Building leaders in Milton Keynes

07 June 2018

The Local People project in Milton Keynes is supporting residents to build on their strong sense of community and take action on issue that matter to them. In this piece, we hear from Chris Ellis, from children's charity Youth Sport Trust who supports residents through the Local People project in Milton Keynes.

“The Lakes Estate was the last London ‘overspill’ estate to be built in Bletchley. Building began in around 1968 and was completed in 1975. Since 1975 there has been no significant development and residents on the estate have gradually developed the feeling of being left behind but have still, importantly, retained a strong sense of community.

The project hopes to bring together local people from the Lakes Estate and the nearby Newton Lees, with both communities supported by Community Action: Milton Keynes and the Sir Herbert Leon Academy.

In the beginning, we started to explore ways to find out what local people wanted from the project.

What began to emerge was revealing – local people wanted activities but weren’t sure how to organise them. Web searches for activities in the area revealed sites that were out of date, but encouragingly the local project worker’s colleagues knew key local individuals who were able to help.

One such person was Mariee who had lived on the Lakes estate all her life. She suggested that we attend one of the events she organised to canvas local opinion of up to 300 people that usually attended throughout the day. With Halloween coming up, an event was already planned, so we used this opportunity to ask the community what they wanted, how they would like it organised, and what had stopped things happening in the past.

We also organised a weekend football taster to tap into a small but thriving football community on the estate to find out what they wanted. Over time, residents have started to recognise and shape the project as their own. They created a steering group made up of local people to have their say.

Engagement with Newton Lees was somewhat easier as an existing group called Leisure Together approached the project for support and this led to three of the members joining the Local People project steering group to represent their community.

There have been two family community events for the Lakes and Newton Lees areas, and residents even organised a camping trip in a nature reserve – the ultimate inclusive family community activity.

The project also supports young people to develop a sense of aspiration and resilience to allow them to understand the importance of maximising opportunities to enhance life skills.

Tyla Thomas, 19, is one such example. He’s grown up on the Newton Lees Estate. Unsure of what to do once he left school, he wanted to give something back by volunteering.

Tyla said: “Working in my own community would give me a chance to give something back and also to build skills and contacts as I firm up my ideas for a future career.”

Tyla has helped publicise the project and has established himself as a valuable member of the project’s steering group.

He said: “As I know the area I also have a good idea of what is needed and what the people I live with would like to happen.”

Tyla’s latest idea has been to help plan and publicise the two summer activity days; one in the Blue Lagoon nature reserve adjacent to the Lakes and one on a new housing estate in Newton Lees, a very short distance from the Community Centre.

Tyla said: “I have developed much more confidence and am building knowledge and skills through working with the project and applying them in a professional context.

“I feel that I have genuine influence through my work on the steering group. I am helping to build connections with my knowledge of Newton Lees and the Lakes, both by connecting people that are already doing things, and by connecting those starting projects with people in the community.”

Tyla is hoping he can join the Police in the coming years and feels this work with Local People project will be the perfect experience to prepare him.

Chris Ellis, from national children’s charity Youth Sport Trust who supports residents through the Local People project in Milton Keynes.

 

The Local People project in Milton Keynes is supported by Youth Sport Trust and funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised by HealthStrong through The Health Lottery.

Through the project, residents have created a shared vision for their community and decided on priorities including developing stronger ties between the two estates, getting more young people active, tackling isolation and increasing pride in the neighbourhoods."

 

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