After undertaking a six-month listening process, the Hurtado Jesuit Centre in Wapping has published the results of a report on the value of local community. The report shares the voices of its neighbours in the diverse and dynamic village of Wapping. A close-knit community in the heart of the London Docklands, its long tradition of social engagement by Christian agencies and political reformers is challenged by rising inequality and isolation.
The community listening project grew out of a desire to refine priorities to better fulfil the Centre’s mission to be a place of welcome in East London. As Centre Manager Kate Monkhouse explains: ‘The Jesuit tradition is to “serve where the need is greatest”. That first of all means being willing to serve, not to promote what we have to offer, but to listen and learn, to be ready to help alongside others and to build relationships of trust. Then we can discern how, given our resources, faith and values, we can best be of service through practical projects or spiritual accompaniment to those already working in charities, schools, cafés or youth centres nearby.’
As part of the process, the Centre interviewed 24 people involved in local community projects as participants and organisers. Many spoke about the challenges they faced in restoring value to community in the days of making do with less, where being a good neighbour can be lost in the busy-ness of life. One participant described this challenge by asking, ‘Do we know our neighbours or do we just annoy them?’
The report also details the responses of participants on what attributes can contribute to making community projects more effective, such as the quality of community encounter for example.
There are a wealth of community services in Tower Hamlets and Wapping, but the people we spoke with noted some important gaps, spaces where community could be valued more highly. Some gaps are actual and some are only perceived. Yet perceptions do matter, because they reveal the extent of our awareness about community activities.
All participants shared inspiring stories of people and organisations working to make the local community more welcoming.
These experiences, along with suggestions for strengthening community, are recorded in the report, entitled Welcome to Wapping: The value of community in a Tower Hamlets village. While the report details the experience of one community in a single borough, its findings seem to suggest that this is an experience that is shared by other communities across the capital. It is therefore anticipated that the report will be useful to organisations and individuals looking for ways to strengthen local community.
The report is available to download free on the website of the Centre at hurtadocentre.org.uk.