May 16th, 2014

Womens Rights

At our Cranbrook Girls Club this week we had a great discussion about what it means to be a woman. I read out a series of statements about women’s rights and roles and the girls had to go to a different part of the room to show if they agreed, disagreed or weren’t sure. They then had the opportunity to explain why they had chosen that position. This group of 10 girls had a range of heritages including Bangladeshi, Caribbean, Somali and White British as well as having a real variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Yet they all, in one way or another, expressed an understanding that as women, they had equal rights to education, to work, to safety and to make decisions about their own lives. This was so encouraging to me.

I was also impressed by the confidence and conviction with which many of them spoke. Far from the stereotype of teenage girls who only want to talk about celebrities, make-up and boys, these young women demonstrated that they were informed, passionate and articulate. They also spoke with balance and grace. One girl was quick to disassociate herself from a feminism which is about “man-hating” and several others to point out that men can be just as skilled as women at raising children and that skill was particular to an individual rather than their gender.

As the horrific abduction of over 200 Nigerian girls to deny them their rights to education and freedom continues, I am reminded of the relative privilege and freedom our girls experience despite their disadvantages. Mercifully, it is unlikely that our girls will ever have to face such extreme and horrendous opposition to their rights and beliefs, yet even in our society they will face challenges in holding on to and applying the values they expressed in our session, for themselves and for others. I am however massively encouraged that they have these views as their starting point and am excited by the opportunity that we have to support them in continuing to develop and walk in their convictions and to challenge oppression wherever they find it.

March 7th, 2014

Why I love this picture

I love this picture. It captures for me some of what Canaan Project is about.

I love the diversity represented. Every one of the girls in this picture has a different cultural heritage and therefore life experiences and expectations. Yet in this instance they are not being defined by their difference but by what they have in common. Its important to us that in such a multicultural society, that we create places where young women can embrace difference and the richness that it brings and also move beyond it, to be united by what they share.

I love the challenge to social norms that this image poses. A group of girls, playing basketball – a more commonly male sport, predominantly in skirts – non-typical clothing, in a space that is usually the domain of the boys. Not only this but also on a pitch that is right in the middle of their estate, overlooked by several tall blocks of flats and set beside the main thoroughfare running through the estate. We want young women to know that they don’t just have to observe from the fringes but have the right and ability to occupy centre stage as much as anyone else.

But perhaps what I love the most about the scene depicted here was how quickly the girls forgot their reservations and self-consciousness about breaking all these conventions. This wasn’t a deliberate protest about racial or gender inequalities but was a group of people pursuing an activity they enjoyed, with like-minded others, in a space that was convenient. If this event or the resulting image pose any challenge to potentially limiting social conventions it is only through the girls lack of regard for them. And that is one of our ultimate hopes for them, that they are free to uninhibitedly be themselves in a community where there is mutual acceptance and value placed on all.


December 6th, 2013

The Importance of being Interrupted

My thoughts have been on safe guarding this week, after attending Child Protection training and following the release of the Children’s Commissioner’s report in to Child Exploitation in Gangs and Groups. These both brought into stark and distressing reality, the horrors that are faced by some of our children and young people.

A key theme from the training and the report was the importance of relationship in preventing and uncovering abuse. It was highlighted that a relationship of trust with a worker was sited by young people as the most significant factor for them in the process of disclosing and recovering from their abuse.

In the age of target and outcome driven youth work, I’m reminded how important it is that we are able to put our agendas down and allow ourselves to really see and hear the young people we are working with. For some of our young people we may be the only adults that do.

I can think of many occasions where a session or activity I’ve been running has been interrupted by a story or a situation that I’ve sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly entertained. More often than not I’m really glad I did. Labelling these events as interruptions misses the point. These interruptions are the point! The activities that we run do have value in themselves but perhaps more importantly they are vehicles for relationships to be built; relationships in which young people know they can share things with us and trust us to listen and accept them and be able to handle what they tell us.


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October 11th, 2013

Happy Day of the Girl!

Today is the second annual International Day of the Girl Child, which was established as a result of a UN resolution adopted in 2011. The Day of the Girl came out of a recognition of the “the unique challenges girls face around the world” and is about highlighting inequalities, campaigning for positive change and encouraging young women to discover their own voice and ability to effect change (U.N. website).

“Girls face discrimination and violence every day across the world. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights” (U.N. website).

This year the day has a particular focus on Girls Education as the single most powerful factor in achieving desired development outcomes, not only for young women but their families and communities. In our little corner of the world, we at Canaan Project really resonate with this issue. We know that education, in its widest sense, is what will equip and empower our girls to be able to be healthy and successful and to fulfil their inherent potential.

The girls we work with are fortunate in that they live in a country where they have access to free education and some of the best resources in the world. However this doesn’t mean there aren’t barriers for them in engaging with and benefitting from that education. In our experience this can be a result of learning difficulties, the school environment, bullying or issues they’re facing outside of school. We really value our partnerships with schools and the ability it gives us and the school to better understand what’s going on for the girls and to offer them better support.

At the same time we recognize the opportunity we have within our own sessions to help young women learn and develop in a more informal way. We aim to provide young women with a whole range of experiences and opportunities (as with the girl in the picture learning about being a midwife!) and to then walk alongside them, reflecting with them on their discoveries. In this way we have the enormous privilege of witnessing them learning about themselves and the world around them.

Every day is Day of the Girl at Canaan Project and we hope today inspires you too to celebrate the young women in your world.


December 28th, 2012

Looking back…numbers

Well it has been a an exciting year, with lots of highs and some lows! Here is some stats that some up our year:

  • The Canaan Project has 751 Registered young people on our database
  • Over 250 individual sessions for young people in 2012
  • In November we averaged 76 hours per week of face to face youth work
  • We have started 4 new weekly sessions
  • Employed 2 new members of staff
  • Appointed 3 new trustees
  • Reached one Financial year end and have secured a significant amount of the following year
  • 52 blog posts

As ever these stats only ever demonstrate part of our work ‘the skeleton’ if you like, the stories of change the impact on young people, make up the flesh and blood of our body, and to continue the human body analogy we are an ever evolving body that continues to develop as we look forward to 2013.

December 7th, 2012

Funding the Gaps

Just to make sure you are up to date, we are currently £13,320 short for this years budget which runs September to August (we have a strange year!) We are continuing raise funds through application to Charitable Trust Funds which we are very grateful to those that have given toward the Canaan Project, vision and mission. We also very grateful to our regular givers that sacrificially give every month.

This blog is not a platform on which we normally take the time to ask for money but could we encourage anyone who is thinking about giving please do consider the Canaan Project as we continue in our work in Tower Hamlets. Our track record is providing where there is no provision especially for young people aged 11 -19 and creating a sustainable option and moving on. We do this through running centre-based youth club sessions, off-site activities, and detached youth work. The Canaan Project is greatly valued by the young people who use the service.  ‘Youth clubs give us something to do.’ Azharul,15. ‘If we have to go to different areas, we might get robbed, it happened to me.’ Arron, 14. The large number of volunteers (described by an external source as, ‘Excellent’) enables a wide range of activities to be offered:  healthy living (e.g. cooking club; table tennis); creative arts projects (e.g. filmmaking; Spoken Word performance poetry); cultural outings (e.g. museums, theatres). The Canaan Project works with young people in challenging circumstances, to develop their trust, and to help them turn their lives around, all based on developing strong relationships.

July 13th, 2012


So as we approach that time of year again – the financial year end, which is the 31st August for the Canaan Project. We look forward to the next financial year, with a slight sigh of relief that we got through this year! As I am sure you are all aware (unless you have been in a cave for the last 4 years – which seems like a good option!) we are in some major financial situation as a country (under statement from a slightly ignorant member of the public), this has had a major impact on the life of the charity and charities nationally. Although in this time of austerity and increased poverty this actually – we believe – increases the need for the Canaan Project and charities like us, to work with young people experiencing these levels of poverty and particularly the social impact of this poverty.

The bottom line for us regarding our finances is we have a around about a 35k deficit for next year and in a charity that is only aiming to turn over around the 70k mark this is SIGNIFICANT! We have lots of applications out for further funding with some positive leads, but we heavily relied on the generosity of individual donors this year to carry on the work you read about in this blog. People can donate by hitting the donate button above or here or email me for a Donation form with all our info on,

Although this might sound a little bleak – although a reality, we are really optimistic about the future and excited about the new opportunities that will be around with the new Spotlight Youth Centre opening in Poplar.

May 25th, 2012

Faith Conversations

Faith is always a topic of conversation at Canaan Project sessions it’s a relevant subject for a lot of the young people with over 60% of the club having an some sort of Islamic heritage/faith/experince and the Canaan Project – being called the ‘Canaan Project’ with the faith story we have. We had a particularly interesting conversation last week about culture and faith, around the faith of the young people and how this impacts their aspirations. Faith is clearly such a large part of the some young peoples lives and impacts the decisions they make and the people they associate with and places they visit.

It was particularly interesting to talk to 4 of the young men about their understanding and view of marriage and their expectations of their future wives. They carry many assumptions about how things might be and how they would feel about their wives, for example the expectation that their wives would wear a head covering – scarf or hijab, why they would do this and what that means to them and for them. It was a great conversation exploring their understanding and perspective. There was also and interesting conversation about the impact of culture on religion and faith, how they felt they wanted the ‘true’ religion without the culture of religion or faith, they felt it was better to be pious than someone who ‘fakes’ their faith.

I am sure we will carry on with interesting conversations at the Canaan Project, working ‘with’ young people not ‘on’ them.

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.

Claim Form
March 9th, 2012

BFG – Big Funding Group

We have a committed group of young volunteers that given up an hour or 2 of their week, each week to raise funds for their community, with the Canaan Project supporting them. This came about because the young people are always asking for new things or trips etc and we currently do not have the funds that were once available to us for the extra supportive services for young people, that complement the provision on the streets or the estate. So I asked a group of our young volunteers, the ones that I thought could concentrate for the time needed to commit and the BFG was born.

I meet them once a week as a group to mentor and support them, this has been a really helpful and productive time. They have learnt new skills in communication, but most importantly helping them to look outside of the box. It has been great to watch them creatively think and get excited about the possibilities. There is definitely an exciting future foe the group, watch this space, I am sure I will be posting some events for you to sponsor!