Whole community comes together to celebrate diversity

The High Sheriff congratulated 12 different charities and local groups at OCF’s Community Integration Awards last night. The event was a vibrant celebration of different communities coming together.

The awards were held at Oxford’s Tap Social Movement – a local brewery and social enterprise that gives work opportunities to ex-offenders. Groups that had received Community Integration funding from OCF were able to meet each other, and thank some of the donors who had given money to OCF to support the awards.

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One highlight of the evening was hearing from Emmy O’Shaughnessy, Director at the Ark T Centre in Cowley, about the impact of a previous Community Integration Award. Having received funding through the awards for the charity’s HerSpace project, Ark T was able to engage teenage girls who were victims of or at risk of sexual abuse. Through the project they were introduced to older women from local sheltered housing, who had similar experiences. The women formed close relationships across the generations, showing support and acceptance. Emmy brought along a blanket crocheted by one of the older participants, Jean, who gave it to Ark T so that if ever one of the younger girls wanted warmth and comfort, she could wrap herself in the blanket and know that Jean cared about her.

High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Jane Cranston presented the awards to representatives from each of the groups. She said: “Oxfordshire is a county which enjoys great diversity in its geographic character, its economy, its social structures and its people. These awards recognise initiatives that build greater common knowledge and understanding between communities in the county. These groups show that there is a hidden Oxfordshire in our city, towns and rural areas that many of us wouldn’t recognise. Not everyone in this area has a well heeled, easy life, but this is a wonderful opportunity to look beyond our immediate neighbourhoods and lives and appreciate everyone for the contribution they can make to our society. Well done and congratulations to you all, what an impressive selection of life-changing projects!”

A small number of this year’s recipients gave a short talk about the plans for their funding:

  • Oxford Against Cutting showcased their project coaching football to boys from communities affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). As well as playing football, boys will participate in workshops and discussions about healthy relationships, and the roles of girls and boys. FGM survivor Kaddy Touray talked movingly about the affect FGM had had on her own life and relationships.
  • Folk Arts Oxford demonstrated how they had built on their work at Oxford Folk Weekend, bringing able-bodied and disabled children together using music. Together they sing and use makaton signing to enjoy performing in harmony.
  • Full Circle described their work to bring school children together with elderly volunteers. The children flourish in school, and the older people receive a new lease of life by talking and playing with children.

A full list of all the groups funded and details of their projects can be found in the event programme.

Entertainment was provided by Confluence Collective, a musical group that received a Community Integration Award in 2016. Guests were treated to songs and instrumentals from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Delicious canapés were served by Trax, a social enterprise that provides training and skills to young people who have struggled with the normal rigours of education.

Jean Fooks, Lord Mayor of Oxford, praised the groups for their work, and encouraged local community organisations to continue to collaborate for the benefit of us all. OCF will be opening another round of Community Integration funding in 2018, and grants will be made only where two or more groups that do not usually work together have found a new way to collaborate. Dates for this grants round will be published in the next few weeks on our website, and in our email newsletter The Dandelion.

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