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The Scrubs Campaign - ‘Our park should be as good as the others in our area’

The Scrubs Campaign - ‘Our park should be as good as the others in our area’

In 2021, a team of 8- to 10-year-old students involved with the West London Zone (WLZ) Link Programme at Old Oak Primary school, began to explore what they would like to change in their local area. The students on the West London Zone programme are young people who would benefit from some additional support to develop their skills and reach their goals, as identified by the school. Working with Zarin Shahabi, a West London Zone Link Worker, these students went on a community walk, ending up in their local park on the Wormwood Scrubs, opposite their school. While there, they began a conversation about what they liked about the park, and what they wished they could improve.

But what next?

The team then decided to do some research. So, they went to visit a number of other parks in the local area, to see what facilities they had that could be built at the Scrubs too. So the Old Oak Primary School/West London Zone action team then got on a few local buses and began to explore the local area’s parks. Soon, what they saw got them excited, and encouraged them to start asking questions. Why was it that other parks seem to be better invested in than theirs? It did not seem fair.

The team then got together and began a listening campaign in their school. These young leaders had now been trained in the skills of community organising, where listening to your peers is vital. They went into classes to find out changes their peers would like to make to the park. The team listened to over 100 young people, took their answers and prioritised them into 3 main asks: a zip-line, a trampoline and a new water fountain.

And then, it was time to take action.

In December 2021, Zarin, West London Zone Link Worker, and her team of Old Oak Primary school children, then wrote to their local councillors, Wesley Harcourt and Alexandra Sanderson (also the Children and Education PAC Chair at Hammersmith and Fulham Council), inviting them to a local action where the students would explain why the action mattered to them.

On 4 February 2022, in the morning cold, 20 students from Old Oak Primary School, along with 20 parents and allies from Hammersmith and Fulham Citizens, met with Cllrs Sanderson and Harcourt, on the Scrubs Park, to describe the work they had done, and why it mattered to them. They then asked the councillors to commit to putting in a zip-line, trampoline and new water fountain by the end of 2022, to which they agreed.

Now the question was, how much people power did they actually have? Enough to encourage the councillors to come to the action? Yes! Enough to get them to agree to the asks? Yes. But, would they deliver?

On 10th March 2022, Cllr Sanderson sent H&F Citizens a wonderful email, praising Zarin and the students’ organising, and sharing the wonderful news that the Wormwood Scrubs Charitable Trust had confirmed that they would provide 25% match funding for the HS2 grant to pay for the new park, including the zip line, and an additional £5000 for the trampette. When the committee meets in June, they will have quotes, and then seek the installation thereafter. The water fountain was a harder ask because the previous one was vandalized, but Cllr Sanderson committed to keep working on it. Two out of three asks done!

The team is now planning to meet Cllr Sanderson in June and work on planning a celebration to recognize the work she has done in improving the local area.

Perhaps the most wonderful outcome was the children’s increase in confidence and leadership skills as they learnt about the practicalities of how democracy works – doing research, listening to people, finding out who is responsible for what in the council, public speaking, writing to representatives, and then planning a fun public action.

Congratulations to Old Oak Primary School and West London Zone! Now, onwards to the celebration!

As former US President (and former community organiser), Barack Obama said, 'Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.' Barack Obama

Posted by Daniel Mackintosh on 9 May, 2022