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Celebrating Women’s Achievements at BD Women’s Empowerment Awards

On 25th March, Barking and Dagenham Council hosted its ninth Women’s Empowerment Awards ceremony, showcasing and celebrating the exceptional achievements of women and girls across the borough.

Congratulations to all the winners and our very own Lucy Lee, who was the runner-up of the “Health and Well-being Champion of the Year” award for her work improving access to medical care through GP drop-in clinics.

Lucy shared, “It was an emotional evening, full of women who had achieved success after overcoming great adversity.”

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! 

Wellbeing Navigators Comes to an End

As this chapter of working in Thames View and Barking Riverside closes and another begins I’ve been reflecting on our pilot, Wellbeing Navigators. The standout thing for me has been the relationships formed between all our participants and clients. There are so many different activities, groups and projects going on around here that once you open your eyes to them you start to see a different landscape: a network of residents striving to make their neighbourhood more connected, fun and greener. I have seen former wellbeing navigator volunteers and clients go on to work on the Henry programme, start cooking classes at the Participatory City Warehouse or leading campaigns to open up our local nature reserve. One thing leads to another as they say. 

During our pilot we have helped people retrain – learning skills in motivational interviewing, mental health awareness and social prescribing and to seek new opportunities for employment – coming out of the pandemic. It’s been heartening to have applicants call me to say that having been helped out of rough patches themselves they just want to give something back to their community having been locked away for 18 months of lockdown. This eagerness has allowed us to reconnect many isolated residents back with their community, get active and feeling healthier again. Just a few warm conversations can ignite a life changing transformation. One resident we were chatting to was unaware that our Barking Food Forest was literally on his doorstep, now he’s helping to run it! 

Over the course of walking groups, workshops, community events and 1-2-1s I have seen neighbours who have never met before, meet for the first time and form strong bonds of solidarity as they discuss the common challenges of bills, health, homes and overcoming loneliness in a busy city. It’s quite surprising sometimes how easily friendships can form. Despite the fact many of us spend most of our time looking at screens surrounded by four walls, once we are out and about talking to people we really are all the same: looking for a sense of connection and belonging within our community. 

Alex Anthony

Wellbeing Navigator Volunteer Coordinator

Inside TWCP: Improving Inclusion, Prevention, and Making Change – Almu Segura

I have always, one way or another been involved with working with people. Whether it was through my degree – doing performing arts, theatre in the community or with art organisations. I have worked in residential homes with people with dementia and schools to bring them together, as a teaching assistant with autistic kids, volunteering in City Farms. I have always wanted to work with people, to help them play, laugh, have fun and to have better wellbeing.

I am a local resident and founder of Nice Bunch CIC, a new community interest company that focuses on intergenerational projects to improve the wellbeing of local residents. Through working with residents and local parents, I came across the work TWCP had been doing. I often engaged with them by seeking advice for my social business and attended some of their other events. Most recently, I received a call to be the Lead on their new health outreach programme funded by OHID. I said yes! It is a great opportunity to work with my neighbours and their families. To make a better place for my little one and the little ones around me and the community, in general.

The Healthy Living Club is an inclusive 8-week exercise and nutrition programme for residents in Thames View and Barking Riverside. Primarily focussed on supporting five to twelve-year-olds, the programme is structured to work with the whole family supporting participants to live healthier lifestyles with the support of familiar local community groups delivering the activities and health practitioners.

I would describe the work I currently do as a journey where we are trying to bring funders, the community and the tools that we have; knowledge and expertise, together, to be able to create a healthier community. To improve inclusion, prevention and to even start changing policies.

My vision for Thames View and Barking Riverside is for the area to be a model for change that other cities/boroughs can copy. To show that active listening in the community can bring residents what they really need and can change policy. If we work together, we can create longstanding change. On a smaller scale, I believe in just doing small acts of kindness. Even if it’s just saying good morning to a stranger in the bus stop, even if you make a person smile for a small moment, this simple act can have ripple effects that can help creating a welcoming and nurturing community.

Almu Segura

Inside TWCP – A Flourishing Community – Lai Ogunsola

In 2018, my brother introduced me to Matt Scott, Director of Thames Ward Community Project, TWCP at an informal event in Barking. 
To provide some context. I had moved back to London from Birmingham earlier that year. I previously worked in the Public Health Directorate at Birmingham City Council as a Commissioning Support Officer, prior to my role at the Greater London Authority.
While working in Birmingham, I developed an active interest in community development and regeneration and was keen to learn more about possible developments in Barking. I had seen first-hand the positive impact that community development could have in communities from my involvement in the voluntary sector via Sustrans and other community groups in Digbeth, and Edgbaston. I had discovered Impact Hub Birmingham, which was a social co–working space that empowered residents to make a difference in the city. I was keen to see a similar approach adopted in Barking.
After speaking to Matt and Jamie Kesten, I learned more about the ambitions and ethos of TWCP. The project really resonated with me. I was glad to see a desire to engage constructively with the council and the developers, Barking Riverside London to improve outcomes for residents.
I decided to get more involved as I felt the project was a perfect match for my professional skills and interests. More importantly, I felt that my 20 years of lived experience as a resident in Thames view would allow me to provide insight, historical context, a genuine resident voice and practical suggestions for future work.  
My vision for Thames view and Barking Riverside is that of a flourishing community, with improved health outcomes and education/employment for residents.  
Historically, relatively high rates of unemployment, poor mental health, obesity, anti-social behavioural and a range of other health and social maladies have been an issue in our community. 
I have been exceptionally impressed with our joint work with Barking Council, and the local Clinical Commissioning Group, as well as our collective engagement with a wide range of partners, including the British Red Cross, University College London, The Bromley By Bow Centre, East London Citizen’s UK amongst others to address health inequity in the local area. 
Lai Ogunsola

Member of the TWCP Health & Wellbeing Citizen Action Group

A Part of Something Special

Last week we had the Healthy Thames Workshop, and it was our last one hosted by our Health Outreach Officer Rahela Begum. The evening included guest speakers sharing on resident voice in the borough, and on how community groups and health services can work together. Residents and health professionals also took part in an activity to create an advocacy plan. The evening ended with conversation and appetizing asian-inspired catering.

Rahela reflects on her year with us:

How long is a year? How do you measure that length of time…by events, your feelings, people lost or new friends made, big moments or all the small mundane things? A lot has happened in the past 2 years which has given us a new understanding of how long a year can be and what can be done in that time, and also, how long a year feels when you can’t do very much!

Let me tell you a little about the year I’ve had. Joining TWCP felt like a bold move, not only because of the big reputation of the small resident driven CDT, but also because I knew I was potentially only joining for a year. It was a scary step for me to take, and I’m no risk taker, I was banking on TWCP that hard. Even in a pandemic, I was making a big, risky move, but I was excited! This felt like a real chance to not only work with the community, and partners in health and statutory services, but even better, to bring them together. We’ve all been speaking different languages, trying to reach the same goal and this was a chance to break down some of those walls.

In a year of working with the incredibly passionate residents of Thames Ward, and the tenacious team at TWCP we achieved HUGE things. I got a glimpse of what the future will look like in this little corner of the borough. I could be sad about leaving a place where I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface…but then the work doesn’t end because of one person, so I leave happy in the knowledge I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of something really special.

Rahela Begum

Thames View Playing Fields receives goal posts and pitch lines

Thames View Playing Fields finally receives goal posts and pitch lines!

TWCP works alongside other community groups and its delivery partner Creative Wellness who were really keen to improve the surface of the site. After delivering successful girls football sessions via the Barking Sports For Change Coalition supported by Nike, the GLA and Laureus Sport, there were issues finding the group an appropriate, accessible and affordable space for this activity to continue to take place locally. Having run a number of successful sessions on the Thames View Playing Fields in the summer of 2021 the group needed to find a playing surface that was levelled, marked out with proper goals for their sessions to be able to continue.

TWCP began to explore the possibility of improving the surface of the Thames View Playing Fields to increase the organised sport that could take place there.

Previously exploring a number of different options which all seemed to present barriers that were impossible to overcome be it due to cost, availability or lack of clarity over who owned and operated the space and could give permission. We are happy that the site has now been made fit for community sport groups to use.


Wellbeing Navigators Receives £10K Funding

The Wellbeing Navigators Programme recently received £10k from LBBD’s connect fund to run events that combat social isolation in Thames Ward. Other groups given the funding include Company Drinks, Ultimate Counselling Services, Future Molds, Harmony House, and Rights Development Services. They will be using the fund to expand their existing services as well as putting on new exciting events: such as Company Drinks who will be creating a ‘queer (LGBTQ+) garden’, reminiscent garden (for the OAPs) and others. Harmony house will be using the funding to give their workers more quality time with each contact, getting them the person centred help they require. 

Wellbeing Navigators will be using the money to run new additional events that residents want: such as gardening, arts, sports and wellness groups. We chose these activities as a way to give residents a positive focus, to take our minds off our post lockdown worries and on to something positive and life affirming. To ground our thoughts back to our neighbourhood and the people in it – reconnecting us with our community. 

During these activities, residents will be able to chat to wellbeing navigators in a relaxed setting about further wellness options and services.

We are still offering residents an amazing free resident to resident, 1-2-1 support through warm conversations with motivational interviewing and signposting to other fun activities and helpful services.

For more information email

Joining up Wellbeing and Community Events

The pandemic has forced many of us to become isolated but as things have opened up the importance of meeting in-person has become even clearer and pertinent to our health and wellbeing.

The Wellbeing Navigator programme is a network of local volunteers based in the community who can help residents on their health and wellbeing journey. The volunteers support local residents through signposting and referrals to community activities and have recently partnered with community groups to engage residents.

The joint Wellbeing Navigators and Roding Rubbish litter picking event on January 30th 2022, was a great opportunity for local people to experience the health benefits of outdoor community work and socialising, tackling wellness in an exceedingly positive way. People met at the skatepark in Ripple Greenway. Steven Champion from Roding Rubbish made an announcement to sum up its purpose – that simply being outside and speaking to friendly people could be a simple cure for anxiety and low mood, reaffirming the need for us all to have a community group we belong to.  

As volunteers removed rubbish lodged in hedges with ‘grabbers’ next to others, they found themselves  socialising with each other. There were smiles all round. Local passers-by thanked volunteers for tidying up the neighbourhood as they were on their way to the shops or walking their dogs – leaving volunteers with a real sense of doing tangible good. The whole of Ripple Greenway was visibly cleaner after the session.

Thereafter, Steven and the Wellbeing Navigators led the group to Grounded Coffee at the Wilds. On the terrace, a community group true/false game was shared, and then a social prescribing mapping game to test peoples local geography of community groups and activities. People ended the afternoon discussing the variety of groups and activities in the local area, which was a successful outcome for the Navigators, leading more local people to groups that will benefit their health and wellbeing.

Local Residents receive Workshop on Sport for Development

Sport in the Community – was a recent workshop run by Jason Mckoy; Founder of Mercurial Sports; an organisation with a mission to improve the use and understanding of sport for educational and developmental purposes. He is a former footballer, UEFA Coach and sports writer with experience in Sport for development, including projects with the BBC and abroad.

The workshop was a collaboration with the Healthy Thames Project. The project runs a monthly forum giving local people a chance to speak on the topics that affect health services in the area. Community groups are also able to access long-term support to run socially prescribed programmes around Health and Wellbeing. Through the Healthy Thames events, it was learned that residents wanted training on how to set up a social sport business, which led to this workshop.

Residents got together over light refreshments, to learn about the benefits of sport and how to set up a business or charity that runs sport activities. Discussing the four main types of Sport for development programmes:

  • Engage/Diversionary – sport is used as an alternative to less unsavoury behaviour.
  • Engage to educate –  sport is used for engagement with a particular group or individual with the view of developing a rapport and understanding with individuals and finding out what their aspirations are. 
  • Sport as a metaphor – sporting activity becomes representative of something else which helps with learning, comprehension and understanding. 
  • Governing or a Support Body

The workshop allowed residents to ask questions regarding their specific goals and see how they could go about setting up their own social business. Residents found the presentation incredibly helpful.

I found it great and think that more people in the community who wish to start a programme or project around sport should take part in any future presentations as it was very insightful.

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