by Mara Verduin
‘You guys know what community is. It reminded me of when the docks was a real community. I’m speechless,’ says 91-year old Mick, one of the citizens that actively took part in the realisation of a dynamic face-lift for the Asta community centre in London Newham, during the first Oasis Game and training ever in England.
A unique and diverse international facilitation team, hosted the first Oasis Training in England in cooperation with Global natural cosmetics company LUSH and the local NGO The Momentum Project. From August 28th to September 2nd 2012 a diverse group of LUSH-employees, LUSH-customers, Newham citizens and a few individual participants went trough the Oasis Training. Together with the citizens of Silvertown and North Woolwich they realised a common dream of the community and completely transformed the Asta Community Centre under the facilitation of Rodrigo Rubido Alonso (Brasil), Niels Koldewijn (Holanda) e Conchi (Espanha).
Newham: Silvertown & North Woolwich
A young, vibrant and dynamic community reflects the unique composition of the population: 65 per cent is of non-English origin and there isn’t a dominant ethnic group, plus almost one third is under twenty years old. It’s a neighbourhood that once knew a flourishing economy thanks to the Royal Docks that were situated in this area; these docks were amongst the biggest in the world. The presence of the Docks attracted more industries to settle in the same area. Employment was high and also attracted many immigrants to settle. During the twentieth century, modernisation of processes and later also the withdrawal of the Docks from this area, led to a decline in employment and deprivation of the area. (source: http://momentumproject.tumblr.com)
Oasis and sustainability
Este Oasis foi realizado como parte da política de responsabilidade social da LUSH e, por isso, o grupo de participantes deste Oasis Traning aceitou um desafio adicional: realizar o jogo Oasis mais sustentável até agora e respeitar o meio ambiente, tanto quanto possível. Divididos em diferentes equipes, os participantes tiveram cuidados como gestão de energia, reduzindo o lixo através da reutilização e reciclagem de maneiras mais criativas e cuidado com a alimentação, orgânica e quase sempre vegana.
Initiated by LUSH as part of its social responsibility policy, this Oasis Training group of participants accepted an additional challenge: to realise the most sustainable Oasis Game so far and respect the environment as much as possible. In different teams the participants took care of energy management, reducing trash by reusing, recycling and upcycling in the most creative, they also took care of the food: organic and mostly vegan.
Shared dream: Positive examples and opportunities for the youngsters
In the conversations with young and older citizens in the area a clear image of the dreams of the community showed: ‘The community centre will be open every day’, ‘a place for children to play and to be safe’, ‘people from the community donating their time to teach the children skills’, ‘a peaceful community that cares’. Even the dreams of the children showed a clear message: ‘we don’t need a new football field, we dream of having a coach that divides the teams and gives us training.’
Out of all the dreams that have been gathered from the community the idea of face-lifting the area surrounding the community centre and thereby linking citizens of all ages with the community centre, emerged naturally.
Participants and community members as young as 3 up to 91 years old worked for two days to transform the backyard of the community centre. What until then was a dark unused space, transformed in no-time into a beautiful, pleasant community area with benches, chairs and tables to meet and enjoy the garden, a podium with mirrors behind to practise and perform. A left behind bath tub transform into a sandbox for the little ones and the overgrown green patch has become a beautiful garden filled with herbs and small plants that have been donated by various citizens. And last but not least: the realisation of a wonderful clay-oven and a stone community barbeque.
Though maybe even more important than the physical results is what happened socially. Neighborhood citizens that hadn’t heard about the community center or never participated, showed up in the weekend and participated in realizing the face-lift Some became very enthusiastic and promised to donate some of their time to teach the children in the skills they have. One of the youngsters that grew up in this neighborhood and came to film, told: ‘I grew up here and I know how difficult it is to free yourself from the street culture and not to end up in criminality. These youngsters don’t have many good examples. I am an example that it is possible to achieve what you dream of and therefore I’d like to donate one evening per week to teach this children in music and filming.’
And the children? Besides participating enthusiastically in the physical transformation they also initiated their own project: Under the guidance of young citizen Armina they produced and performed a fabulous song about life in Newham: Newham there’s nothing you can’t do-o. Goosebumps. On the Oasis Newham facebook page you can already find an impression, the professional video will be on youtube somewhere the coming weeks.
Tracy, community links manager for Silvertown said: ‘It’s said there’s no community cohesion round here. But when this began, word got around. People who never even knew the community centre were here, brought along with their friends. We had people arriving from outside the area. Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces made me so proud. I’ve been going round thanking everyone.” (source:http://momentumproject.tumblr.com/)
Saci Lloyd, co-founder of the Momentum Project: “I’m not surprised by what happened this weekend. Newham is a very exciting place to be right now: the Olympics, the new green enterprise zone, it’s the youngest, most vibrant and fastest-growing borough in London. But I’ve never felt such a buzz. This weekend it felt like it’s finally waking up. It’s real Olympic legacy.” (source: http://momentumproject.tumblr.com/)