When I posted on the riots, it had over twenty thousand hits on this forum. I had the BBC World Service call me, was in France's national paper Liberation, interviewed on Canadian breakfast teleivison, was invited to speak on Woman's Hour and my post was shared on over 1,000 people's Facebook and Twitter pages. Everyone was rightly outraged. Pages upon pages of replies on Sydenham Town Forum, just like this thread, but when I talked of solutions, nothing happened.
When I post on here inviting people to attend meetings, or offer some advice on a new community project I am thinking about; when I ask you to give £2 per month to fund small charitable organisations to run positive activities, some of you protest that asking for money isn't the way forward. When I asked if people would volunteer, go to a school and set up a weekly after-school club to teach small children to read where parents are letting them down, nobody stepped forward. I can offer my email again in case you missed it: firstname.lastname@example.org
. I had one kind lady meet me for a drink and give me feedback on the website and another kind woman keeps the news updated. Two people. But they were not the posters who really need to put their actions where their keyboard is.
For such an active forum, I doubt there is much real democracy going on. What Marie was trying to say was that this talk is no way forward and in many cases it is hostile and divisive, harbouring through the typed word an aggression you denounce in others, mainly youths. I personally asked those same aggressive types to think about being mentors to young people who have no real role models, especially male ones. They could do with some regular contact from people with strong opinions, and who knows, even the likes of Eagle could learn something from pond life.
We can shoot Marie down for trying to explain how low opinions of others won't make the world a better place. But we must admit to ourselves there is nothing to praise in this conversation. ‘Democracy’ and ‘freedom of speech’ are weighty terms and when pitted against this thread should make us ashamed for being pathetic orators, instead we highlight that the inadequacies of our society stem from all of us and our drivel.
Actions certainly speak louder than words and for the past three years I have tried to build up a service for young people and their parents and guardians to see what is going on locally, to show there is always something great to do in Sydenham, and when there isn’t, to ask locals to help pay for services and activities that are not happening by giving a small monthly donation.
The truth is it hasn't happened in the way I hoped. We are about the part-fund a small pilot project training young people at risk of exclusion to learn painting and decorating and to paint the rooms of local people with trained staff. But it is not enough. The Forum gets £37pcm which will go towards the paint, and we can only afford to run three sessions unless we receive funding via a successful application to Sydenham Assembly. But asking the government to always pay is not the answer either: firstly govt shouldn't do everything and secondly the funding simply isn’t there. We need to all muck in.
I thought that this forum was an amazing vibrant place and as soon as I posted the things I was up to, you would all flock to join in because you care so much. There's nothing in it for me. I work 8 hours a week paid, volunteer the rest and my wages is paid through funding applications. I will be 30 this year, and relatives are starting to call me silly for believing in community grass-roots work. “You need to buy a house”. “What about having your own kids?”. But I believe the Gandhi quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world". And I pity the inactive bitter people, not myself. I actually love my work.
All I want, and am interested in, is solutions to make Sydenham a better place. Perhaps I am really idealistic, but what really could and should happen is for you all to club together and think of amazing healthy foods, then hire a community space with a kitchen and set up a 'healthy food club' and invite the RnB types or whoever you were insinuating, to learn the craft of eating healthily. One day a week. I'd sponsor it with my own money. I would volunteer to wash up. You could take the young people to Sainsbury’s and buy the fresh ingredients. Teach them to budget. Read a recipe. This is the debate we need to be having. We need to upload photos of fresh fruit and vegetables not black hooded faces then pretend there wasn’t something in it. It was only “stereotyping” – please.
I am in no doubt everyone on here is capable of making a difference and being a solution. But as we have it right now, this is just as bad a loitering outside a chicken shop eating junk. This is quite literally junk mail. There is nothing of a positive contribution or a healthy debate and take responsibility for it. It's the number one rule for working with teenagers: help teach them they must own their actions. Own your words, and your inaction.
And for the kind folk out there who are new to this place and want to do some small amount of volunteering, come and visit me. I am in the office most Tuesdays or Thursdays. I promise volunteering for us won't be taxing and you'll love it! Or visit our website: http://www.sfhyouthforum.org.uk