Creating change through community organising

“Hello, I’m Sabia, I'm 10 years old and I live in White City. I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters and I share a room with 2 of them. I don’t want to be forced to move elsewhere like other families have had to do. When I heard that thousands of new homes are being built I started to feel very hopeful. My question is: will any of them be for families like mine?”

It's London poverty week.

The children are back to school which means we're back in action. One group in Old Oak Primary School are busy becoming community organisers. In June I shared how parents wanted to come together and connect. These same parents and their children are working hard to improve their local area. Before they can do this, it's important to ensure they are informed and active members in their communities.

Over the past few months, we've been learning about the Old Oak and Park Royal development. It involves up to 55,000 new jobs and 24,000 new homes being created over the next thirty years supported by the Mayor of London. The children and families at Old Oak are keen to have a seat at the table in the decision-making process.

This is why in July, we had our wonderful group of Year 5's, their deputy head, teaching assistant and Citizens UK leaders from Hammersmith, Ealing and Brent come together in their local park Wormwood Scrubs, for a tour of the site. This was an opportunity for children including Sabia to ask key questions around what kind of houses are being built. Will they be affordable? Will they have access to green spaces?

The children met with the Head of Planning Policy of Old Oak development and shared their artwork, representing the school and families who live here now and have been for many years. A key question being asked is: will the homes being built on their doorstep be made available for them? Children bravely shared their stories, with many living in poor conditions, temporary accommodation and experiencing overcrowding.

Old Oak’s Year 5 teaching assistant also shared her experience:

“I have lived here for 10 years and I’m a mother to a 13 year old daughter. I’d like to raise her here in this community but I often worry about her safety and about the lack of opportunities for young people growing up here.

In my role here at the school, I keep encountering stories of parents who feel helpless because they love this community but cannot afford to stay here. They are being priced out. Every year, we have to bid farewell to a number of students whose families are moving and we also lose out on talented members of staff.”

This story is true for many of the families in Old Oak which is why it’s important for them to be involved in the planning of new homes and jobs that will be created, in order for local people to benefit.

The developers are excited to work collaboratively with us and are going to continue meeting with the children, young people and families. Through coming together, with the expertise and help of Citizens UK, our families will be given the opportunity and platform to share with developers what it means to live in their ‘place.’

Zarin Shahabi, Link Worker / Community Engagement Project Coordinator

together, every child and young person can flourish.