Residents in Anthony Road, Silvertown, have taken it upon themselves to clean up their park and make it safe for children to play there again.
A group, calling themselves People with a Mission, was formed after residents noticed children playing in the street because people were drinking alcohol and using drugs in the park, often leaving broken bottles and drug paraphernalia behind.
The group is led by five women – Shireen Sonday, Ursula Roberts, Faldeelah Jacobs, Vanessa Reynolds and Nuraan Kalam. On Saturday February 11, as a show of solidarity to reclaim the park from the “unsavoury characters”, People with a Mission held a sports day for the children in the area. However, before the games could begin, everybody rallied around to clean the park, especially picking up all pieces of glass.
People with a Mission’s spokesperson, Ms Jacobs, said: “It’s not safe for the children to play in the streets. In this road in particular, there is a huge number of vehicles coming in and out, because there is a shebeen operating here, and drug houses. We just had enough and started with the project. There are always broken beer bottles and illegal activities taking place in the park, preventing children from playing there.
“On Saturday February 4, we came together and hosted a fun day for the children, where they made a map, and gave ideas of what they want done in the park – should it be reconstructed and closed up by the council.”
The group also distributed letters to all their neighbours in Anthony and Petunia roads, explaining their aim and inviting them to be a part of it. The children’s suggestions about upgrading the park, accompanied a proposal People with a Mission presented to Ward 44 councillor, Anthony Moses. Mr Moses also attended the sports day.
“I am quite encouraged by the community who have taken a positive stance in cleaning the park. Recently, I have done a number of site visits with officials, and I’ve noted the anti-social behaviour within the park, the condition of the play equipment and a number of service delivery issues within the area. The community decided to come up with a positive plan in reclaiming the park – as a recreational space for positive change. I have also discussed with some of the community members how we can upgrade the park and the surrounding area, which includes the other parks and public open spaces. I am currently walking and cycling through the ward and are looking at improvements within the area,” Mr Moses said.
Ms Jacobs said it was pity that there were not many recreational facilities for children from marginalised communities, and, as a result, the risk of these children engaging in harmful activities as they grew older remained high.
“Many homes and communities have become sites of oppression, as a result of the impact of substance and alcohol abuse and other issues. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable. Many children cannot access their right to education as pre-school is unaffordable for various reasons, and as a result they roam the street. Strangers and vulnerable children can be a dangerous mix. Our project aims to advocate care, and to provide a platform for our children and young people in our community to shine as the bright stars they can become. Reclaiming the park is the first step,” Ms Jacobs said.