Cheshire East Council was proud to host a multi-faith conference that brought together people of all faiths and representatives from many local organisations across the area.
The aim of the event was to enable people with a wide range of views and experiences to have a frank, open and honest conversation about all aspects of community life in Cheshire East, with particular focus on race, religion, diversity and access to services.
Cheshire East Council leader Councillor Rachel Bailey attended the conference (on Saturday, November 18) and the keynote speaker was the Rev Charles Kwaku-Odoi, of Manchester Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network. He shared valuable lessons and advice from their work in the city, where people have overcome challenges following the terrorist attack in Manchester earlier in the year.
One of the key messages was the importance of connecting organisations so they work together, particularly health services and other vital services supporting people at times of crisis and emergency. The Rev Kwaku-Odoi also stressed the importance of learning from others in the region and sharing expertise.
Councillor Liz Wardlaw, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for health, who spoke at the event, said, “Everyone in Cheshire East has the right to feel safe and to live healthy and peaceful lives. There are now more than 100 languages spoken by residents in our diverse community, so it’s vital that we enable people to share their knowledge and experiences to see where we can work better together.
“I think it’s important to know that we don’t need to be experts to contribute to improving things in our community. Being a mother, carer and retired nurse all help me to bring my unique perspective to supporting local communities and everyone has something to contribute. So, please, do get involved.”
Highlights from the event, held at South Cheshire College, included speakers sharing their experiences of ‘my life in Crewe’.
Elena Cholakova-Pereira is a volunteer ‘Community Connector’, who helps people in her community connect with local services and each other. Elena gave a very powerful talk about the many barriers people can face when trying to access services.
Examples ranged from people struggling with being able to navigate electronic telephone answering services to requiring different forms of registration and documentation before being able to get the help needed – as sometimes this can take many weeks to resolve.
Jubeyar Ahmed, secretary of the Shah Jalal Mosque in Crewe, has lived in Crewe for more than 20 years and spoke of the many nationalities of people who are Muslim and attend the mosque.
Jubeyar encouraged everyone to help improve community relations by celebrating local diversity and enjoying life together in Crewe. Sadly, in recent times, there has been some racial tension and Jubeyar encouraged everyone to try and understand others and build strong, tolerant communities.
The Rev Jennie Wakefield, chair of Crewe Churches Together, shared local experiences of church staff and volunteers helping homeless people in the area and how inspired she was that volunteers always stepped up and supported people who needed help.
All of the conversation and feedback from the faith and hope multi-faith conference will form part of a community cohesion action plan, which is being led by Cheshire East Council.
If you are interested in helping to make things better in your local community, please get in touch in the first instance with Loreen Chikwira, community cohesion manager for Cheshire East Council, at: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01270 685880.