On Saturday 12 June 2021, we’re hosting a special event so we can come together outdoors as restrictions lift, and fundraise for our Newham neighbours in need. And we’d love to have your support!
A little history and a Victorian hero
The rolling marshes of the River Roding originally gave their name to the area of Bonny Downs in East Ham. However, by the 1890s it was far from ‘bonny’ and well known as a deprived and dangerous place. When a pastor called Charles Howe visited, he was outraged to find 60 children running around with no shoes in the area that’s now Flanders Playing Field.
Hearing heart-breaking stories of poverty and struck by a strong community spirit, he resolved to change things – sourcing clothes for the barefoot children, teaching their parents to read and write, and organising free family holidays. His great work later became the inspiration for Bonny Downs Community Association, and our charity was born in 1998.
Over the past year, the pandemic has brought out the same fantastic community spirit in our area of Newham. Sadly, it’s also shown that some of challenges of 100 years ago still exist – and it’s made them even worse.
Every week we meet children with hungry tummies and inadequate clothing. In the eight years we’ve been running our food bank, we’ve never seen such demand for food. We also recently launched a new service offering families support with their wider poverty challenges, such as top-ups for fuel and clothing and bedding for their children.
That’s why we’ve launched our Bonny Downs Barefoot Challenge to help families get back on their feet after the pandemic. Can you help us fundraise for our neighbours in need? We know from the past year that when we pull together, amazing things can happen!
Meet our modern day hero Mentesnot!
Mentesnot Mengesha fled Ethiopia as a refugee during the civil war 30 years ago and settled and built a successful life in Newham. His first job was as a Refugee Development Worker for Newham charity The Renewal Programme and he is currently a part-time lecturer in Teachers Education at New City College, Hackney.
Recently, Mentesnot witnessed a young black boy walking with his father in shoes that were utterly worn-out and falling apart, near a dentist’s surgery in Plaistow. He was shocked and upset to see such a visible sign of poverty on the streets of one of the world’s richest life cities. As the pandemic has continued to highlight the inequalities and challenges that many people in Newham continue to face today, Mentesnot felt challenged to do something.
Mentesnot has volunteered to walk an amazing 100 miles barefoot to raise funds for Bonny Downs in solidarity with all those in Newham today who cannot afford the shoes, clothes, food, and other basic essentials they need to fulfil their true potential. He will start his 100-mile journey with us at our Barefoot Challenge on 12 June.
Once Mentesnot has set up his fundraising page we will provide a link here, so that you can support him by making a donation. If you aren’t in a position to donate, we completely understand and you can show your support by sharing it and helping us spread the word!
Read our interview with Mentesnot here!
Get involved – walk a mile in their shoes
On 12 June, a number of us will gather in Flanders Field to cheer Mentesnot on and to walk a mile barefoot in solidarity with our Newham neighbours in need. Participants will include our staff, volunteers, the members of Bonny Downs Church and our charity partners The Renewal Programme. Each of us will also be fundraising for BDCA or The Renewal Programme.
Would you like to join us? You don’t need to be an experienced walker or fundraiser to take part, and there’s no pressure to raise a large sum of money. It’s the taking part that counts and we’d love to see you there and have your support. We’ll also have social distancing measures in place and free drinks and refreshments on offer to spur you on!
To join us in walking ‘a mile in their shoes’ and fundraising for BDCA or The Renewal Programme, please register here. We’ll then send you a short pack with all the info you need and tips to help you set up your personal fundraising page.
You can read more about our work at Bonny Downs by browsing our website. This page is a good place to start!
Bonny Downs Community Association will use the funds we raise from this campaign to meet the costs of running our regular weekly Food Bank and new Family FuelBank. This includes the purchase of food, toiletries and other essentials as well as fuel and utility top-ups and shopping vouchers for clothes, bedding and other urgent household items. In the unlikely event that we raise more money than we need, we will allocate any excess to our other services helping the community recover from the pandemic.
You can read more about The Renewal Programme on their website here, and in the paragraphs below.
The Renewal Programme is a Newham based charity. Working with the community, the local council and businesses and other local charities, they transform and empower individuals for a stronger borough.
The founding aim of the charity was to inspire marginalised people and communities to sustain themselves independently in the future, an aim which has remained at the heart of the charity ever since.
Over the last 50 years, they have continued to support those, in Newham, who are facing multiple challenges; whether they’re a carer who needs wellbeing support, a migrant or refugee without access to public funds, an individual suffering with homelessness or experiencing poverty, a young person without direct access to learning pathways or an elderly person unable to communicate in English. With the charity’s support, they can access the services they need in order to overcome those challenges.
The Renewal Programme is a multi-service charity using a holistic, personal approach to provide Newham residents with the tools and direction to address an array of trials & tribulations.
Using advocacy, education, temporary accommodation, positive community activities, experience and a breadth of knowledge & expertise enables the organisation to draw on internal resources to provide individuals with the most tailored support possible.