Waltham Forest has a long and proud history of welcoming people from across the world. We want every person in Waltham Forest to be proud of their differences, while at the same time feeling an important part of the wider community. Today, Monday 18 March, we launch our campaign to celebrate this incredible community work and increase it to inspire at least 50,000 people to make a difference.
Our vision is a borough that feels like home for everyone who lives and works here, because they feel included, supported and safe. We want to unlock the collective power of Waltham Forest’s people to build an integrated, supportive and safe community where every resident and local organisation is empowered to lead change that makes Waltham Forest a better place to live.
That’s why the council has launched its new Connecting Communities strategy, which outlines how it intends to work with residents, partners, and local organisations to build an integrated, supportive community where everyone feels able to lead change in their local areas and help Waltham Forest to reach its full potential.
Connecting Communities is an ambitious programme of action which has been given energy, focus and much-needed resources through participation in the national Integrated Communities agenda. Waltham Forest is one of five places in England involved in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Integration Areas Programme, and as the only Integration Area in London the borough will share its experience of what works as well as learning lessons from others.
There are three parts to the Connecting Communities programme. Firstly, the Waltham Forest, Our Place campaign will call on everyone in the borough to act, engage and participate in creating a stronger, more sustainable community. Next, new fully-staffed Community Networks will be established for Leyton, Leytonstone, Chingford and Walthamstow to bring volunteers, community group, local businesses and council services together to agree local priorities and share resources. Finally, the programme will encourage the creation of new opportunities to empower people to help each other, with a focus on key groups including new arrivals to the borough, black and minority ethnic women, and young people at the edges of the gang lifestyle who are most likely to experience isolation.
Cllr Ahsan Khan, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Waltham Forest has a proud history of welcoming people from all over the world.
“We want every person in Waltham Forest to be proud of their differences, while feeling part of the bigger community. We want to unlock the collective power of Waltham Forest’s people to build an integrated, supportive and safe community.
“Our campaign Waltham Forest, Our Place will celebrate the amazing people and incredible community work already happening across the borough to encourage everyone to follow their shining examples.
“We will inspire at least 50,000 people to make difference – for the smallest gesture of helping a neighbour, to volunteering for a cause close to our hearts.
“Thank you to everyone who contributes, in whichever way they can, to their community: Waltham Forest, Our Place.”
Communities Minister Lord Bourne said: “The Integration Area Programme builds on existing good practice, knowledge and expertise to better understand and to tackle local challenges, delivering more fully integrated communities.
“I am delighted that Waltham Forest is participating in this programme. The borough has shown a clear understanding of local challenges and the key strengths on which local leaders and residents can build.”
Local community groups and organisations who have currently pledged their support to Connecting Communities include the Homemade Community Café, the English Conversation Club, and Stone Rangers WI among many others.
Andreea and Marius, owners of the Homemade Community Café who work with Mencap and other charities to offer apprenticeship and work experience options, say: “It is hard work running your own business but we love it even though we are working seven days a week with no day off for nearly two years and can’t afford full time staff yet! We have lots of ideas to grow our activities and are really looking forward to the performance theatre coming to life.”
Janice Manckletow, teacher and volunteer at the English Conversation Club, said: “The strength of our club is in the fact that we are fortunate to have a good number of helpers and leaders so that most weeks we are able to offer individualised support. We hope that our students leave us feeling that they can communicate in English more confidently. On a social level, we have learned so much about each other’s way of life, beliefs and backgrounds, which we feel is of benefit to all of us in the community.”
Christine Lee, Co-President of Stone Rangers WI says: 'We aim to support local projects like the Waltham Forest Red Box Project which enables intergenerational support. Being able to see that our fundraising can make a difference on the ground motivates our members from a wide cross section of our communities to continue to donate.”
To find out what a difference we can all make for Waltham Forest, Our Place visit walthamforest.gov.uk/connectingcommunities
Alternatively, you can sign up for the regular Connecting Communities e-newsletter at bit.ly/WFConnectingCommunities and receive regular volunteering opportunities and much more.