith, Year 9 pupil of MK Academy, asked The Parks Trust to meet in June with members of the Redways Relaunch campaign team to plan the cutting back of bushes on the Redways to increase students’ sense of safety.  In response, Alex Chapman, a trustee of The Parks Trust, said:  “We are willing to be  part of your campaign and initially help each school identify which of their Redway landscaping concerns we can help with.   We will listen and respond quickly to any suggestions from Citizens:mk for ways we could make improvements to Redways in our responsibility.”

Following testimony from external guest Olumuyiwa Adekunle, the Fight Against Hate campaign team gave local testimony and secured important pledges from power-holders, all of whom then signed a ‘Fight Against Hate charter:

  • from Arriva Buses, to run a hate crime awareness raising poster campaign on MK buses.
  • from Pam Weston of Summerfield School, to run a schools poster competition to raise awareness of hate crime.
  • from Liz Gifford of MK Council, to host a peer support meeting for victims of hate crimes in MK.
  • from Supt Vince Grey of Thames Valley Police, to plan a restorative justice event.

Tyrone Blackford-Swaries (pictured above), recently appointed Director of MK Mental Health Services, heard testimonies and agreed to work with the Citizens:mk Mental Health campaign team, meeting quarterly, to help achieve its goals.

Leaders from the three largest political parties in MK Council – Labour, Conservative and LibDem, also pledged support for Citizens:mk’s campaigns 2017-18 and signed the Fight Against Hate charter.

In an evaluation session immediately after the event, this year’s Assembly scored 7 out of 10.

Pupils in mass action for Redway improvements – 21.4.17

On Friday 21st April, 400 pupils from five MK schools walked from their schools to the city centre to ask the Leader of the Council for 50 Redways improvements in MK’s 50th birthday year.   This was the first major action of the Redways Relaunch campaign, which was filmed and broadcast on BBC TV Look East.

Two pupil leaders, from MK Academy and St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured below left), knocked for Cllr Pete Marland at Civic Offices and asked him to accompany them across the road to City Square, outside Marks & Spencers, where all the other students and pupils were gathered.

Employees from local businesses including Dentons, Santander and Shoosmiths, joined the action and pledged to help support the schools on Redway litter patrols later this term.

Pupils collected rubbish along the way and presented it to the Council Leader.  A told him:  “We are fed up with the litter, broken glass and other rubbish dumped on the Redways and we want to clear it up. Our school council are willing to look after the Redway next to our school and we have already started to pick up litter and think about ways to make it a better route to the city centre.”

A survey of 2,300 pupils in six schools showed that 80% of pupils use the Redways but only 40% think they are safe (survey results).

A pupil from Southwood Primary School said: “The more people use the redways, the less scary it is”.

The main goal of the campaign is to gain pledges from MK Council and The Parks Trust to plan and implement 50 Redway improvements. The priority improvements which the pupils want are:

  • litter removal (backed by 67% of the survey respondents)
  • improved lighting (62%) and
  • cut back hedges (56%).

Lucy Gray of Shoosmiths LLP (pictured below) said: “Seeing Milton Keynes through the eyes of local pupils gives you a very clear view of what our local Redways should look like.  Our colleagues love volunteering in the community and working with schools and that is why we are really looking forward to joining forces with Summerfield and making a real difference to our Redways.”

Luke Farrell of Santander UK said:  “It’s really important that children have a safe route to school and we’re delighted to be able to do our bit to support our local community.”

Cllr Marland pledged to support the pupils’ goal of 50 realistic Redway improvements and organise for his senior officers to meet with the pupils so that plans would be agreed before the end of MK’s 50th birthday year.  For this he was thanked with a garland decorated with pupil comments on the Redways.

The five schools who took part in the action were members of Citizens:mk, an alliance of 23 community groups including churches and Muslim associations as well as schools, who had taken part in a joint training session back in September and resolved then to launch a Redways campaign.  The schools (and number of pupils they brought to this action) were:  Jubilee  Wood Primary (22), MK Academy (13), St. Monica’s Catholic Primary (8), St. Paul’s (7) and Summerfield (360).

“We value active citizenship and training young leaders from schools is an important part of what Citizens:mk does,” said Lucian Hudson, Chair of Citizens:mk and Director of Communications at The Open University.

“I am really impressed by the children,” said Tony Berwick (pictured in grey top above), Headteacher of Jubilee Wood School.  “They have put their case across  with style.  We now hope the wider community here in Milton Keynes will support this campaign.”

Accountability Assembly Invitation

Citizens:mk  invites you to its annual Accountability Assembly

celebrating

Imagine MK beyond 50:  Building Bridges, not Walls

Tuesday 25th April 2017, 6.15pm for 6.30-8.00pm

Church of Christ the Cornerstone, 300 Saxon Gate West, MK9 2ES

RSVP to info@citizensmk.org.uk or book online.

Click here for Council Leader’s video Apology and Accountability 2016-17.

Imagine a Milton Keynes where it is clean and safe for children to walk or cycle to school, to play outside with their friends…

Imagine a Milton Keynes where communities and individuals get along, knowing that they have the same basic interests and desires, rather than worry about the things that make them different…

Imagine a Milton Keynes which provides support and assistance to those who are most in need, those who are sometimes unable to cope with life’s difficulties…

Imagine a Milton Keynes in which people are focused on building bridges, not walls.

On 25th April, Citizens:MK will hold its annual Accountability Assembly and present to the people of Milton Keynes and their leaders three campaign proposals to help diverse communities improve their city.  The three campaigns being promoted, and for which Citizens:mk seeks the support of Milton Keynes authorities, are: 

Last year’s campaigns were: Living Wage, Weaving Trust, Community Energy and Refugees Welcome.

Citizens:MK is an alliance of 23 diverse member institutions including faith, education and other community organisations.

For further information, contact Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.

Jubilee Wood school pupils address City Breakfast – 5.4.17

Headteacher Tony Berwick introduced Year 6 pupils (aged 10-11) to present to more than 70 business guests their plans for the Redways Relaunch campaign.  Also presenting was campaign leader Josephine Osei, Year 12 student from Milton Keynes Academy.

“As a group of students we want to improve the Redways because many of us use them to go to and from school and we want them to be cleaner and look better,” said one of the pupils. “We think more people across Milton Keynes will use the Redways as a healthy way to get around if they are better cared for.”

“As children and young people we are fed up with the litter, broken glass and other rubbish dumped by selfish people and we want to clear it up,” said another pupil.  “At my school our school council are willing to look after the Redway next to our school and we have already started to pick up litter and think about ways to make it a better route to the city centre.”

Six local schools, all members of Citizens:mk, have organised a day of action for Friday 21st April at 2pm.  The schools will be walk along the Redways to the city centre to ask the Leader of the Council to pledge the Council’s support for the campaign goal of 50 improvements to the Redways in MK’s 50th birthday year.

Business leaders and their employees were invited to join the action on 21st Apil – also to help a school on a Redway litter patrol at a later date and sponsor a sign to show they support a local school taking care of their Redway.

“I was really impressed with the children today,” said Tony Berwick, “and they put their case across to the business leaders with style.  We now hope the wider community here in Milton Keynes will support this campaign.”

For further information, contact Tony Berwick.