Meet the team: Favour Ekengwu

Engage London is about putting writing skills into action. Here Favour Ekengwu reports from the Pilion Trust and Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation Clothing give away (5 June 2018). Favour is also joining the Engage London team for the Brussels workshops.

Favour Ekengwu (c) Hugh Gary Photography

The Pilion Trust’s first clothing give away day for the local Islington Community was hosted at our Ringcross Community Centre. Here we provide help for people within the community who are struggling with multiple complex needs from housing problems and homelessness to family issues; as well as drug and alcohol dependences; mental ill health problems; different levels of learning problems or struggling with many kinds of poverty.

The event was a collaboration; between The Pilion Trust and Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation (AWTF) who put out the call to the community for the clothing donations.

The Pilion Trust is a multiple complex needs registered charity so we are always focused on what we can do to reach out to all people within our community/neighbourhood. That way we can create a caring neighbourhood, which is why our charity helps people within the local and wider communities.

We run community activities for all age groups within the community. We also run a registered food bank between 12 – 4pm Monday – Friday where all within the community are welcome. We have found that many people within the community are quietly struggling and can’t afford to feed their families also many are street homeless.

The main purpose of the clothing give away was to help people within our community that are not able to help themselves and are overlooked by the government. Unfortunately I don’t think that the councillors are doing enough to help the least privileged within the community. Most of the clients are people who have lost hope that the council are unwilling to help them feel safe within the neighbourhood. This is where we come in. We become the pillar that they can lean on; you can say that we are their representative in a lot of cases.

We believe that everybody within the community deserves an equal chance to live a better life.

We received donations from families that lived within the borough of Islington, and from companies who were aware of the issues that homeless people have and wanted to support our cause. Most of the donated clothes came from Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation (AWTF). Like us they are a charity and they work with young teenagers who live in poverty they work to ensure that no child is left without a passion for life due to their circumstances

It was the first time that I have ever been involved in a clothing give away day. I came into work very early on that Tuesday morning and found our hall full of clothes. I was amazed when I saw our hall full of clothing; it showed that people within the community want to help each other. We received a lot of help from the Volunteers that came to help us within the community.

They helped us set the clothes in place so that people could easily locate the things that they needed without any difficulties. I thought it would be impossible due to the amount of clothes we had to set in order.

Fortunately my opinion was wrong; we worked together like a family; even though we hardly knew each other. We complimented, helped and laughed together which made the place feel like home. I then realised that’s what it means to be a community.

The outcome was good, a lot of people showed up, we were also able to meet the needs of most of the clients, with the massive support that we got from the donors our clients left with smiles on their faces. From my point of view there were lots of clothes that they could pick from I picked a few myself. I was intrigued on how much awareness we raised within the community, it was so effective that after that day everyone wanted to get more involved with what we are trying to achieve; which moves us a step is closer to achieving our purpose.

We received a lot of things, different sized clothes for men, women, kids and babies. Bedding, shoes etc., things that people would need and can use in their everyday lives.

Despite the fact that it was a long tiring day; everyone looked happy, especially our volunteers.

They were amazing.

I believe that that day was more than a clothing give away, I think that it was a day we got together as a community that wanted to know each other, and offer help to their neighbours. That day brought people of different cultures, races and ethnicities together. I think that people developed a new mind-set of what a clothing give away was about.

It’s about unity, caring and helping those around you that need it. That way no one is left out.

  • Ringcross Community Centre is open all week. Find it at 60 Lough Road, N7 8FE. The food bank is for all. It’s open from 12 noon – 4pm daily and a place to get fresh fruit and veg as well as bread.
  • https://www.awtf.org
  • http://www.piliontrust.info

Meet the Engage London team: Rahim & Rihana

Rahim Amin and Rihana Senay both know Islington well as they have made the Pilion Trust’s Crashpad their temporary home when they needed somewhere to live. Here they introduce themselves to the #HearMeSpeak project by talking about their teenage years and current ambitions. Interviews by Diana Serenli and Matt Hardy

Rahim Amin from Engage London. (c) Engage London/DS

>RAHIM AMIN, 18 interview by Diana Serenli

Q: Where are you from?
I am from Sudan.

Q: Why did you come to London?
I am a refugee, from the war in Sudan.

Q: Tell me more about that. How did you get to London?
 My uncle organised my trip here. From Libya, I took a boat to Italy, where I stayed for a while. After I had to take a train to the airport where I then took a plane to Heathrow.

Q: How long was the whole process?
Two months.

Q: Where do you live?
Right now, I live with my friend. I used to live at the homeless shelter Crashpad during the winter. During warm weather I would sleep in the park for five maybe four nights but then I always go back to a shelter.  Crashpad, were the ones who helped me find a place with my friend.

  • Stop press! Rahim has just been given a place of his own to live.

Q: How long have you been a refugee in London?
Two years.

Q: What is your dream?
My dream is to get a place and to bring my family here. Also, I want to study mechanics.

Q: Do you make any contact with your family?
Yes, I have a mobile phone that I brought myself.

Q: Do you study now?
Yes. Right now, I am studying English in College.

  • Stop press 2! Rahim is due to join us at the summer school in Brussels.

Q: Have you got a job?
No not yet, but Job Centre is helping me find a job.

Q: How do you get money?
When I arrived, I was given a bank account, and it helps me a lot to buy food.

Q: Do you like London?
Yes. It’s safer than Sudan. People in London are nice, and it is a country full of experiences.

Q: Where in London do you like the best?
Camden and King’s Cross.

>>RIHANA SENAY, 21 interview by Matt Hardy
Q: So, growing up, what was it like?
I grew up in Kirkos in Ethiopia, it’s the most central area of the country. The crime was high and it was mostly a bad place for kids to grow up. Apparently, there were lots of prostitutes but I didn’t see much of that.

Q: What was Kirkos to you?
It was beautiful to me, lots of mixed lifestyles and everyone grew up together. We were all family; the social life was the best – everyone was your parents. I love it and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Q: How did you end up in Islington and what’s it like?
I was in Ethiopia until I was 12, my mum was in the USA and my dad was already in London. I lived with my grandmother and I moved with my sister for a better life. London’s culture is the same as Ethiopia’s, there are loads of religions and lifestyles but people see your background more here. What tribe are you from? Which community are you from? People point out differences here.

Q: So, what is Crashpad and how did you get there?
Crashpad is like my second home, I’ve been in and out for three years. I was homeless before going to New Horizon and then Crashpad. I then went to a hostel which was eventually shut down – it was violent and it closed because a lack of funding – and I was homeless again. I then spent a year in Crashpad before going to a hostel. It was £285 per week and I was homeless again because I couldn’t afford it. I went to Crashpad for a third time and now I’m in shared accommodation. Crashpad is home, at Crashpad the past is the past and everyone comes together with respect.

Q: What next?
I would like to go back to Ethiopia, but not without the money. I would want to make a difference once I graduate from University. I’m planning to build a shelter or day centre. Its Pillion trust and Crashpad – Ethiopia style!

Q: Would you relive your life experience again?
Yes! It’s been the greatest experience, it’s taught me a lot and it’s taught me that blood isn’t everything. I’ve learnt who to rely on and who to trust. But I would choose to do it all again in a heartbeat.

  • Interviewer Matt Hardy’s twitter is @thepoliticosu
  • Follow his personal twitter on @matthardyjourno

 

A quick tour of Islington, London

Angel – the nearest tube stop to City University in Islington – features in a famous British board game, Monopoly. What else would you like to know about our corner of London?

Film maker Alfred Hitchcock (the master of suspense) had a movie studio in Islington, London where he shot scenes for thriller classics such as The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. His old work space, the Gainsborough Studios, is now gated housing. (c) Engage London

Islington is one of London’s 32 boroughs. It’s not on the tourist map although it is a short journey (on the number 4 bus) to the City (London’s financial district). Even so, Islington is well known across the world because so many journalists and Prime Ministers have lived here, such as Tony Blair.

Right now it’s the home to the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, MP. Jeremy Corbyn has represented Islington North since 1983. Boris Johnson, who was Mayor of London from 2008-2016) lives locally too.

You might have seen what Islington looks like in films, because its elegant Georgian and Victorian buildings – much loved by people working in the media – always seem to be used as movie backdrops. Famous films include The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939), Four Weddings & a Funeral (1994), Fever Pitch (1997),  Happy Go Lucky (2008) and Suffragette (2015).

Use your phone wisely say the posters at Angel, one of Islington’s 10 tube stations (c) Engage London

It’s also well-known for being a place where thieves on scooters are expert at stealing your phone.

Right move states that in 2017 the average Islington property price was £776,813. A house now sells for more than £1 million. (c) Engage London

Islington is unusual. It has around 200,000 people living here. Some are well-off residents, who live in super expensive homes, and may also play a big part in media life. Around 18,300 people are on the council’s waiting list for a home and more than 700 are in temporary accommodation (source).

The old postal sorting office at Mount Pleasant in Islington, not far from City University, is currently being turned into high-value housing with few affordable homes in the development. (c) Engage London

A borough of two halves
Even if some Islington people are known for being well known, many more people in Islington are finding life a real struggle. Islington is:

  • The 14th most deprived borough in England
  • It has the second highest rate of child poverty, effecting almost half of its young people (source)
  • In September 2017 Islington was declared to be the worst place in Britain to be a woman (and especially hard for young women) by BBC Radio 4. (source) One of the biggest problems is the amount it costs to buy or even rent a place of your own.

So now you know a bit more about Islington – home of Engage London participants. If you have any questions, just let us know…

Resources

  • Like Instagram? You can see more pix of Islington taken by City University students @stjohnstreetnews
  • Visit Islington Faces to read interviews with people who live or work in Islington.