Our Communications Officer, Andy Walton, blogs about the joy of having 17 young people join us as interns for the month of July – and a snapshot of what they’ve been up to…
For many years now our internship programme has been training up young Christians in the practices of community organising and sending them to spend a month working with a church in London. The summer of 2015 has seen young Christians from Ghana, Germany and Italy join those from the UK to comprise our most diverse cohort ever. Most are at university, but some are school leavers. They come from a wide variety of church traditions – spanning Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Anglican and others. But they are united in their desire to see local churches engaging with their communities.
Sarah, a student at Durham University, has come face to face with the problems faced by those attached to St James the Great in Clapton: “I’ve heard a couple of quite difficult stories. ‘I have to work really hard for anything’ one woman told me. ‘Nothing has ever been easy for me.’ She spoke about how she was in rent arrears, and her housing provider kept taking her to court over this, which meant that she would be landed with legal fees, increasing her debt, even though she was working hard to repay what she owed. She desperately wanted to move from Harringay to Hackney, but cannot do so until she has cleared her rent arrears. This lady was working night shifts and struggling to make ends meet. All I was able to do was listen as she told me about her struggles.”
But Sarah has been encouraged by the way the church is making a difference, “This week I have had an opportunity to see more of how different facets of community organising can work in practice, offering practical service (as did the credit union), making useful connections with local authorities, and campaigning on issues (as was the focus of the Hackney Migrant centre meeting). It was interesting to see different ways to be engaged in community, and how they can compliment each other.”
Marta is soon to graduate from a Masters at SOAS and is on placement with St Monica’s RC church in Hoxton. She says she’s been particularly struck by the opportunity to meet other Christians and people from different civil society groups who are tireless in making their community a better place. “It is humbling to see these other faithful people at work, to know that I am not the only one. Also, I feel now more connected to people of different backgrounds and even different faiths… I was invited to a huge lunch at Aurora’s house. Sitting next to Swan and eating the many dishes of Chinese food she had cooked, sipping wine, and talking about her background made me feel included, loved and well-looked after. This week has helped me to ‘go out of myself,’ to reach others and be more selfless. It is humbling to live in this community.”
A development this year has been our growing relationship with young Christians from Ghana. Bernice Owusu-Sekyere is one of them. Reflecting on her experience so far she says, “It was exciting for me to meet other young people who are passionate about making a change in their society. I learnt that ‘self-interest’ is not necessarily wrong, and that it can be a catalyst for change. In other words, my views count, and if I am determined enough I can bring about change in my community. I also learnt that power is built through building relationships with people of common interest. This is a very interesting concept I hope to use back home.”
This diverse and dynamic group of young people have left their mark on their churches and the internship is leaving its mark on them. We’ll bring you some more reflections from them on the CTC blog soon…