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What Faith Organisations Do Best

There’s a building I know in Dagenham. It belongs to a faith-based organisation, who’ve had it for a number of years. And it’s a brilliant example of why faith centres are the best places to connect with people.

Faith centres are always about people. And the motivating force is compassion. Without compassion, a faith centre is just a building that runs programmes. With compassion, you become solution-focused. You are prepared to sacrifice in order that others get the support they need. Which means you are always outward-looking, seeking to engage with people. And you have an ‘inclusion’ mentality – no-one is the odd man out.

So this building in Dagenham started life in the middle of a residential area. It was empty and jaded from its past glories (long since forgotten!). But it passed into the hands of the faith organisation and hasn’t looked back! The faith organisation saw it as a means to an end – to be able to show compassion, bring peace and support all who have needs.

Faith organisations are flexible, relevant, and think outside the box! This faith-based charity started by using the building to teach women construction trades! And so, many ladies learned the difference between their hawks and their trowels and went on to get paid work in what has traditionally been a male-dominated arena.

Then the centre morphed into a children’s centre. Thousands of local families from Dagenham were supported with vital services in the challenge to bring strength to family life in the Borough.

When the funding ended, the faith-based charity did not flinch – it looked long and hard at what the locality needed, and responded with services to meet those needs. But this time, with a huge volunteer force of people motivated by compassion.

Where else will you find such a mix of people? A 77-year old male former printer from the Borough has lunch with Chinese and Peruvians and Lithuanians; a mixture of Muslims and Christians make cakes together for a local coffee shop; a retired librarian helps to run a family learning project; a bunch of young local mums have a Pilates session; and a former university lecturer works alongside an ex-dental nurse greeting newcomers… all operated from a volunteer basis. And many using it as a stepping stone to life-changing employment, renewed confidence in speaking English, and to develop a fresh, personal sense of belonging (having been isolated by fears, language, skills, culture, etc.).

It’s a great example of people prepared to go the second, third, fourth or seventh mile; which means that faith-based organisations like this one will always connect better with people. Because it’s not about the money – it’s always about finding out what works best for your local area and being prepared to find a way to make it happen! And that’s what faith-based organisations do best!