Teenagers concerned about growing street violence held a peace vigil at Redbridge Peace Monument, in Ilford town centre, during the first week of the summer holidays this year.
Over the last few months, Redbridge Council has agreed a monthly schedule of community events with British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) in Ilford’s pedestrian broadway, to enable charities and community groups to seek referrals via a direct public interface.
The events attract local people through the organising of a commercial market interspersed with social enterprises and NGOs and free children’s activities.
The events are rapidly growing in popularity due to the themed nature of the one-week events. Already we have seen a royal wedding party in the town centre and a football-themed event with England flags painted on people’s faces to celebrate the great effort of the English football team.
From the 23 to 28 of July, however, the event took on a more serious connotation, as the BPCA partnered with ‘The Challenge’ on the National Citizenship Service (NCS).
The Challenge was founded in 2009 and aims to build a more integrated society, where people from different backgrounds appreciate and understand each other’s differences. One of the ways NCS does this is by providing volunteering opportunities to teenagers in their local communities.
The BPCA also partnered with Christian charity E-Gangs, which specialises in mentoring and assisting young people exiting a gang-related lifestyle who are caught up in crime and drug-dealing and so forth.
The peace vigil was held at Redbridge Peace Monument, located at the Winston Way subway where a young man, Kashif Mahmood was killed. A poem written by young volunteer Chinwedu Akus, was read out to visitors at the event, which also featured short talks from Parvin Mahmood, mother of the slain teenager, and from Rev. Andrew Willis from High Road Baptist Church.
The peace monument was installed by the BPCA and East Ilford Betterment Partnership in 2011, close to the location where teenager Kashif Mahmood was killed in a brutal knife attack at the tender age of 15.
During the week NCS volunteers held a public art competition in Ilford during the Redbridge Fayre, open to children and teenagers, as well as helping out at an existing friendship centre, which has been organised by local churches in Ilford town centre.
This enabled the Christian volunteers to befriend other local teenagers who may be feeling lonely and isolated, and signposting some to further, professional support where needed.