What does ‘refuge’ mean to me? Guest post by the YMCA’s Debbie Cook

Proud East Marshian Issue 7

The cover of the latest issue of the Proud East Marshian (get it here: https://www.sunandmoonfestival.org/proudeastmarshian) shows the emerging new YMCA building. We asked friend of EMU and YMCA Humber Chief Executive Debbie Cook to share her thoughts about that thought-provoking heading ‘East Marsh Refuge’. Here is her heartfelt account – thank you , Debbie 🙂

I was about 8 years old when my parents separated; at the time I was the only child in my (quite large) primary school whose parents were getting a divorce. Hard to believe that now.

Before my parents separated for good, I recall two or three occasions when me and my mum would walk up through our village, our bags packed in readiness for a stay at my Granny’s house. I’m guessing that that was my mum’s refuge (but I’ve never asked her in detail). At the time, and indeed now when I look back, I saw it as a place where my mum felt loved, supported, safe, and a place which gave her space to figure things out. We all need a place like that.

At YMCA Humber we provide a home, primarily for young people in supported accommodation. Our buildings are inclusive places, where our residents can actively engage in the caring support provided by our coaches. For many, our accommodation is a refuge, a place where they feel secure, supported, cared for; a place where they will not be ‘judged’.

I am incredibly proud of the work YMCA Humber does. Our accommodation service has a range of properties; from our newly renovated houses with intensive support bringing those formerly street homeless into a home, our bespoke property with round the clock support for care leavers, our Foyer project supporting young people into education, training and work and our move on properties for those who need less support. The property that YMCA Humber is most known for though is our hostel at Peaks Lane. The support we provide in this building makes me equally as proud as the support we offer across our range of other properties, but our building at Peaks Lane does not inspire; it is dated and tired and not of the quality we want to provide. That is why we are building our state of the art £8.3m facility at Freeman Street, at the heart of the East Marsh.

We chose this location on the East Marsh because 80% of our current residents have a connection to the East Marsh Ward. This ward might represent their refuge, a place of comfort and familiarity. We want to help our residents re-connect with their roots, their families and the heart of the town. This building will provide a refuge for our residents in an area of Grimsby where they feel they belong. This new building will be a home for many, but will also shout out ’you can achieve your hopes and dreams from here’.

And this new building will be a welcoming space to many more people than our residents. With amazing community facilities on the ground floor it will serve as a happy place, a place to think, a place to learn, a place to grow for people across the whole of the East Marsh and beyond.

Everybody needs a refuge at some time in their lives; a caring environment, a safe space to think, to try something new without fear of failure or judgement. For me, my refuge is my home (and my mum’s home) but that’s not the case for everyone. Our new building will be a much-needed refuge for many, but it will also be so much more than that.

‘Rutland Street Revolution’, a poem for #NationalPoetryDay #NationalPoetryDay2020

Help isn’t coming

It was clear when they labelled us
a ‘left-behind’ community
we’d been pinned as a poster town
for abandonment, for poverty

a place visited by political parties
who take photographs, shake hands
get re-elected and don’t come back.

Help isn’t coming

Midnight rooftop standoffs,
bolted, plywood curtains,
thirty kids on stolen cycles,
broken teeth of terraced streets,
tracksuit thugs and fly tipped dreams,
memories of what this place ‘used to be’
our reputation reported in the newspaper daily

Help isn’t coming

So, what do we do?

We’re generations of powerhouse families
grown from Oxford, Tunnard and Stanley
survivors of circumstance, raised through austerity
still wake up every day with love for our community.

Help isn’t coming, so we’re helping ourselves.

We look past the headlines, comments, statistics
see the heart, the soul, the community spirit,
we’re forging ahead, a path of positive
for every boarded window painted,
and every broken streetlight mended
there’s a smile from a stranger,
a place-made argument ended.

We’re forging ahead and slaying giants
with acts of kindness and defiance
we’re working together, future forming
singing sunshine on the streets,
deck our windows with drawings and bunting.

We’re a community, no matter what happens.

We’re living up to our name of
Proud East Marshians.

A bold and powerful poem by our very own Lisa February – part of this month’s Proud East Marshian online Magazine: https://www.sunandmoonfestival.org/proudeastmarshian

We are One and We Shall Overcome

A short while ago, the We Are One Foundation received a generous donation of £364 from our friends at #lockdownsolidarity, a campaign run as part of #WeShallOvercome, a nationwide grassroots, social justice movement that began after the general election of 2015. This campaign was set up by Joe Solo and a small group of dedicated activists, intent on standing in solidarity with people in desperate need because of austerity.  Joe describes himself as a  folk-punk musician, writer, activist, poet, broadcaster and a quarter of Lithium Joe (a fine band from Hull originally).  Joe has a full time job but spends almost all of his free time on activist projects, raising cash and consciousness to support individuals and causes that are struggling in these hardest of times.  To find out more about We Shall Overcome, visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/weshallovercomeweekend/

The ‘About’ information says it all: Since May 2015 We Shall Overcome organisers have run more than 1100 events in 150 different towns and cities,raising an estimated £500,000 worth of food, cash, clothing, bedding, furniture and electrical goods for those struggling at the sharp end of Tory Austerity. Visit http://weshallovercomeweekend.com and follow us on Twitter @WeShallWeekend and join the working Facebook group at WE SHALL OVERCOME 2020

2020 throws up more challenges than ever, but we will fight until they lose. The compassion and generosity of the #lockdownsolidarity donation means We Are One can feed sixty families for a week.   Joe rightly says the We  Shall Overcome is ‘not charity but solidarity’ it is a way of standing together and supporting each other and those who most need help while we live through hard times. 

Joe is one of those individuals who walks an authentic walk, putting his money where his mouth is and standing up for social justice, solidarity and compassion.  He’s what you might call a good lad. 

Proud East Marshian Issue 6: 1st Class & East Marsh Windows

Coming to you direct from the Sun & Moon Festival: Issue 6 of the Proud East Marshian!

Get it from the Sun & Moon website: https://www.sunandmoonfestival.org/proudeastmarshian

Or download here

Academic Success for one of our own!

In this edition, we visit self-confessed East Marsh Womble Ernie Brown at his home, Maria gives us a beautiful piece about autumn, Gordon celebrates the fantastic achievement of one of our own from the East Marsh, Josie tells us about the windows project and, as restrictions lift, we
think about reunions. All this and some original writing too, so dive in!

Annabel has worked her magic and turned the film footage from the East Marsh Windows project into a video. Watch it here:

As always, stay safe, stay positive and stay proud.

East Marsh Windows – Our World, Our Environment

Watch this beautiful video that shows the beating heart of our East Marsh

It can sometimes be hard to keep your children occupied and doing fun things during the holidays. Here at the Sun and Moon Festival, we wanted to help you have a creative summer, especially as we still face some lockdown restrictions.

We invited you to get creative with your front window and create a beautiful display of your own design on the theme of Our World, Our Environment.

We invited families to take part in this project and provided all of the craft materials required.

Covid safety procedures were put in place and the free boxes had to be quarantined prior to use.

The result, as you can see, is joyous!

Thanks to the whole community arts gang, Annabel, Carolyn, Josie, Rachel and Vivienne.

Check out the rest of the Sun & Moon website: https://www.sunandmoonfestival.org/