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Inside Thames Life: Miruna’s work experience

My name is Miruna, and I am a Year 10 student that obtained the delightful opportunity to complete my compulsory work experience spanning over a week with Thames Life.

I would define Thames Life as a charity that prioritises the community; from arranging various community events, to publishing articles by and for the residents of Barking Riverside, and many more projects. This charity strives to bring locals together to widen their connections with their neighbours and to, simultaneously, work towards an improved experience of their local community.

MONDAY:

My first day at Thames Life began with an introduction to the majority of the team, specifically Zainab (Communication and Outreach Officer), Lucy (Health Outreach Officer), and Jamie (Deputy CEO). I discovered various intriguing facts about their roles. Following meeting some team members, I had an opportunity to get an insight into the process behind “The River View” community newspaper, and what stages it goes through before ending up at my, and 6,000 other homes, in Barking Riversidem, Thames View and Scrattons Farm. Learning about the process of managing the newspaper helped me realise and get a grasp of the importance of partner relationships in, not just Thames Life, but rather in any workplace.

To finish the day off, Vish (the new Young Action Group leader) and I collaborated on planning the YAG session for the day; I was encouraged to contribute my ideas to build up the session, and later even to lead a portion of it by myself. From this experience, where my perspectives and opinions were taken into consideration and where I was challenged to be more independent, it was made clear to me that Thames Life is, in fact, a charity that is generally committed to collaborating with the youth; it is not just an unsupported claim made to gain them good publicity, it is a responsibility all the team members evidently hold to a high standard.

TUESDAY:

A highlight of my day was attending the Resident Planning Forum at 6pm, which is an event where locals can meet together to discuss issues in the borough, and formulate plans and contribute ideas to fix them.

This week specifically, attendees were enlightened about the lengthy history Barking & Dagenham holds as a borough, and how the place has many historical ties to various historical figures. Coming together with other residents, as a resident myself, it was really reassuring to see others sharing my frustration and the same will to make a change.

WEDNESDAY:

I got the opportunity to formally meet Matt, the CEO of Thames Life, who gave me an insight into what the charity strives to do and the impact they wish to have on the community. Matt introduced me to the concept of “people power”, a term used to describe when people in a community come together and join forces to work together and take control of situations in their area, at times becoming more powerful than organisations. This is relevant to this borough as, with the numerous amounts of new homes being constructed in Barking Riverside, and the disappointing lack of community spaces, Thames Life aim to bring residents together to combat these social issues with their various community events, which help people meet each other and are a productive way for residents to voice their concerns about their area and formulate solutions. Thames Life acknowledges there is a lack of people power in Barking & Dagenham, hence why they constantly work towards giving the community a voice against bigger organisations.

I also joined the Green-Up Group along with Vish for their weekly session, where we did litter picking in Thames View for approximately two hours, followed by an artist-lead art therapy session for the remaining hour, a relaxing addition to end the session.

THURSDAY:

Thursday marked the day of the highly anticipated, grand event, the “Free African and Caribbean Health and Wellbeing Event” led by Lucy.

With the packed schedule and short amount of time we had to get everything set up, I recognised the distinction of time management and adequate event planning to make preparing events more straightforward and less stressful.

At 2pm, the event commenced, with many organisations joining to provide various services, such as The Source offering food, Project Embrace offering hair care advice for afro hair, and local GP Dr John offering healthcare advice and free check-ups. The energy in the venue at the Barking Learning Centre was extremely pleasant, with hundreds of people in attendance, enjoying the various stalls, and meeting new people. The feedback for the event was overwhelmingly positive, with many stating in feedback forums how informative the session was, (specifically due to the GPs on site) how much time was cut off to see a GP, and how the atmosphere with music and food really completed the event.

FRIDAY:

Ade and I made our way to Barking Riverside, where we had a walk with Matt and two London Met students scheduled in the area. Through our walk, we encountered and passed through many areas facing rapid development and gentrification.

We had a really thoughtful discussion about the community and the development of Barking Riverside was had, we came to the conclusion that the construction plan is quite flawed due to the lack of emphasis on providing residents outlets for self-expression and safe spaces. Ultimately, with a rising population, but a lack of community spaces for people to come together, it could only cause more harm than good: for example, there could be an increased crime rate and more gang activity, as young people will have nowhere to discuss their issues, and therefore result to crime to express their frustrations. We saw a community space in our local area, Everyone’s Warehouse, which provided a multitude of tools for self-expression, including a designated clothing design space, a podcast room, a communal kitchen, and so much more. Unfortunately, as many may know, the Warehouse was taken away from the community, disregarding the £9 million investment to get the place up and running, and the outrage and protests the residents had when it was announced the Warehouse was being shut down. As someone who used to use the Warehouse prior to its closure, I remember how upsetting the whole debacle was, as I myself witnessed how that place brought people together, how it made many feel safe and comfortable, and how it is now going to be replaced for even more housing.  

This educational conversation we had with the London Met students was very informative, and a lovely last activity to finish off my placement.

I would especially like to thank Thames Life, for giving me this special opportunity to have my placement at their charity: in the span of just one week, I had learnt so much and faced so many new experiences. Working at Thames Life was a pleasant break from my ordinary school routine, just as much as it was work experience; working with the community and helping the community was very enjoyable overall. I am beyond grateful to all the team, for supervising me and guiding me throughout my journey at their charity.

-Miruna S

Deputy CEO blog: Time for a change

After spending the past 6+ years with Thames Life I am moving on to exciting new opportunities at the end of March. I’ve helped develop the organisation from its humble beginnings as ‘Thames Ward Community Project’ to its position as an influential Community Development Trust, helping to support residents and local groups do some amazing work over the years, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I have gained along the way.

Looking back there are several aspects of my work with Thames Life that I am particularly proud of:

  • Establishing the Young Citizen Action Group (YCAG) at Riverside School who have won countless campaigns and awards for their work improving their local community (more EL1 buses to help with congestion, more bins near their school and securing keys to Barking Food Forest, to name a few).
  • Activating Barking Food Forest, offering the community the space and opportunity to come together with each other and get involved with nature and food growing.
  • Supporting residents to run The RiverView newspaper in partnership with Barking Riverside Limited, helping residents connect and share information, experiences and stories and remain informed of events and developments locally.
  • Playing a leading role in sport for development work in the borough via the Barking Sports 4 Change (BS4C) coalition, working with other amazing local organisations to improve the health and physical activity of residents.
  • Empowering grassroots organisations and residents with projects to help their community thrive following Thames Life’s ethos that meaningful and sustainable change must be led by residents.

It is important to me to leave the community in a better place than I found it, and I believe the examples above highlight how I have done just that. It has been wonderful to meet and work with so many different local people (including Thames Life staff and trustees), each with their own talents and passions, diverse in so many ways and yet united by their desire to help improve their community. Something special is taking place in Thames View and Barking Riverside beyond the colossal housing development taking place and it is inspiring to see the journey residents and community groups are on.

Jamie Kesten

Deputy CEO

Comms Blog: Back from Mat Leave

Hello everyone, Zainab here, back from maternity leave! It’s been an incredible year, bringing new life into the world, and watching the growth of my family-led small business, Wander Wild Forest School. I’ve had a fun and often stressful time learning what it means to have a newborn and toddler, and the basics of running a small business including the fun that is account management. It’s been an intense learning experience but also rewarding for not only my personal life but my career trajectory too. As I reflect, the following points really rung true:

 

Conversations can grow into real impact.

Wander Wild Forest School started as an idea over dinner with my husband. Fast forward, being awarded a grant of £1,000 from the Barking Riverside Limited (BRL) Community Fund in March 2023, and then £10,000 from London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD)’s Neighbourhood Fund (NCIL) in August 2023, we’ve been able to gather over 500 families and get them excited about being outdoors! Our sessions have included outdoor cooking, bug hunting, whittling, planting, sawing and more. We also end with a time of singing or our special mini kamishibai theatre! The families absolutely love the time we spend together!

 

Community work is all about relationships.

 2023 was filled with beautiful moments meeting people in the community and some really hard moments. The main thing I learned in both scenarios is to recognise everyone’s humanity. It’s so easy in community work to think outcomes first but it’s important to pursue sincere connections as they go a longer way to making lasting change. Real connections have continued to open doors and I’m grateful to all the people who have been a helping hand.

 

Comms is all about nailing your story.

 If there’s one thing, I would love to master this year it’s nailing the art of storytelling! If you’re reading this blog, you are already connected to Thames Life in some way. You hopefully know that we’re all about building people power and not in an arbitrary way, but we’ve heard people talk about what’s important to them; access to health care, warm and cosy spaces and we think their voices should shape where they live. Period. Hopefully, I can tell our story better, so we get the recognition that changes things.

Inside Thames Life: My Placement

Hello, my name is Adebimpe Rosiji, and I am a final-year student at London Metropolitan University, studying BSc Leadership in Communities. In the beginning, I was very skeptical about this course. I thought it would not benefit me; however, it turns out that this course has a wide range of skills and practices that are crucial in my everyday life. I would have never thought I would adapt my management and leadership skills. Not only that, but this course gives an understanding of making a betterment within your community. I think I made the right decision to pick Leadership in Communities because it empowers individuals to actively shape and improve their local environments. It fosters collaboration, inclusivity, and sustainable solutions, addressing diverse needs within a community. I never took an interest in what was happening within my community, but taking this course has given me the motivation to take an interest in my community and research anything that needs improving. 

When I found Thames Life, I was amazed by how the organization supported the community and residents of Thames View and Barking Riverside. Although I am not a local resident, it is still part of my borough, and I was so fascinated by how their system works, literally amplifying the voice of the people. I decided to take on a placement at Thames Life because I knew this would enhance my knowledge and understanding of community development. I would love to encourage other interested students in community development to come to Thames Life and learn about the impact it can have. It’s a great way to improve the community and also unlock new skills every day and learn something new.

Deputy CEO Blog: An Update On The Barking Food Forest

Back in March of this year, I wrote a blog about the Barking Food Forest (BFF) in which I looked back on my time spent on the project since its inception at the end of 2019 and forward to the plans for the development and activation of the space. Since that time significant progress has been made, which I’m excited to share. 

Firstly, in July our friends at Wander Wild Forest School were successful in a bid to the LBBD NCIL fund for £10,000. This funding has enabled them to help further activate Barking Food Forest by engaging local children aged 5 and under and their families in a year of Saturday morning sessions learning about the different seasons, local animals and plants. As part of these sessions they participate in a range of activities including whittling, outdoor cooking, tent building, bug hunting, mud kitchen, wild play, nature art and circle time theatre and songs! We’re so pleased for them and have already seen the incredible benefit to local children and families of the work they are doing each week. 

Secondly, in August the Green Team from Groundwork London returned (following their earlier work building planters and tree boxes) to help residents install a central pathway through the site, making it more accessible for all and setting the stage for further development plans to be enacted. It was great to have members of the community come along and join the team in digging, laying gravel and topping it off with wood chip donated by local tree surgeon, Kings Cuts Tree Services. 

Thirdly, following the unfortunate closure of the Every One Every Day Warehouse on Thames Road, Thames Life were extremely fortunate to receive a significant number of trees and other gardening equipment on behalf of Barking Food Forest and the local community. In total we received 22 trees and 13 shrubs along with a water tank and irrigation system to keep them going in the dryer months. We also received picnic tables, scaffolding tables and even an outdoor table tennis table to make the space more welcoming and practical for workshops and events as well as a 10-bike cycle rack to make it easier for residents to travel actively to the site. Finally, we received a significant number of tools and equipment to assist in the maintenance of the space including a hedge trimmer, manual lawnmower, petrol strimmer, wheelbarrows, a shed, bins for compost and waste and a significant number of trowels, shovels and gloves. Our heartfelt thanks go to Every One Every Day and the panel who approved our bid and to Barking Riverside Ltd and their contractor JCS Poster Site Construction for helping us transport all the donated items to their new home. With all the trees now in place the plans for an urban food forest in the heart of Barking Riverside are really starting to take shape! 

We are currently finalising our planning application for the site which we hope to submit before Christmas. This will include a proposal for a facilities structure capable of harvesting rainwater and solar energy and including secure tool storage, accessible toilet and baby change facilities, workshop spaces, a polytunnel for year-round growing and a pavilion for socialising and performances. 

By Jamie Kesten

Deputy CEO

GP Drop-ins: That’s A Wrap…For Now! 

It has been fantastic working with Thames Life and collaboratively being able to come up with these pop up clinics over multiple locations between Thames View and Riverside and as a result we have been able to do something different and very new. Specifically having our fantastic community groups and community leaders as well as having statutory services from the local council, the North East London Foundation Trust, BHRUT (Barking, Havering, Redbridge University Trust) and their teams to create a one stop clinic. This has helped us to develop and understand the needs of the local residents but also, more importantly, develop a local team to support the local residents through the clinics. It has been helpful to develop this on a monthly basis as we now have such a good understanding of the community, which we would have never been able to get to before.

It also fosters a great relationship with all our community teams and services as we end up supporting residents in a collaborative way at the point of contact rather than waiting for further appointments for a review, which is fantastic. This ‘on the spot multi-disciplinary approach’ has really given our residents a lot of support and as a result we have been able to track their progress as they come to the clinics. 

I don’t believe we would have been able to achieve this without the intelligence and unique ability of Thames Life and certainly the organisation of the clinics have been down to Thames Life which received feedback from both local residents and community groups and has been able to create these clinics in such a way that works for not only the clinicians and services but also, most importantly, for our residents.

Overall my experience has been fantastic! We managed to create something very new and different that encompasses the acute medical needs as well as holistic needs of local people. This holistic approach has been great in supporting residents with their long-term needs and will be supported after the clinics. My staff and myself have found the clinics a very different way of doing things and found a lot of joy in working with the community and local residents through Thames Life. We’ve had a sense of fulfilment that we probably would have never had doing it in the traditional clinic setting.

I feel this approach has been revolutionary for Barking & Dagenham and Thames Life with the practice and our other partners. We have developed a model of care that many other parts of the borough want to recreate but also other boroughs across London and nationally who have felt our joint approach is a fantastic way to address the health inequalities in our system as well as making sure the ‘hard to reach’ in our communities are really supported in their care.

As a result, we have won the Collaborative Project Of The Year award from the Royal College Of General Practitioners North East London Faculty Recognition Awards. It is great to see that our hard work and real grassroots collaboration has been recognised and awarded.

Thank you to my staff at Aurora Medcare, our key partners and funders; Thames Life, LBBD & BRL, all the community groups and residents who have supported and attended the clinics. Without you, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we have! Watch this space for upcoming themed clinics.

By Dr. Jagan John

Local GP at Aurora Medcare

CEO Blog: It’s a Thames Life

Thames Life is a charity working across the borough, though our focus is mostly on Thames View and Barking Riverside – hence the name. We started as a new Lottery funded project in 2017 based in Riverside School before becoming an independent charity in 2020, with resident trustees as our bosses.   

Thames View and Riverside can feel like a bit of an island. If you’ve ever experienced the congestion of the A13 you’ll know exactly why. Our charitable purpose is about ensuring there are public benefits to urban regeneration and nowhere has more need of it than Thames View and Barking Riverside. It is both the site of major housing development, with the population set to quadruple in the space of a few years and some of the highest rates of deprivation in London and the country.   

Our approach is simple – we believe in resident-led change. Regeneration will only work when residents lead it. Lead not follow. Talking to residents many believe they can’t change anything, that the council and developers will do what they want regardless. There’s no denying that there’s a lot of hype and a corresponding sense of fatalism and frustration. But there has to be something more to life than that – there’s a magic when residents and local groups take control and when partnership becomes real. 

When we first started we formed a Young Citizens Action Group, where pupils of Riverside School persuaded Transport for London to invest £1,000,000 into local buses. The same young people won the keys for a community garden (Barking Food Forest) having successfully negotiated with Barking Riverside Ltd, our partner, to hand over keys to the site, where local people can now grow their own food and help with the cultivation and upkeep of the site.   

More recently we’ve been working closely with the NHS delivering GP pop-ups in local community spaces ensuring residents can see a doctor whilst also engaging with a range of community services and activities. Waiting times being what they are this has been very popular. We’ve done similar events out of Barking Learning Centre for homeless residents.   

Our community and green spaces are under pressure and never more needed than coming out of a pandemic and cost of living crisis. We have been campaigning for the reopening of the Ripple Nature Reserve, closed since 2018 and much loved by residents. Likewise threatened loss of the maker space known as the warehouse on 47 Thames Road has galvanised action by local people and funders, asking the council to reconsider their commercial and community priorities. If we don’t have places to meet and be together the regeneration will make people more isolated, so we want free maker and community spaces as a basic right.    

We do a lot of sports activities, training, workshops, forums, social events that are open to all – see our website and our free newspaper – the RiverView. We’d love to hear from you if you have any ideas for projects and priorities or time to give. 

Deputy CEO Blog: What is community work and why is it important?

Working for a Community Development Trust like Thames Life it is important that my colleagues and I are clear on what community work is and why it is important. Indeed, to be as effective and impactful as we can be it is necessary for all those in the area we work to be clear on this too – residents, community groups, health partners, council and developer alike! It feels like there is still plenty of work to be done to reach a point where all involved appreciate what community work is, who is best placed to do it, and why it is crucial to a healthy and sustainable community. 

As a team we were reminded of this in a recent task we all were set internally to answer these questions for ourselves and then share with the team. Interestingly many of us in the team do not come from a purely community work background and so we bring lots of different approaches and viewpoints to the table.  

For me community work is about supporting residents and community groups by:  

  • Meeting, listening and forming trusting relationships over an extended period; 
  • Creating opportunities for them to come together with each other, develop relationships, support each other, learn new skills and explore new ideas and projects; 
  • Shifting attitudes to and aspirations around power among residents, the voluntary and community sector and wider partners (like health partners, council and developer) to a point where all recognise the power that the community possesses, and support residents and community groups to play a leading role in shaping their neighbourhood and the decisions made about it. 

I first joined Thames Life as a Community Organiser back in 2017 when we first launched as Thames Ward Community Project, operating out of Riverside School as our host organisation. I had spent some time before this volunteering at another community development trust in North London (shout out to The Selby Trust) where I had worked closely with staff there and gained some basic community organiser training (and later went on to gain further community organising qualifications from another Community Development Trust in South London – shout out High Trees). However, I felt I had limited experience in community work coming into the role outside of my 10+ years coaching basketball in my hometown of Milton Keynes. Up until that time I had been in academia both as a student and a postdoctoral researcher studying urban diversity. I enjoyed my time in research but for a long time had a nagging feeling that it just wasn’t quite the right fit for me for two main reasons.  

Firstly, I began to feel like research was always starting in the wrong place. I was always researching either what I (or more often a more senior researcher) wanted to research and when I would be out meeting people in the community, getting to know them, conducting participant observation, interviews or focus groups I would realise that what I was asking about was not necessarily the most pressing or important issue for those I was speaking to.  

Secondly, I felt like research always ended in the wrong place. By this I mean that the outputs or results of my work were often destined for reports, journal articles or books which the people I had spoken to would never read and would ultimately leave me feeling a lack of real connection to or impact on the lives of the people I had met and come to care about. I wasn’t as motivated as others by the desire to get my work published because it didn’t feel like a substantive end goal for me.  

In shifting away from academia I wanted to find a way to feel like I was making more of a difference (cliche I know) and community work, specifically community organising, spoke to me at that moment. I had enjoyed meeting residents, young people, community groups and social businesses as part of my research and it was at this more local level that I felt I could make more of a positive impact and gain more job satisfaction. By its nature community organising starts in the right place for me because it begins with listening to the community and understanding what they care about, why they care about it and what change they want to see. Having established that understanding of ‘the world as it should be’ in the minds of local people and groups it is all about helping them to achieve that change by building capacity and relationships. In my experience local people and community groups are best placed to identify the priorities for their neighbourhoods and often best placed to identify and deliver the solutions too, or at least can add significant value when supported to work in meaningful partnership with wider stakeholders. 

In short, the future I am working towards for residents and community groups locally is one where they all recognise themselves, and are recognised by other decision-makers locally, as leaders with the potential to positively shape the future of their community. That feels important to me and it is what drives me to do the work that I do. 

Jamie Kesten

Deputy CEO

CEO Blog: JFDI – just do it. 

“Start doing the things you think should be done. 

Start being what you think society should become. 

Do you believe in free speech? Then speak freely. 

Do you believe in the truth? Then tell it. 

Do you believe in an open society? 

Then act in the open. 

Do you then believe in a decent and humane society? 

Then behave decently and humanely.

 

Adam Michnik, Polish historian, affiliated with the Solidarność Movement 

 

Simples, as the meerkat on the tele says. A friend of mine who was a teacher and then trained to be a vicar told me, over a pint, that human beings have eye disease. That we don’t see each other right, because if we did there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding. We’d have appreciation, awareness and our full attention on the miracle in front of us. We’d have trust, connection and belonging. I keep forgetting that I’ve forgotten that most times. It was over a pint after all, and pub talk is unreliable; we are all unreliable narrators of our own stories. 

On Friday afternoons I teach at London Metropolitan University to first-year students on the principles and practice of community work. I find it useful to have a side hustle because over the years I’ve been through enough redundancies, precautionary notices of redundancy and people trying to get me fired.  I love community work and I love teaching, so it is all good. 

Friday afternoons my students tell me how pessimistic they are about the future. I worked it out a long time ago that the trick was for me to do less talking and ask them the questions and get them to do the talking instead. They tell me things are getting worse. They ask me if I think community work changes anything. They ask me what I’ve got to say about that. I don’t rush to give an answer…   

When people believe they have nothing and are losing whatever hope they may have had, this is a very creative moment. How many times have I spoken to people in Thames View and Riverside who have told me it is a waste of time, there is nothing to be done, they won’t listen, they never do, they are just in it for themselves and so on? To agree would be another nail in the coffin. I don’t agree. I don’t rush to give an answer…. 

I like it when a conversation deepens. We change the world one conversation at a time. By unmasking reality. Asking questions. Why this? Why that? What happens if we do this? Speaking a true word. Generating new possibilities. I say this to say, action is always done based on prior reflection. We can’t not be in relationship with each other and with our world. We can’t not reflect on what is going on inside us and around us. What we believe and perceive becomes our reality and our destiny. How we see things becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – hence the comment about eye disease and not seeing each other right I guess. 

Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was assassinated for saying this sort of thing. He believed in accompaniment and spoke out against injustice. Accompaniment is journeying with people, not trying to fix them. It is about leadership from the bottom up. If we walk with each other rather than run on ahead, that dismantles oppression.   

Darren McGarvey, the Scottish rapper and author, has asked the question, ‘if all the best people are in all the top jobs why is Britain such a f****** bin fire?’ His answer is because of an empathy gap – what he calls the social distance between us, referring to both the pandemic and classism. We don’t walk alongside each other, we don’t share our lives, we don’t listen with all of our senses.      

I don’t want to tell anyone they are wrong for feeling what they are feeling. And I also don’t want to empower negativity in any of its many forms. I know, as surely we all must, that nothing comes from nothing. That if you don’t act you will be acted upon. It is very human to emote and be drawn to bouts of optimism or pessimism. Listen to enough daily news and it is hard not to be triggered by trama, the drama of trauma. But I think optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin – they are in a co-dependent relationship. How about some pragmatism – do what is in front of you. Just be it and do it. And if you fall short, then we are all in good company, that is no failure. Respect to Adam Michnik, whose words I started with.   

 

Matt Scott

CEO

Deputy CEO Blog: Reflecting On The New Free GP Drop-In Clinics

On the 12th May I had the pleasure of supporting the first of a series of Free GP Drop-In Clinics taking place across the coming six months and the experience really stuck with me. I’ve worked in the area since 2017 and pretty much since then have been aware of how much of a struggle it is for residents to get to see their local GP. I knew the basics, lots of new homes being built, a new health centre on the way, but in the mean-time long waits for residents in an area with particularly acute health needs in many cases. I also knew from the early days of working in the area how easily the connection between the housing growth and the already stretched health care facilities could lead to divisive sentiment between long-established and new residents.  

When we were first established as Thames Ward Community Project a big part of our mandate was to ensure that the community didn’t become (or remain, depending on your perspective) divided, rather that residents of all parts of what was at that time Thames ward, would interact positively with each other as part of one community with equally positive life chances. The challenges residents were facing then, and are still facing now, in seeing their GP were not the fault of the new residents moving into the area as it grew, any more than it was the fault of the residents who’d lived in the area all their lives. In fact, the difficulty in seeing the local GP was (and still is) experienced by all residents in the same way. I’d been in a few meetings with representatives of the local council, developer and health partners and seen a genuine desire to find a resolution, or at least some sort of remedy, from all parties but until recently none had seemed to make much of a dent in the issue. 

I came into the loop relatively late on this new initiative in partnership with the council and the local health centre (with funding provided by Barking Riverside Limited) as the work of Thames Life has been via our Health Outreach Officer Lucy Lee and CEO Matt Scott. But, what I wanted to do here was focus on my reflections from the first drop-in on the 12th May and what future Drop-In’s could mean for residents and Thames Life as an organisation.   

Due to covid it’s been quite a while since Thames Life (and I) have been involved in a large community event like the one that took place on 12th May. It was great to be in-person, meeting so many residents – in many cases new residents I’d never met before – and knowing that the event I was involved with was making a real difference to their lives in a very immediate and real way. I witnessed a real-time change from so many of the residents I met from feelings I interpreted as uncertainty, scepticism and distrust when they arrived, turn into relief, reassurance and gratitude. We heard from residents who said it had been years since they had seen their doctor, from those who had been putting things off for a while because they knew how difficult it could be to get an appointment, and from those who were raving about the positive experiences they’d had with some of the extended services present on the day, such as the hand and shoulder massage, talking therapies, blood pressure checks and cost of living advice. We heard lots of praise of the experience of being able to see a doctor within 20 mins or so without an appointment, where they would otherwise have had to wait months. We also noted lots of compliments on the overall vibe of the event feeling very different to a typical visit to the GP, with lots of community groups present to speak to those who could benefit from their services e.g. local faith groups, parent and youth groups, arts, health, wellbeing and bereavement groups too.  

All in all, it was amazing to play a small part in making the day a success and see the positive impact it had on so many residents. Knowing that I’m part of one of the organisations which made this initiative possible fills me with an enormous sense of pride and a significant amount of the recognition and respect for the results so far (and to come) go to our fabulous Health Outreach Officer (and local resident) Lucy Lee for making so much of this possible and ensuring each event runs smoothly. 

The next FREE Drop-In Clinic is happening monthly on Friday 9th June, and monthly thereafter on Friday 14th July, Friday 11th August, Friday 8th September and Friday 13th October. We have been out as a team leafletting at the local schools and left information at all local community venues and will do so just before each of the next clinics to ensure that residents know when the next one is.  

We encourage anyone interested to come along and see for themselves! 

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