LifeLine Projects

Local needs require local solutions

April 18, 2023

I have a friend that works in the music industry as a tour manager. He’s worked on some of the most extravagant rock shows I’ve ever seen. I once asked him if he got bored of touring, putting on the same show every night for months on end.

He told me that, even though if it was the same artist playing the same music night after night, every show was different. Each show would have a change in the order of the song—the size of the venue affected the intimacy of the show, and the most important difference were the audience. One place they might be quiet or stand-offish, others would be boisterous or outright joyful. It was never the same twice.

The French sociologist Émile Durkheim coined the term collective effervescence to describe the energy and emotion of the moment a community or society comes together and simultaneously communicates the same thought and takes part in the same action.

I like to think this means that when people come together and talk about their problems, they have the power to act and create local solutions for their neighbourhoods.

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But, if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

When we began the SW!TCH Communities programme, on the Academy Central estate of Barking and Dagenham in 2019, we strived to bring one particular community closer by engaging it in shared activities and common tasks. We wanted to foster a sense of togetherness and empowerment for the residents.

One of the initial reasons we first met with the residents of Academy Central was the concerns that were being shared with us by the housing association, local young people, the residents and the leader of the council. The locals were worried about the rising levels of crime and disorder around them—in particular, there was a significant serious youth violence problem. This resulted in the fracturing of the community, with different groups of residents starting to feel isolated from each other. We wanted to know more—what help did they need to create a community they could be proud of?

The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence.
A person is a person through other persons.

They told us they wanted someone to train and support them to become community mentors to the younger members of the estate. Someone that could help them create a connection between the different groups, the different generations. They also wanted an outreach team that would engage at-risk young people and mentor them, and that could work with local businesses and agencies to give young people access to local activities and job/education opportunities.

SW!TCH Communities started on the estate by developing events that would bring together residents across the generations. Our youth workers already had existing relationships with many of the young people on the estate through our mentoring in local schools and further discussions with them revealed that a lot of them were curious about taking part in positive activities. As the programme progressed, the young people began to feel more supported by their community. To the residents, this was a significant first step in helping them to feel less isolated and more engaged with the young people in their neighbourhood.

The key benefits of the SW!TCH Communities programme were:

The SW!TCH Communities programme went on to be delivered on another three estates across East London. Of course, these programmes were different in the sense that they addressed different issues and needs. The local population on the other estates told us about their unique problems and we in turn delivered activities and training suited to their requirements.

With each new programme we deliver,  it’s usually about a unique space with a distinctive community that has specific needs that require a collective home-grown solution.

Without community, there is no liberation.

Emma Archer: SW!TCH Communities and Academy Central

We recently had a chance to catch up with Emma Archer, a resident of Academy Central, who says she benefited greatly from SW!TCH Communities. Emma lives on the Academy Way estate with husband David and their three children.

The Archer family.

How did SW!TCH Communities help your family?

With confidence. My kids have new people in their life, and they now feel comfortable meeting new people.

What did you learn?

It brought us closer together, because we do so much better as a family now. Every school holiday, LifeLine always has something on for the community—residentials, coffee mornings, art club, skating. It’s so nice, we never had anything like that before.

Emma Archer and her sons with SW!TCH worker Royston

Was meeting other parents in person important?

Very much so, because I found there was a lot of parents telling me they had similar problems with schools or CAHMS. At school, they think my youngest has anger issues and he’s a ‘naughty kid’. But when he’s with LifeLine, he’s a completely different person.

Is there anyone in your neighbourhood you’d like to help?

The other parents here. I know a lot about discrimination; I’d listen to them and support them.

A lot of parents need to know about LifeLine. I always tell them to go to the website, but I could talk about LifeLine all day. I have so much respect for them. It’s good to have someone you can call and get advice. My children could never have gone away on residentials before. I found that there’s another way of living.

I want my children to be part of the community; they need to mix and mingle with other people.

Daniel Archer, with SW!TCH in 2019 and 2021.

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Nathan Singleton

Chief Executive Officer
Nathan is passionate about improving the lives of young people and their families. Nathan draws from the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” He believes community is the component that is missing in the modern western society and the key component that would benefit young people. Nathan believes we are there, not just to help others but to support them to become agents of change within their communities.

These articles may contain testimonials by LifeLine staff members and service users of our programmes and/or services. These testimonials reflect the real-life experiences and opinions of such staff members/service users. However, the experiences are personal to those staff members/service users and may not necessarily be representative of all staff members/service users of our programmes and/or services. We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all staff members/service users will have the same experiences. Individual results may vary.

Testimonials are submitted in various forms such as text, audio and/or video, and are reviewed by us before being posted. They appear in the newsletter in words as given by the staff members and service users, except for the correction of grammar or typing errors. Some testimonials may have been shortened for the sake of brevity where the full testimonial contained extraneous information not relevant to the general audience.

The views and opinions contained in the testimonials belong solely to the individual user and do not reflect our views and opinions. Staff members/service users are not paid or otherwise compensated for their testimonials.


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