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May 11th, 2012

Beauty is only skin deep.

This blog was inspired by the sign in the picture, it is of Riccardo Street in Poplar next to our office, it is a nice new sign on some old blocks from the 50’s. They have given the hold street (almost) a new facade, it got me thinking.

Often when I have people come to visit me I take them around the Teviot estate, and often people comment ‘it doesn’t look too bad around here’ what they mean is they think it looks ‘respectable’ whatever this might be, or it looks like a ‘nice’ place to live whatever this might be, inferring they can’t see the poverty they might have expected or been told about. Sometimes I think people expect have an image in their minds of poverty and I suspect it does not tally with what they see on the Teviot. This is an excerpt from a recent application:

The Canaan Project runs centre-based youth club sessions, off-site activities, and detached youth work on the streets of the Teviot Estate in the East India & Lansbury ward in Poplar, Tower Hamlets. This ward is the second most deprived in London, and 88% of its Super Output Areas are in the worst 10% areas of England. It has the highest levels of child poverty in the country. (Index of Deprivation, 2010) …. The project works with a diverse group of young people aged 11 – 19, 60% of whom are Bangladeshi; Somalis make up a growing minority ethnic group in the area, and there are tensions between these two groups. Although, overall, Tower Hamlets’ educational results have improved greatly, and the number of NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) has fallen, Poplar has the borough’s lowest educational and post-16 achievements. (‘THIS Borough’ – Tower Hamlets Information Service)

This tells you of some of the indicators to poverty in the Teviot there is also other evidence of diversity that people in the Teviot face, gathered through the stories of the young people we work with, some of the young people have said they have to share their bedrooms with other siblings, often meaning there is overcrowding with large families in small flats or that they often translate for their parents, with English as a second language, or about the lack of opportunity, for example for some of the young people they have not left East London ever! Never got on the underground and gone across London let alone leave London!

The Canaan Project is about getting behind the nice shiny sign (which we still think is important) and meeting with the people behind the facade and helping them not to experience poverty in the way they are currently facing it.