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This project is funded by The Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit.
This project is funded by The Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit.
This project is now set up and running from Seacole House, and we will be upcycling pieces of items that will go on to be displayed in a product shop. We will also donate items to the homeless clients moving into their own settled accommodation. We have employed a Kickstart placement to work on the project.
This project focuses on action by young people for young people. The key concept of gender equality is important for everyone in Europe and in other parts of the world. As a result, the project partners come from UK, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Kyrgyzstan. MSHA’s main role in the project overall project evaluation. Take a look at our video to get a better understanding of the projects here.
Promoting gender equality is a core activity in the European Union: equality between women and men is a fundamental EU value, an EU objective, and a driver for economic growth. Where there is an imbalance of equality, as in cases of under-empowered young women, partners have joined their efforts to address the shortfall. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
We are very proud of the Mary Seacole Housing Association training programme and facilities which help clients with their development and personal support plans via training and meaningful activities. At Mary Seacole Housing Association we are always striving to enhance our knowledge, skills, and practice in order to provide the best possible service and support to our clients. We continue to participate in specific projects and activities both at home and abroad, where we can offer our services as well as experience best practices and feed this into the service we provide, this Youth Project is one of those.
We are running a work experience programme for young people who have been marginalised and those who are vulnerable. There are two roles currently:
-Admin Assistant Programme
Started with a visit from PCC, we are now able to offer spaces to others who are interested, get in touch if there is anyone.
Mary Seacole’s Housing Association Work Experience programme is a new, innovative, work-based program of ‘progress towards and into work’ of activities that provide focused support to move people at risk closer to the labour market and eventually back into work.
We offer the programme to any young person looking to gain work experience who has lived experience of homelessness, poverty, or any other vulnerability. The aim is to bring skills for employment and training to young people. By linking Mary Seacole Housing Association Work Experience Programme with the housing support provided to all residents; Mary Seacole Housing Association aims to deliver support that offers a more holistic intervention addressing the range of complex needs faced by our residents choosing.
Tap Out is an interactive app, that explores themes of exploitation. The app is completely coproduced with persons with lived experience and other young people who wished to gain experience with various aspects involved with creating a web-based app.
We have been working with Luton Youth Offending to create an interactive choice-based app covering various themes on exploitation. The aim of the app is to engage young people and to let them see that each choice they make can escalate into something that they may not have seen coming.
The app is on the App store and Google Play for download:
The Will Power project was designed and created to showcase the lives of people with an ethnic background who have a connection to Luton. The project curates the great achievements and the journey they took to reach their goals. The project aims to raise awareness of positive role models in our community, and inspire the next generation.
It was co-designed and co-produced by a group of young people who wanted to inspire others from a similar background and help them believe that they too can accomplish great things. This project means a lot to them as they noticed that there is a lack of positive examples and achievements from ethnic minorities locally.
Please take a look at the gallery below. Hovering over artwork images will start an audio recording to accompany the person. The write-ups, by our very own youth, are to the right of the artwork or also down below on this page. Volume up!
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Please click on the dropdown below the image to read the full story, below.
Colin Salmon is a British actor of Jamaican descent. Although Colin was born in Bethnal Green, London, he grew up in Luton and attended Ramridge Primary School and School. Both schools are still teaching children today.
Colin is best known for his role as Charles Robinson, a character in the James Bond films; Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. However, he has been in many other films and TV shows.
Collin once said “I am a father, and sometimes I want to stay close to home. By varying the workplace, it gives me space to breathe. I enjoy theatre because it reminds me I am mortal, and it’s terrifying when it goes wrong but the most thrilling experience when it flies.”
Colin’s mother, Sylvia Ivy Brudenell Salmon, was a nurse and he has carried on her legacy by being involved with many other caring pursuits that support the community. For example, Collin became one of the ambassadors at Centrepoint in 2015. Centrepoint is the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity that together with other partners, like Mary Seacole Housing Association in Luton, support over 14,000 young people every year.
Colin comes from a diverse and often challenging background and feels a resonance and empathy with Centrepoint’s vision.
Colin also has an interest in music. After leaving school, he became the drummer in the punk rock band – The Friction, which he formed with three friends from Ashcroft High School. He has also said he used to busk and sing live as well.
He stated, “I grew up on a council estate in Luton, and as a child, I was very much into the brass-band tradition. I was a Salvation Army boy. My English granddad bought me a cornet when I was five years old.”
Colin is an excellent role model for many other youths with an ethnic background. His journey shows other young people from Luton, that if we are passionate about our dreams and careers, we can reach our goals and be in a position to make a difference to vulnerable people in the community who need our help.
The write up I’m doing today is on Kay “Sure To” Prosper. He is the former English Super-Lightweight Champion and former European Super-Lightweight title challenger.
Kay has an undergraduate Sports degree and when he was younger, had the pure intention of opening up a gym in Luton at just 22 years of age. He did this in order to help young people stay away from crime and put their time into boxing. Along with his cousin, he set up the Hockwell Ring amateur boxing club in Luton, coaching young people.
To improve his coaching, Kay decided to have a few amateur fights and after securing wins early in his amateur career, he decided to give up being a Footballer for Dagenham and Redbridge to pursue a career in boxing. One thing led to another and he is now looking for a British title fight for the renowned Lonsdale belt.
As a professional boxer, his work out of the ring plus working teenagers in Luton helps him “hold [his] head up high”. He now helps mentor teenagers to give back to the town that “really helped me”.
“If I can just make a small change in each one of these kids so that they can have a better future, then I’ll be over the moon,” he said.
Kay works tirelessly with youngsters around Luton in the boxing gym and beyond, mentoring children who have been excluded from mainstream education. He has aspirations of working with BE’s Grassroots to Gratitude scheme to ensure underprivileged kids can go to boxing gyms free of charge in an effort to prevent them from turning to criminal activity.
As I was on a Zoom call with him, I found out that we both had opinions about what our society is like today as we shared similar and also different views. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview because as well as teaching Kay about the project, he also got to know me as a fellow member of the black community and I hope he will continue to be a massive help to our project with more that is yet to be.
My name is Luca, and I am 15 years old and live in Luton. The reason I chose Desline Stewart is because my dad works for the Mary Seacole Housing Association, an organisation Mrs. Stewart started in 1986. My dad often talks about Mrs. Stewart, and I thought I would research the difference and impact she has made more closely, and how her caring and charitable works have helped people in Luton.
Desline Stewart is of Jamaican descent and was a part of the Windrush group who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1973. Desline was first elected to be a councillor of the Leagrave ward in Luton in 1983. She later became the town’s first Black female Mayor in 1985, and since then has been involved with many charitable organisations. Because of her generosity, Desline also went on to receive her Majesty’s MBE Award for her community work.
This included the start and preliminary work for Mary Seacole Housing Association. This began in the 1980s, in Councillor Desline Stewart’s kitchen in response to the direct pleas of young people who were running away from home. These young people sought out Councillor Stewart specifically, who at that time had built a reputation for her philanthropic work accommodating people from a wide range of backgrounds. Word of mouth grew across Luton and as more people gathered at Councillor Stewart’s home, it became evident that she would need to increase her outreach and support.
Local politicians began to take note of Councillor Stewart’s activities, resulting in a grant from Urban Aid and, with assistance from Luton Borough Council and Luton Churches, a recommendation was made to the Housing Corporation who purchased the first two houses on Brantwood Road to support her work. This was the start of the housing trust in 1986. Mary Seacole was chosen as the name for the Trust by Councillor Stewart because she was a strong advocate of Seacole’s humanitarian work and altruism.
Mary Jane Seacole OM (née Grant; 1805 – 1881) was a pioneering, British-Jamaican nurse and heroine of the Crimean War. As a mixed-race woman, she overcame racism and injustice to nurse soldiers during the Crimean war – 200 years ago. Seacole stated, “Unless I am allowed to tell the story of my life in my own way, I cannot tell it at all.” Councillor Stewart felt a strong kinship with Mary Seacole and believed that there was an affinity between her own rescuing of homeless young people with Seacole’s nursing of wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
Kimberley Lamb was born in 1969 in London, but later on in her life, she moved to Luton with her family. While Kimberley was born in England, she is a second-generation British Jamaican.
Kimberley enjoyed studying and going to school but, despite doing very well in school, she left education at the age of 16 before doing exams, completing them months later in the Summer. Around the same time due to her mother’s ongoing mental health issues, Kimberley became homeless, living temporarily on the streets of London until finding shelter in a shared home. Having gone back to school in the Summer, Kimberley came out with her needed GCSE’s. She still enjoys studying and has gotten her latest degree at the age of 50 and is currently studying for a Master’s in Forensic Psychology.
However, despite the challenges Kimberley had to face in her youth, she is now thriving. Prior to her role as head of Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit she has worked in education, youth offending and was head of victim services for Bedfordshire Police. Kimberley works with the community to help young people who have gotten in trouble with the police, she also helps to give the community information and show them that not all young people cause trouble. The staff equivalent position that she holds is Superintendent – equal to the rank of a Senior Officer in policing.
Kimberley said a challenge that she has had to face and is still fighting against is prejudice, racism, and sexism from a small percentage of people, both within and outside of policing. These people believe that she shouldn’t hold a senior position within the criminal justice system because of the colour of her skin and gender. Amongst other roles, Kimberley is a board member for the Criminal Justice Alliance and a Chair of Governors for a Luton school. She also sits on the executive committee of Bedfordshire’s Black Police Association which acknowledges and supports people of black and ethnic minorities within policing.
Kimberley would like to encourage young people of ethnic minorities to join organisations that are currently less diverse, even though it may be tough you will be able to, “be a voice for those who have systemically been silenced.”
Kimberley gets joy from supporting youth and watching them grow into people she hopes will one day take her place, working in the criminal justice system and other important areas within society.
Nadiya Hussain was born on 25 December 1984 in Luton. Nadiya is a second-generation British Bangladeshi. In her early life, Nadiya was diagnosed with a panic disorder and had to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy. She had learned basic cooking skills in school and decided to teach herself baking from cooking books and YouTube.
In 2015 Nadiya Hussain won the sixth series of The Great British Bake-off. Upon winning, Nadiya said, “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again.” Her appearance helped to create acceptance of cultural diversity and shifted stereotypes in the Muslim community. From there on she used her popularity to further unite the British and Muslim communities.
In 2017 Nadiya had a cooking show called “Nadiya’s British Food Adventure,” which showed her travelling across the country gathering different ingredients and British recipes to then put a Bangladeshi spin on them.
Nadiya has gone on to create a writing career becoming a successful author, for example, “Bake Me a Story” which blends updated versions of fairy-tales and recipes that are child-friendly.
Furthermore, Nadiya’s first novel was “The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters” and it shows a British Muslim’s take on the “Little Women” story. Nadiya’s autobiography, “Finding My Voice” includes some of her own recipes as well as poetry.
Nadiya Hussian has done great things for the British-Muslim community. In 2017 she was named by Debrett as one of the 500 Most Influential People. Nadiya has won many awards for her books and influence on the nation.
Mudhsuden Singh “Monty” Panesar is a former English international cricketer. Born in Luton with Indian parents, he is a practising Sikh. Monty grew up in Bury Park, Luton, which is the unofficial town centre for Luton’s Asian community. Monty went to Stopsley High School in Luton and was part of the Stopsley Cricket team before going on to play for Northamptonshire, Sussex, Essex and England.
Monty wears a black ‘patka’; while playing and training. Many of his fans have emulated him by wearing ‘patkas’ and fake beards while watching him play. This gesture is monumental, as many young men had previously felt ashamed of the turban. Monty has become one of, if not the most visible Sikh men in the country. He has gained spiritual guidance from his Guru in Luton and has even gone on to win Beard of the Year in 2006 which symbolised acceptance for his beard and inspired other young men from the community to practice their religion without the fear of stigma. He is a fantastic role model to the 500 Sikhs in Luton.
Monty has said that he was initially embarrassed to say that he was from Luton due to a rough history with extremists in Luton, Monty’s thoughts were echoed in the media where Luton was voted the worst place to live twice, once in 2014 and then in 2016. However, Monty has since changed his mind about his hometown and inspired many not just in Luton, but nationally also, to speak up against extremism. Monty has worked with Darren Carroll – Tommy Robinsons’ Uncle and EDL co-founder, with why he thought extremism took root in Luton and to make a positive change against it. Mr. Carroll has since turned away from the EDL and campaigned against extremism with the organisation Small Steps.
Monty has been described as England’s best spinner – he is a left-hand bowler and played for England. The first big game Monty played was in India – with the 2005 Ashes series. He believed he would just train with them, and gain experience, he never thought he would be playing. However, Captain Andrew Flintoff had other ideas, and he played in the first test match. When he was announced in the team, his Uncle was reading an article about a Sikh guy in the England team, and later realised that it was his own nephew. It was very rare for young Asian men to make it to the main England Cricket Team, this has led to hundreds of young Asian men pursuing careers in cricket as they could see representation.
This caused a constant stream of young men wanting to join the Luton Cricket team to such an extent that the team were unable to cope with the demand as they were a small team and had limited resources. They had to turn away the young men and refer some to other clubs.
Monty Panesar also sent Luton Borough Council his email of support for Power Court – a stadium he believed would be “the centre for Luton in the 21st century”. Monty was in favour of getting the stadium because he thought that Luton building this stadium would bring so much more revenue to the town and to the economy of the local people, and would create more jobs.
Monty has been quoted saying “Firstly, it’ll be great for football. I’m sure with the new stadium, the level of football will go up and we’ll get promoted to other divisions because that’s just the nature of the sport; when you get better facilities, you get better stadiums, the quality of the football goes up a level. Also, there’ll be more jobs and more revenue, and I think that’s great for the town. But I think when you have local people from Luton, you want to promote the next generation of sport coming through, and this is the first steppingstone of hopefully getting a new stadium”. Monty is passionate about encouraging all-new sports talent within Luton.
Jermaine Hall was chosen because of his commitment to Luton’s Youth community, as he is involved in several local events where he talks and works with young people to build motivation.
Involved in football as a young kid, he realised that there were limited opportunities for the youth to participate and succeed in other than a sport in Luton. As well as this, there was a lack of positive role models to help guide young people to a more successful future, whatever their end goal was. And some of the time, this can lead to a young individual taking the wrong path. Knowing that there were many different avenues that a young person could take, Jermaine Hall came up with the idea of Direction CIC.
Jermaine Hall wanted the young youth of Luton to have more opportunities presented to them other than just the option of sport. This company was an avenue for the youth to realise potential and aim towards their personal life goals. They are introducing positive thinking and determination so their futures could be brighter. As the Director of Directional CIC (Directional Community Interest Company), Jermaine Hall created his business in 2013. The company aims to: ‘inspire the next generation’ by providing young people in the community with positive role models through sports and positive activities.
Over the years, with his team by his side, Jermaine Hall has created many networks and connections throughout Luton, such as Avenue Centre of Education, Lea Manor High School, and many parents or careers. Jermaine Hall and his company have also been recognised by BBC Look East, Bedfordshire Police, and ITV Anglian News to reduce crime in Luton by motivating young people to raise their aspirations.
As the Director of the company, he aims to help the community by improving young people’s lives through several different programmes that changes how young people make decisions by encouraging positive thinking through sport and other activities. Directional CIC has built a strong support network of professionals that offer many different programmes within the company.
‘Relating to Role Models’ is a during and out of school project that improves a young person’s life by creating a safe place to make positive life choices. The programme is driven by a mentor or a positive role model that engages the young person in activities that will help support the individual’s specific needs.
‘Take the Lead’ is aimed at young individuals that are involved in or vulnerable to gang association. The programme encourages young individuals to make positive life decisions and teaches them not to influence others.
‘Choose to Succeed’ is designed to improve behaviour and engagement in education by creating positive thinking around what success means to them.
‘Introduction to Business’ aims to show young people what options they have in the outside world and prepares them with skills for the future. The programme includes creating a business plan while working in a team to create a healthy competitive atmosphere. ‘Boxercise’ consists of boxing sessions that are non-contact and delivered to all ages and experiences. It’s designed to demonstrate the importance of discipline, respect, and a positive way to release frustration. Lastly, ‘More than a Goal’ is a football project intended to identify further motivation to succeed in what they choose to do in the future.
Jermaine Hall’s passion for helping young people grow and create a positive working mindset towards education and their futures continues to develop a positive impact on the community of Luton. Believing that any young person, despite their ethnic background, can achieve their goals and have a successful future with positive guidance and strong role models.
I chose Rehana Faisal because she is a well-known and well-loved member of the community in Luton. Rehana is well respected and often goes above and beyond to help vulnerable people in Luton despite their ethnic background and economic status.
Rehana Faisal has worked in the Luton community for around a decade, involving herself in many different projects. One of the projects being a chair for FACES. FACES is an organisation that aims to raise awareness to the faith communities about the concerns surrounding child sexual exploitation. They work closely with faith communities to develop strong relationships as well as friendships. Their main aim is to build resilience in the Muslim and Christian communities to protect children and young people.
As the Chair of FACES, Rehana Faisal and the team are currently working with the community to better their safeguarding of young people by offering workshops and expanding the knowledge about the impact on our communities and what they can do to safeguard young people further.
Furthermore, she is a Chair of Governors at a local school and is working closely within the Luton Mosques. Rehana Faisal works alongside the Luton Mosques by getting involved in several cross-community projects such as supporting their communities during the pandemic by working with Level Trust and The High Sheriff of Bedfordshire to establish Luton Learning Link.
The Luton Learning Link provides laptops and WiFi to young people who did not have access at home to carry on learning. This project aimed for young people to have the same education access that some of their peers would have had access to, as teaching would only be accessible online.
Rehana Faisal is also a chair of Lantern, a Muslim women’s organisation that supports Muslim women’s voices and advocates for a clear political, social, and civic representation. She recently set up ‘The Raise Up Foundation’. This Luton-based charity helps young families overcome their disadvantages by providing support and training programmes to learn the expertise.
She has said, “When people of colour talk about racism, please take the time to consider the courage it takes to do so.” Rehana Faisal has involved herself massively within the Luton community as she believes that many organisations support each other and the community generously.
My life was perfect, I had the perfect life; an amazing career in care, a doting husband, beautiful children, and a lovely home; and just like that it all fell apart.
My husband and I were great for a long time but over time things started deteriorating. It started by small arguments here and there. Then it went to constant fighting, shouting, and yelling at one another. He started to make me feel worthless, he told me I was ugly, and no one would want me, and I should consider myself lucky that he was there for me. I tried to put up with it for a while but slowly it ate away at me. Then I found out he cheated on me, I started not to care about him; but I had to stay there for the sake of my kids.
So, I started going out and realised that there were guys out there who were interested in me and told me I was beautiful. Men were telling me all the right things to make me feel great again, so I started seeing one guy, then another and then the next. Partying and meeting new guys became a type of routine, every weekend. I started to notice things slipping at work, I felt my relationship slip away, my children wanted to spend less and less time with me. But I would go from one party to another party and find solace in someone else’s arms.
Eventually my husband had had enough, and he told me I had to leave, and although I saw it coming, the worst thing was having nowhere to go. I did not have plan B, so I had to leave my children with my now ex-husband. So, I ended up on a random guy’s sofas for a while. I was struggling but tried to keep a brave face. Then my ex-husband took me to court and was awarded full custody based on my so-called promiscuity, double standards. Losing my husband was hard but I expected this from when I found out about his first encounter of infidelity. But I had lost the most important thing in my life, my children. I was broken emotionally and mentally; my heart was taken away from me. Not much else matter now.
The one thing that was keeping me going was my career, what happened next was something I did not expect – I was fired. I kept on making silly mistakes at work, not turning up to work and when I was, I was late or not fully there from seeking validation from men or partying.
Now there was nothing left of my former life. I went from one ‘relationship’ to another; they did not last very long, a couple of weeks- at most couple of months and then on to the next.
My last relationship was the worst, I was used to these men treating me like I was disposable, and I was just there temporarily until they were bored; I remember just numbness, no feeling. The last relationship gave me a wakeup call, my ex-partner started abusing me physically. As with everything like this, it happened slowly but it escalated very quickly. He tried to be discrete in the beginning but eventually even he did not care where, and I was expected to make up excuses or just stay in the house, so no one noticed. I started to abuse drugs when I started to feel pain as I realised feeling numb worked for me.
One day after a particularly rough day with my ex-partner, I waited for him to go to work and decided enough was enough. I cooked my favourite food, bought my favourite wine, and overdosed on medication; I knew putting an end this nightmare would make me free again. As luck would have it, my ex came back early and found me. I was taken to hospital and I am not sure what it was, but I ended up telling the nurse what I was going through. I am still not sure what made me do it.
The nurse did a safeguarding referral. A part of me was hoping she did and the other was scared, my ex-partner was not going to take this lightly. He was going to retaliate. And he did. I was placed in a shared home, which was not a great place, but I had my own room. My ex-partner found me and told me I must go back to him otherwise I would not like the consequences. He kept scaring me, I felt I had nowhere to turn and so many things in my life that were; this was also an issue. I was abusing drugs and drinking to cope on a regular basis. My keyworker at the place I was staying learnt of my ex-partner and said I had to move – again! My only solace was my ex-partner was given a restraining order. I was safe – for now.
I was moved to Mary Seacole Housing. When I arrived, I met my keyworker; my understanding was they were there to support you with your basic needs – room, benefits and complaints. I was quite shocked when this keyworker at Mary Seacole Housing, came to ‘settle me in’ to the house. This place felt homely, there were only a few ladies there. It did not really matter as I knew, I would have to move again, and I would not spend too much time there.
The place was nice, but I still felt empty, so I went back to doing what worked for me previously, partying and finding men to validate me. However, this time there was one difference, every time I went out, the keyworker would be there in my ear. It was so annoying, she slowly started to get in my head; about my ‘unsafe practices’ and how there was another way. The constant talks compelled me to think.
Suddenly the unexpected happened, I was raped by a man I knew! I was so shocked, he claimed to be my friend. My keyworker rang me as she always did to check on me and I told her I needed to see her- she was the only person in my life I now trusted. She came right away, I told her what happened. She was so supportive, listened, did not judge me and reported it to the Police.
She then focused all her energy to making me feel like I mattered, I was valuable and no matter how hard I pushed, she would still be there to pick up the pieces. She helped me talk through my choices, my behaviours- and why.
My keyworker helped me with aspects of my life, my risky behaviour, my substance misuse, my lack of support network, my lack of self-esteem; if she could not provide the support, she knew someone who could and supported me every step of the way, even came with me to my appointments.
My keyworker never gave up on me, she helped visualise something I had stop thinking about; what do I want? Her passion must have rubbed off on me, I wanted things to change, I wanted some of my old life back.
She managed to keep me busy in the initial stages after the rape and slowly but surely, I stared to feel like the me, before the drinking/partying. I told my keyworker I wanted to get my career back. She made a plan with me, this included me proving I was managing with my life, I was engaging with the drugs/alcohol recovery workers, spoke to my counsellors and when she was convinced I was; made a plan to get me a job. She worked with me to make CV, helped me find courses in house at MSHA to help with getting a job, such as first aid. She prepped me for interviews and then it happened! I got a job! I was successful in becoming a care worker supporting the elderly in the community.
This was my turning point, for the first time since leaving my ex-husbands life I felt safe. First time since my early teens, I felt a sense of worth. I did not need to use alcohol as a crutch anymore, this month marks the anniversary of a year of sobriety and my keyworker has worked with me to complete a housing application. But the best part of it all is, through the support network that I have developed at MSHA, my ex-husband has started to allow me to have contact with my children. I am now able to see them every weekend and talk to them daily – I have my heart back!