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Exploring Faith in Barking & Dagenham

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Siobhán Anderson

18 / 04 / 19

Jessica Hazrati – Programmes Officer, Community at the Faith & Belief Forum

After working my way up from intern, to consultant, I am so happy to now be a fully-fledged staff member of F&BF and even more excited to join the Movement Building crew. 

Maybe first a bit about how I got here, I joined 3FF in 2016 as a ParliaMentors Intern. I was halfway through my MTh in Theology at Heythrop College and had been focusing my research on Contemporary Political Theology, so the ParliaMentors programme seemed like a perfect fit to explore the theory of faith and society in practice.  

The internship programme was my first experience of a proper office job and what an amazing first experience of the real world of work that was. Through the guidance of Sean, I got stuck into planning the 2nd Interfaith Summit with the youth council, travelled with the team up and down the country visiting students on campus and got to see how faith in action can create amazing change – something that has really influenced the trajectory of the rest of my career.  

Like many at F&BF it seemed I was in the right place at the right time and as my internship came to an end the opportunity to say involved in F&BF’s work came in the shape of our partnership with the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith. For the next eighteen months I became a consultant leading on the Council on Faith project – which mainly involved the creation of the London Faith and Belief Community Awards.  

Now, in 2019, I have started a new role as Community Programmes Officer. One focus of this role is working on our new project – Faith in Barking and Dagenham.  

Faith in Barking and Dagenham is a 22 month project which will develop interfaith programmes and encounters in the borough, by working with local organisations, schools and residents. We will be bringing more schools work into the borough, supporting the faith forum to make a bigger impact and, of most interest to me, working with people of faith to grow their confidence in sharing their beliefs and becoming agents of social change.  

Through my experience of our movement building programmes, I have witnessed the power of faith groups. I have seen (and received) the support and companionship faith groups give their congregations and neighbours; the social action projects they champion, addressing issues surrounding homelessness, deprivation, health and education; and the national and international campaigns they influence, like climate change, economic inequality, and ending modern day slavery. In the three months we’ve been in Barking and Dagenham, already many examples of community action have been discovered and I can’t wait to collaborate with the inspirational individuals who drive these projects.  

I am also looking forward to bringing our interfaith awareness, language and practice into Barking and Dagenham as seeing what our ideas look like against the backdrop of the local community. I am sure there are lots of challenging conversations to be had and reflections to be made.  

The second part of my role I am most excited about is getting involved in the Youth Council and seeing the trajectory our movement building work will take when the Intern Alumni join the committee. As an intern alum myself, one thing I miss is the variety of interests and ideas fellow interns had and the sense of community we built through our three or six months together. Hopefully through the Youth Council we can capture and give a platform to the interests of the Intern Alumni and give more opportunities for us to stay involved and influence the work of F&BF – maintaining the sense of community central to our work.  

Contact Jessica at jessica@faithbeliefforum.org

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