Saving a vital community hub

Leyla Laksari, CEO of Living Under One Sun shares why the frontline community service needs to be saved

Leyla Laksari (centre) with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (second left) and members of the Living Under One Sun team

It’s taken over two years of hard work from volunteers, and our local team of staff and sessional workers who we’ve trained and supported, to transform a disused bowling club in Down Lane Park, into a unique, welcoming community hub and café that provides free community led services.

With the coronavirus lockdown the council closed all centres and cafés in parks – meaning we had to shut our doors at Living Under One Sun (LUOS), losing all our bookings and income.

We are a frontline neighbourhood charity, and all our projects are led by local residents who were trained and supported to deliver services to others which they had initiated (including sewing, cycle repairs, and refugee mothers peer support), creating pathways to their own employment. We’ve started a Crowdfunder campaign to raise £30,000 to save LUOS because we aim to survive, keeping all of this going, and supporting those on the margins!

Local residents and community groups who’ve worked hard to get this place set up, use the services or can see their value to the neighbourhood. So too, do local businesses, partners, and the council – it takes all of us to make regeneration meaningful, and we want to gain support from those who understand our cause.

Tottenham Hale more than ever needs this community hub, and without this campaign there is a serious risk of losing it. That means people we’ve reached and who come together to support each other won’t have the safe welcoming place and free service they’ve helped create, need and deserve. For some individuals and families this would be critical.

Tottenham is facing major changes, the effects of austerity, and large-scale developments which some people do not feel involved in, or is for them, and now the effects of COVID-19. We are in one of the most deprived parts of Haringey, lacking basic investment and facing poverty, poor health, violence, polarisation and social isolation.

Our community is too often divided, and despite the richness of its cultures, the skills and heritage so many are invisible and many residents have no voice.

Our aim to save the community hub is not just about now, it’s about the future of our neighbourhood, and all the love and trust invested in this place to create a positive visible presence for our community talents and heritage – such as the wonderful ‘Celebration of Tottenham’s Windrush Heritage’ last summer, which was attended by 900 people.

We do not qualify for government loans or grants, and the Government Job Retention scheme (furloughing) makes it very difficult for small charities. By raising urgently needed funds we could survive this heart-breaking pandemic and be able to pay urgent bills, pay our staff, and deliver safe activities.

Alongside this crowdfunding we’re making every effort towards get funding from other sources, but this is very competitive and geared to larger charities, often leaving just crumbs for small frontline and BAME groups.

The bottom line is without sufficient funds to support staffing we will not be able to reopen safely and all the hard work from the community will be wasted.

We need to keep frontline community-led services going in order to be a safe presence and voice in this crisis, that supports the community to recover and rebuild.

Click here or more information about Living Under One Sun, how to donate and the rewards available to those who pledge support.

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