Serving the community with passion and joy

Its ten years since Ehinor Otaigbe-Amedu and other women set up Wonderfully Made Woman in her living room. Since then the group has worked hard to promote healthy marriages and confidence building, and to raise awareness of the effect that domestic abuse and violence has on women and their children in the community. Ehinor tells Hand & Heart how her inspiration to help other women started back in Nigeria:

When I was growing up, domestic abuse was experienced by many women, and in most cases their children would witness the abuse, unable to intervene. Domestic abuse was the norm really.

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“Our door has always been open.”

“We’ve been open throughout and that’s been important for us, says Mo. “It’s shown our community that, despite the pandemic, we’re still here for them even though we haven’t been doing things in person.”

From previous stories on this blog, I know that Community Resources Manager Mo Blue and her colleagues at Brunswick Church offer a great range of activities for local people as part of their Positive Steps programme. And, with a good-sized kitchen on site, food is often at the centre of what they provide.

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Summer in the city

The sun is shining. Forever Manchester’s Roadshow van is out and about. It must be summer.

Lisa and Vicky are setting up their stall in Ardwick Green Park ready to welcome local residents.

“So why are you here?” I ask Lisa as she arranges a stack of jelly beans.

“We’re here as part of our summer roadshow around Ardwick and Wythenshawe. It’s a fun day out for local people,” she says, “and a chance for us to connect like-minded neighbours.

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Been there. Done it. Pass it on.

“It’s about passing on our experience and what we’ve learnt to others in the community,” Mo tells me.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” I say. “But how did it all start?”

I’m in a Zoom meeting with the founding members of a new women’s group that call themselves the Dynamic Engagement Project. Even the title is exciting. One by one the women unmute themselves to tell me about their plans.

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“A celebration of new beginnings.”

The sun is shining and Hartfield Close Allotments are buzzing. The word is out and there’s a queue of residents, all socially distanced, come to collect their sunflower seeds.

“It’s like a celebration of new beginnings,” says Lisa from Forever Manchester who hands sunflower packs to a couple of boys. “People are really enjoying coming out, and I’m loving being back in Ardwick again after all these months.”

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Sea of Sunflowers

“It’s been a tough year,” says Ardwick food teacher Haydn Bettles. “We could all do with being cheered up.”

Haydn has been inspired to create a sea of sunflowers around his school and is encouraging others to get involved too. “Each of our schoolchildren will plant a sunflower seed to bring joy and happiness… and serve as remembrance as we slowly emerge from the pandemic.”

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“It’s a taboo subject.”

“Our community find it very difficult to talk about mental health. People feel stigmatised. Religion, culture and beliefs all have an impact on how people see mental health.”

By profession Nkoyo Shadracks – known to everyone as Precious – is a mental health nurse. Outside of work she runs Bold Step, a voluntary group that’s dedicated to improving mental health in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.

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“When they smile… it makes me smile.”

This time on a Monday morning the foyer of Brunswick Church would normally be buzzing. There’d be people getting help on the internet, some finishing a woman’s group and others just chatting over a coffee, maybe waiting for the free lunchtime service to start. But, of course, things have changed.

It’s not totally quiet. Behind the closed shutters I can hear lots of activity in the kitchen and, on this side, community resources manager Mo Blue is wrapping pieces of chocolate brownie. Volunteer Garry is here too, stacking takeaway cartons of chick pea curry.

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A passion for fashion

Growing up near Maine Road football ground in the 70s Colin and his mates always tried to look different. Even then his sewing skills were in high demand. Len Grant spoke to the local fashion designer about his life long passion.

“My dad had a butcher’s shop near the ground and, as teenagers, me and my brother would work there, cleaning up after a day’s work,” says Colin Simmonds.

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