Dear friends and supporters of SMFF. I just wanted to say a big thank you to all those who have supported and enabled in one way or the other the hugely successful year of the SMFF.
SMFF started in 2003 with an inaugural meeting held at the Damilola Taylor centre in Peckham where a management committee was elected. The management committee consisted of 4 Christian representatives, 3 Muslim representatives, and 1 from each of the following faiths;
We subsequently added a Rastafarian representative who was unable to continue so stood down at our last AGM, and due to moving away we also no longer have a Jewish representative. We seek to replace these over the coming months.
The management committee met regularly to discuss faith issues across the borough centred on social and community issues and not matters of individual faith idiosyncrasies. Whilst some good work was done using this method with the aid of Joe Ahmed-Dobson the first coordinator of the project and subsequently with Trevor Udennis the current coordinator who I met in position when I took over management of the forum in 2006, some concerns were levied at how widely matters of faith were disseminated to the vast faith community in Southwark.
Since assuming the management role of the multi-faith forum over the last 20 months we have embarked on an ambitious program of change and wider engagement of the faith communities residing locally.
Southwark currently boasts approximately 80% of its population as being persons of faith. With a current residency of around 260,000 persons, the SMFF have a huge task of trying to appeal to over 200,000 persons in the borough but have chosen to use a cascading model where intense work has been undertaken with the leaders of the various faith groups in the borough who in turn relay information to their own faith groups.
One of the challenges I encountered when taking management responsibility for the forum was the issue of appealing to the wider faith community other than those represented on the management committee. Whilst some good partnership work was ongoing with other voluntary sector providers, many of Southwark’s faith communities were not involved in the work of the forum. In response to this the now hugely successful ‘Open Forum’ meetings were initiated appealing to all people of faith across the borough as well as those of no faith and dealt with subjects such as;
• Teenage Pregnancy
• Mental Health
• Fire Safety
• Planning and enforcement regulations
• Smacking – discipline or abuse
• Preventing Violent Extremism
• Safeguarding Children
This was further supplemented by the forum organising and delivering their own regular training events and providing 1-2-1 advice and capacity building.
November 2006 also saw SMFF hold its AGM at Rotherhithe Hilton followed recently by its largest meeting of recent times to date when the latest AGM held in the same location saw a record number of over 160 people in attendance.
SMFF have worked extensively over the last year to engage with all faiths in Southwark, involving our diverse communities in discussions, projects, and training on difficult and potentially divisive topics. With the help of agencies such as the Police, South London and Maudsley Trust, Children’s Services, Marie Stopes Centre, Community Safety Unit, Volunteer Centre Southwark, Southwark Action for Voluntary Services, Southwark Community Care Forum, Southwark Muslim Forum and more besides.
Particular pieces of work centred on Teenage Pregnancy have received London-wide acclaim and the project focussed on preventing violent extremism has been deemed so successful further funding is being given to develop the good work. SMFF are seeking to cement this good practice over the coming year and to ensure recognition is given for the innovative ways in which they have bought communities together to discuss matters of local and national importance.
Substantial outreach work has taken place in this time to raise the membership from little more than 10-15 member organisations to over 150 and growing. This work has included writing reports, visiting groups, telephone conversations, publicity management, stakeholder and membership management, project planning boards and so much more. Our meetings this year attracted approx 1000 people to our various events across the borough. This is where I must say thanks to the following people who were part of the team and have worked over and beyond their paid roles to ensure SMFF delivered quality events;
Trevor Udennis- SMFF Coordinator
Anwara Ali – SMFF Project Support Officer
Hazel Marwa – SMFF Project Officer
Once again a big thank you to all those that worked extensively on SMFF projects over the last year; to the management committee who gave us ratification and steer, to Nuala Conlan, Service Manager for CIDU who allowed the forum latitude to pursue often controversial subjects, to senior council staff and members who supported our events, and to our Chief Executive Annie Sheppard, who came to our peace breakfast 2006 as one of her first public engagements embarked on at Southwark.
Mostly I want to say Thank You to the leaders and members of the various faith groups of Southwark for all your help, support and guidance. You make our jobs worthwhile.
Community Involvement Manager
Tel No: 020 7525 5535
Mob: 07944 754 826