Champions Support Network for parents and carers

During Lockdown 1.0, we developed our support to parents, with new initiatives like our remote one-to-one support sessions for parents and an online parent support group to help and encourage parents as they faced the challenges of parenting through lockdown together.

On the back of this, in December, we were excited to see the launch of our exciting new initiative for parents and carers with children aged 11 to 24, the Champions Support Network. Funded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), the Champions Support Network is part of the Violence Reduction Unit’s strategy to develop resilient families, enabling parents and carers to access information and good practice, share their concerns, and support each other. It responds to the preference expressed by parents and carers for informal support and complements existing services. We believe that if you are raising or caring for a young person, it can be truly challenging and you should be recognised as a champion.

Parents or carers of young people who have been at risk of or have experience of serious youth violence, exploitation, or grooming often struggle to find the appropriate support and solutions for their complex problems. There are other parents or carers residing in the same neighbourhood who as a result of their life experiences have gained essential specialist knowledge of the agencies, organisations and centres that offer general support and the barriers to accessing this support.

The programme draws on my (Dr Anne Smith) own research into facilitating belonging and will combine workshops and mentoring. It will run in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge. To refer a parent/carer to join the programme as a mentee or mentor, visit the Champions Support Network page on our site here.

Meet the Team

Dr Anne Smith

Dr Anne SmithParents and carers have the most important job in the world and the most challenging. I’m excited by the opportunity to work with a fantastic team of parent/carer volunteers and staff to build a friendly community of support. I’ve lived and worked with families in this area for over 15 years There’s nothing more powerful than meeting someone who is further along the same journey you are on, who can encourage and guide you. Supporting parents and carers will make a real difference to our young people and I hope we see some life-long friendships develop between parents as a result of getting involved with this programme.

Peguy Kato

Peguy KatoI’m a mum. I joined this project because I know how difficult it is to not receive all the information you need. After I lost my son to knife crime, I started to understand the things I missed in my son’s life. I learned that communication was the issue: to understand my son and also to give him all the support he needed.

Before my son’s death, I was really blindsided by gangs. I learned the hard way. I joined this project because I believe our children are the future of this world, but sometimes, if we don’t see something ourselves, we don’t realise it exists. I want to highlight this to every family we meet, and allow parents and carers to be more aware of what’s happening in their children’s lives. I want to bring my support to the community, to tell you that you are not alone. I’m not here to judge; I just want to be a listening ear and friend. I believe that we are all good parents and sometimes we only need someone to be patient and supportive, someone how can point us in the right direction.

Victoria Oyegunle

Victoria OyegunleI’m a mother, hospital chaplain and a qualified mental health nurse. I am joining this project because of the passion I have for families to be happy and successful. Children are our future as well as the nation’s future, hence every parent works hard to see them achieve. When things go wrong, it leads to many unanswered questions, parental guilt and sometimes mental illness. Many parents do not know who or where to go for help. With my professional and personal experience, I will be able to give emotional support to parents and also help in accessing information and services needed. I believe every parent is good, but they can achieve excellence through knowledge acquired in a non-judgemental, patient and supportive environment, which I am keen to provide.

Acia Khatu

Acia KhatuI’ve been living in Dagenham for nearly 14 years now. When I moved to this place, at first I was all alone; I didn’t know anyone. Then I saw the workshop that LifeLine was running in Green Lane at the time. They helped me get both my first and second job. Then I got involved with Creative English; I volunteered to teach ladies who did not have English as their first language. This is how I got connected to Lifeline. Now I’m excited to be joining the team proper.

Regarding why I want to be in this project, I think there are people out there that are not coming forward for help because of their language barrier, I’ve always helped people since a young age and I think this is the best opportunity to help more people who need it. I have been told that I am a good listener and very patient, so this is the time to use it.

Vivien Palmer

Vivien PalmerAs a wife and a mother to two beautiful women, now in their twenties, I have certainly experienced the ups and downs of raising a family whilst navigating the challenges that life throws at you. During those times, I have appreciated those parent who have come alongside, helped, encouraged and provided information for me and my husband through every stage of parenting. Because of this support, I have been able to provide similar support to many parents in various capacities utilising my experience working in the voluntary, public and private sector.

I am passionate about making a real difference through encouraging change in individual’s lives and bringing transformation to my local community as well as seeing individuals or organisation come into who they are designed to be and to showcase that to the world. I am looking forward to working with an awesome, amazing team of people.

Vanessa Raimundo

Vanessa RaimundoMy name is Vanessa Raimundo. I came to the UK from Portugal at age 16. I started working for the voluntary sector eight years ago, working with different organisations such as Inside Success, The Froud Youth Centre, YWT, EOED, and Amplify BD. I started Mums On a Mission with the vision to build confidence and empower resilience in our communities, successfully supporting families across the UK through peer-to-peer advocacy, health and wellbeing projects, youth intervention programmes, inter-generational cohesion approach and training opportunities.

I joined Champion Support Network because is an effective tool to bridge the gap in our community and help support families by making a positive impact, this project complements existing services and projects in our borough too!

Rebecca Coles

Rebecca ColesMy name is Rebecca and I am mum to two boys. I am passionate about mentoring and have been involved in mentoring young people and adults for over 20 years. Life is tough for parents and we are constantly judging ourselves. Having someone who can be there to have a cuppa with you and a listening ear makes such a difference.

I am excited to be part of the Champion Support Network as this will enable LifeLine to build on the work it already does mentoring young people. When we engage parents, we have the opportunity to change whole families. At this time, parents are feeling more and more pressure and are having to negotiate many new challenges. I am looking forward to equipping our parent champions to go on and see communities built, of parents supporting and encouraging one another, creating what we would call ‘extended family’.

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Dr Anne Smith PhD

Dr Anne Smith PhD

Champion Support Co-ordinator

Dr Anne Smith was awarded a PhD from Queen Mary, University of London in 2013 after seven years of research with refugees and migrants, exploring how approaches to drama-based learning could build community and increase participants’ sense of belonging.

She has more than twenty years of experience in the formal and informal education sector, as a teacher and workshop facilitator in schools, universities and community settings.

She has presented at conferences nationally and internationally on facilitating belonging. Recent conferences include University of Manchester, University of Cork and New York University. She has published extensively on facilitation techniques, language education and building community. As a researcher, she is passionate about identifying and disseminating good practice.