Like many Big Local areas, Wembley Central have faced challenges over the years. But in 2019 their partnership was disbanded. All work stopped and the two workers Sadie and Junior were put on standby. Here, they tell their story of how they rebuilt a new partnership during a pandemic…
Hi Sadie and Junior! Can you talk us through the first steps of the process?
Sadie: In February 2020, Local Trust appointed Wembley Central a new rep, and with me and Junior still employed, we were ready to hit the ground running.
Junior: Gill, the newly appointed rep, met me and Sadie in the local Costa (when this was the norm!) and together we began planning how to rebuild and reform the partnership. We took Gill on a tour of the Big Local area and met some residents and partners.
What happened when the pandemic struck?
Junior: We were all set to begin writing the Community Plan when COVID -19 descended. And with it came a global avalanche of fear, anxiety, depression, panic buying and loneliness.
This meant Gill, who is based in Leicester, Sadie in Leeds and me (who lives round the corner from Wembley) had to stay at home and virtually engage the partnership in the digital world!
Sadie: Luckily, at the end of 2019, Junior and I had gone door-to-door and made contact with local organisations and over 200 residents and had a list of engaged and interested people to reach out to, to discuss Big Local and how they could stay connected during lockdown one restrictions.
I believe in being the change you want to see in the world, it’s important to start with where you are… and what you have. Georghia, partnership member
How did you engage people during lockdown?
Junior: Thankfully, to keep people engaged in creative ways during the lockdown, Local Trust gave all Big Local areas Zoom memberships and provided lots of training on using the platform.
So we got to work – reaching out to our list of names and connecting with the Wembley Central Together mutual aid group to find out if active residents were interested in being part of the new partnership.
What’s inspiring is that we have a diverse skill set in our partnership of varying ages and ethnicities. Mo, partnership member
Sadie: Out of the original list of 200+ individuals, mutual aid members and others, there were 20 people who had the capacity to be involved. So we held one-to-one meetings with every resident, finding out each person’s interests, and motivations for being involved.
Junior: Then it was time for people to meet each other.
We arranged engaging virtual social activities such as an escape room (run by Des at XPG events) so that residents could connect, have fun and importantly build key communication, team building, time management and decision-making skills.
It is refreshing to find likeminded individuals who are willing to use their time and experience to give something to a community.
Chris, partnership member
How did people cope and adapt to this new way of working?
Sadie: This all happened during a time when everyone was told to stay indoors and was filled with isolation and worry.
These 20 residents may never have met each other or crossed paths – but out of COVID-19 and their commitment to seeing positive change in their community they were able to meet and support each other, and in turn their community, during this difficult time in history.
Residents have displayed compassion, motivation and energy to champion harmony and inclusiveness for a better Wembley Central. Mustaf, partnership member
Junior: We’ve now survived three national lockdowns and the winter restrictions which have been taxing on everybody’s mental health.
Some people in the partnership who contracted COVID-19 have recovered and remained shielded. Others have continued as key workers throughout. Despite this, motivation is strong and has led to the construction of our One Year Community Plan.
The journey has only started and we have so much to do in order to achieve key objectives but I do believe we have the right team in place to deliver. Chris, partnership member
How do you feel about the future of the partnership?
Sadie: I think, having formed during one of the toughest years of many people’s lives, we are now equipped with the drive and compassion to tackle most challenges and will continue to work as a team either face-to-face or virtually to deliver positive and lasting change in the community.