Compass Wellbeing connects the community with ‘Enhancing Delivery Leaders for Tomorrow’ conference

Earlier this month, You Press had the honor of attending Compass Wellbeing’s summer conference, ‘Enhancing Delivery Leaders for Tomorrow’. Held at the historic Stratford Town Hall, the conference drew over 300 community organizations representing 13 different boroughs across London, with most hailing from Northeast London, including Newham, Hackney, and Tower Hamlets. The all-day event proved to be a great opportunity for local voluntary and community organizations to collaborate and network, learning best practices from each other through a mix of open-ended discussions and various scheduled workshops.

“I’ve always wondered, if God was looking for a job, where would he want to work?” began Mohit Venkataram, CEO of Compass Wellbeing, alluding to the importance of their professions. “If he wanted a job that is full of passion, a job that is challenging, but incredibly rewarding and satisfying, there is no richer sector he would want to work in than volunteering and community service.”

Compass Wellbeing’s venture into the community service sector has been incredibly rewarding thus far, with £11.7 million commissioned to 224 different VCSEs (Voluntary, Community, and Social Enterprises) in just their first three years. However, the health-based community interest company felt they had more to offer than just money, organizing this conference with the goal of dispersing the knowledge they’ve acquired in their short lifespan with the hope that other organizations can use it to reach similar heights.

Two keynote speakers followed Venkataram, discussing building thematic alliances for health resistance and population health, respectively.

What followed was a choice of two sessions, with breaks in between each for food and beverage, as well as time to visit the various booths lining the ballroom set up by different organizations and foundations, dubbed the ‘Market Place.’

You Press chose to attend the sessions titled ‘Submitting an effective bid application’ and ‘Children and Young People: Alliance building and model development.”

The first session was designed to assist organizations in applying for funding, providing valuable advice on how to go through the process smoothly and stand out. With the sheer number of organizations in the greater London area vying for limited funds, it can get competitive trying to stay afloat. The speech was delivered by Amit Dixit, the Director of Business Development at Marie Curie, an organization providing care and support to those with terminal illnesses and the ones closest to them. Their past experience, and success, in acquiring funding shone through, having lots to offer on the subject.

The second provided support in connecting to a younger demographic, led by Elaine Thomas from The Mentoring Lab, a group dedicated to youth mentoring, training, and development. Her story, outlining her journey towards learning how to build relationships with younger people, served as a reminder to make sure that we listen to our youth, as it goes a long way in understanding their feelings and perspective.

Overall, the event was a huge success, largely in part to the collaboration at work from all sides, from Compass Wellbeing to all of the organizations in attendance. “We wouldn’t be able to do any of our work in isolation,” said Dixit. “Only by working effectively with our partners will we get the rich picture.”

These events are quite important in establishing a sense of togetherness in the community. They can also be quite enjoyable. At the end of his talk, Dixit, with a grin on his face, declared ‘Enhancing Delivery Leaders for Tomorrow’ “One of the sickest conferences I’ve ever been to.”

By Joe Brady, You Press Intern

Comparing Transit Strikes: London’s Ongoing Railway Dispute and New York City’s Subway Standstills

This being my first time out of the country, I was certainly nervous to travel through London. Looking at a map of the Underground was overwhelming to say the least. Each line is spread out across the city in a rainbow of colours like a woven spider web where I would eventually lose my sense of direction and get lost in the endless network of train tracks. 

But upon using the Tube for only a few days, I found it to be much less complex than I previously thought. With the help of CityMapper, the railways were quite easy to navigate. Once I had spent a few days exploring, I felt confident enough to plan a trip outside the city. I was thinking of going to Scotland. 

Something I never could have expected, though, was getting notified by my train booking to Edinburgh that I should expect train services to be affected by planned strikes. Upon further research I found that members of both the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport and the Aslef Union have been in dispute with the rail industry over pay, pensions and working conditions. 

While the recent Tube rail strikes have since been called off, the RMT union is still planning a strike on Saturday, July 29 that will cause widespread disruptions to National Rail services. According to an article by The Independent, the National Rail disputes are over union workers not receiving pay raises that match increasing inflation. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, “the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 8.7% in the 12 months to May 2023.” However, recent news shows that inflation has hit a year low as “inflation slowed to 7.9% in June.”

This is not the first occurrence of railway strikes, but one instance of a long-standing dispute with the railway industry. Strikes in March occurred for the same reasons. 

Transit strikes, particularly Tube strikes, appear to be an almost expected occurrence in London. The transit industry is seen as one the city’s most “strike prone industries”, and disagreements between TfL and the workers unions continue to remain unresolved. 

As someone from the U.S., I am unfamiliar with experiencing public transit strikes, let alone strikes of any kind. New York City is the largest city in the U.S. and contains the largest transit network nationally as well. Public transit strikes in the ‘Big Apple’ are far and few, only tracking back to three instances in 1966, 1980 and 2005 when the railway system was shut down due to labour disputes.

In 1966, the Transit Workers Union strike shut down the city’s subway system for 13 days. Workers demanded a wage increase, shorter hours and contract improvements. Because four to five million people used public transportation at the time, the city’s infrastructure was heavily burdened as the government attempted to minimise the strike’s effect. 

As a direct result, New York instituted the Taylor Law in 1967, denying public employees the right to strike. 

In 1980, 33,000 transit workers went on strike for 11 days because of a lack of wage increase, again testing the resourcefulness of the city. While entrepreneurial businesses thrived, the strike was estimated to have cost “$75 million to $100 million in lost income for workers and companies — and $3 million a day in overtime and lost taxes for the city,” according to the New York Times article. Due to the Taylor Law, the striking workers were fined $1,250,000.

By 2005, “over 7,500,000 million riders” depended on buses and subways. The TWU, the same union involved in the past two strikes, walked out illegally for three days because the union rejected the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s increase of retirement age and demand for increased pay towards worker pensions. 

In 2006, TWU President and leader of the 2005 transit strike Roger Toussaint was sentenced to 10 days in jail for the unlawful strike. The union was also fined millions of dollars. 

These three events put the U.S.’s most populated city to a standstill, prompting government officials to scramble to accommodate the needs of commuters. But in the end, every union worker was participating in illegal action after the introduction of the Taylor Law.

Now let’s take a look back at London, where transit strikes are happening yearly and for extended periods of time. The frequency of these strikes may be in part due to the legal freedom for workers to participate in “industrial action.” As long as the strike is formally backed by a trade union, union members are taking part in it, and a legal process is taken to make the strike official, workers are protected against being dismissed. 

The ability for public employees to participate in such action is not shared by the city lying just across the Atlantic, which may contribute to the elusiveness of such walkouts. While the Taylor Law is only specific to New York, the striking of public sector employees is illegal in 38 other states. 

Both the U.K.’s and the U.S.’s largest cities have constructed two different legal boundaries for public sector railway workers that has undoubtedly influenced the very landscape around public transportation. 

While there have been significantly less rail strikes in New York City, the very act was outlawed and would lead to immense fiscal damages for unions. Therefore, these strikes have become much less frequent, and therefore much more significant. Whereas in London, the frequent strikes pose a disruption to the five million passenger journeys that the Tube accommodates a day. However, public employees having the ability to defy regulations and wages that they deem unjust can act as a symbol of freedom for the working class to protest unjust working conditions. 

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

You Press welcomes second cohort of ASPIRE Program

On the evening of Tuesday, July 25, You Press began its second term of the ASPIRE Program. 

Made up of 17 aspiring creatives with ages ranging from 16 to 30, the cohort will embark on a 15-week training programme exploring areas such as social mobility, personal and professional development, confidence and decision making, networking skills development and leadership. 

The program is designed to prepare aspiring creatives for freelance work and provide outreach and opportunity. The cohort will have the ability to collaborate with professional freelancers during the program.

The meeting was led by You Press Founder and Director Farah Mohammoud and Project Coordinator Madiha Noori. It consisted of introductions of the You Press staff and videos that helped to familiarize the participants with the social enterprise’s overall mission and past programs. 

To begin the session, Mohammoud asked everyone to get into groups and work together to bring a metal rod to the ground using only their fingertips. He manipulated how the group could communicate with one another and the amount of time they had to complete the task to promote collaboration, rule following, and rule questioning. Mohammoud used the activity as a metaphor for completing tasks set by employers. 

The participants then did a “reflection walk” by Royal Victoria Beach. The creative space was meant to help them reflect on their state of mind and aspirations as a freelancer. 

“Really be honest, this is your own journey of reflection,” Mohammoud said. “You can block out all the noise and just kind of focus on the calmness, you kind of get through what you’re looking for, and wanting you guys to also really utilize the space that we have as well.”

The cohort is made up of individuals with various aspirations and goals in the freelancing field. 

Grace, who is 18 years old, is passionate about videography, photography and other multimedia avenues. Through this program she said that she wants to expand her portfolio and brand. 

“[I hope to] start my own side hustle like a multimedia, small business, where I could take pictures, videos and then sell it,” said Grace. 

Ru, another participant, is 26 years old and pursuing graphic design and other creative work. “So, like I’m open to different modes, which is why this is perfect for me,” Ru said. 
“I feel like I want the confidence to show my portfolio to clients so I can actually get freelance work.”

Each group also discussed their values needed to be a freelancer. The shared values amongst the cohort were communication, collaboration, no gatekeeping, creativity, equity, supporting one another and last but not least, fun. 

“This is kind of like your early blueprint. And it’d be good to see like, if your opinions and thoughts and your aspirations evolve or change or adapt to the midpoint of the program and at the end,” said Mohammoud after the activity. 

The expectations for both You Press and the cohort were then outlined. You Press promised support, guidance, communication and equal opportunity throughout the program. 

“The limitation comes from your side, not from our side,” said Noori, encouraging everyone to utilize You Press’s resources. 

Mohammoud ended the session with a group activity outside where the cohort passed an unraveling ball of string between each other and said their takeaways from the session. This resulted in each person holding a piece of string, creating a web meant to represent the connections everyone is making with one another. 

By Jack Underhill, You Press Intern

Ayaan Mohamud’s debut book “You Think You Know Me” speaks boldly about finding the strength to speak ups against hate and fear

Attending Ayaan Mohamud’s book launch for “You Think You Know Me” was truly inspiring. Waterstones bookstore in Turnham Green, London hosted this lovely event. Guests were welcomed with a cupcake display with candied book copies as toppers, finger snacks, and soft beverages. We had some time to socialise, heard moving speeches and were able to have our books signed. There were lots of smiles and happy tears. My favourite aspect of the event was witnessing Ayaan’s genuine appreciation for her loved ones. You could also see how proud they were of her. 

You Think You Know Me is Ayaan’s debut novel. The purpose of this book was to shine a light on the truth of Islam beyond the mainstream media headlines. She wants to empower the voices who feel repressed by society and help young children realize that their differences should be celebrated, rather than a reason to hate. Ayaan approaches this feat by painting a lovely picture of Hanan and her friends in the schoolyard. The novel continues to follow Hanan Ali and her journey combating Islamophobia whilst fleeing Somalia’s civil war. It is truly riveting. 

Her publisher, from Usborne Publishing, gave a very moving speech during the reception. She read the prototype, “I physically could not put it down.” Usborne is a top children’s book publishing company and receives loads of books to review and decide whether or not to publish. Lindquist said that Usborne decided to publish You Think You Know Me because of Ayaan’s outstanding writing, as well as the compelling message the book represents. Fritha said when they asked themselves what messages they want future generations to be reading, Ayaan’s novel became a no-brainer. 

Ayaan started the writing process in July 2020. She claims the initial draft was hardly recognisable from the final. Although the path was not linear, the aspect of writing which gave Ayaan the most joy was watching Hanan’s character blossom into someone that people could relate to and somebody who Ayaan was incredibly proud of. In tackling an issue like Islamophobia, Ayaan reports “there were a lot of roadblocks …but what made it easier was knowing that I was writing a girl named Hanan to the page.” Ayaan wanted to create a character who didn’t fit the stereotype of the current media. She wanted to extend media representation to allow more people to experience a relatable figure to help young readers truly comprehend the power of their voices. 

Ayaan’s passion for writing is clear and genuine. I am thrilled to see where it takes her. I’d rate You Think You Know Me and the book launch event five stars all around.

Abdi Hassan, founder of Coffee Afrik CIC, has designed and produced six community hubs across five boroughs.

Founder of Coffee Afrik – Abdi Hassan turns underused community spaces across London into environments for youth to do activities and express themselves. Since it was founded in 2018, Coffee Afrik has made community development its top priority.     

“In very simple terms — We are hubmakers,” Hassan said. “We have designed and produced and curated six hubs across London in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Enfield, Harrow and Newham.” 

Hassan is from Somalia and he takes pride in involving his culture in the work he does. 

“For us, as Muslims, we are here to serve. It’s of service. We’re of service,” Hassan said. “So connecting with our community, honouring our community, honouring our culture, honouring our arts, honouring our ancestors. It’s very important, especially when you think about all these models of healing and community work.” 

Coffee Afrik is a community interest company, also known as a CIC, meaning all the planning happens around the needs in the community. Its thriving hub in Tower Hamlets served over 150 youth in just eight sessions. 

“We are all experts by experience, which means we honour our knowledge, our practice, and we’re very much focused on building spaces that are focused on healing and focused on liberation,” Hassan said. 

The mission of Coffee Afrik was to make spaces for Black people by Black people. Hassan noticed this need and founded the organisation with that goal. 

“It’s also a challenge because the work we do has depth. You can’t do this work superficially. You can’t do it in a light touch way. It is very much focused on healing and healing takes a lot of emotional time and depth” Hassan said.  

The future of Coffee Arik is bright and Hassan is ready for the change that will come as the organisation grows. 

“I’m very proud of that impact and I really hope that it inspires other grassroots, particularly Somali-led and black-led organisations, that it is possible to make and create good travel and good noise and still be sustainable, but it’s hard work.” 
To get involved with Coffee Afrik, visit their website at

Article written by Naomi Washington, Creative Writer and Digital Media intern

Tebussum Rashid has been combatting discriminatory and racist institutions with Action For Race Equality for 19 years.

Action for Race Equality is a charity with the mission to confront the institutions around them that are inherently discriminatory and racist. Deputy Chief Executive Tebussum Rashid immerses herself in this grassroots initiative and she has for almost 30 years. She got involved with the organisation after migrating to London from Pakistan and wanting to make a difference in the community.  

“I think the politics of the country keep me going in the sense that it’s hard work because we constantly get that pushback,” Rashid said. “But recognizing that if people like us or organizations like us weren’t in this space, the discrimination would be worse.”

Just a year ago, the organisation rebranded to become a Black training enterprise group to focus specifically on policies concerning people of colour. The feeling of injustice is all too familiar to Rashid from her childhood. 

“One of the things that has shaped me and in terms of what I do and my passion behind the work is a situation that I was faced with at quite a young age that stems back to the prejudices within communities and the social norms that I grew up with.”

In Pakistan where Rashid grew up, it is customary for young girls around age 17 to get married and not be educated. However, she was determined to break that cycle. 

“I remember my resilience. Everything was against me, but I was determined,” Rashid said. “I was so wanting to pursue education and I loved reading.”

Not only did she pursue her personal education but she also passed her driving test at 17, which was rare for girls in her position at the time. 

Action for Race Equality is another way for Rashid to make change in the world. So far, it’s been successful, but like many other organisations after the pandemic, they are short of staff members. 

“We can only be in so many places at one time,” Rashid said. “As much as we need to be in those spaces, we can’t because of our capacity, which directly links to funding.” 

With more funding in the future, Action for Race Equality will move into more spaces and lend a helping hand to even more communities in London that are in need.   

Outside of Rashid’s work, she finds her own personal freedom through riding a motorbike. 

“It is my main form of commuting into London. It’s my little world and I absolutely love it.” 

Rashid is a changemaker in Central London. With more people like her, the world could be a better place. 

Written by Naomi Washington, Creative Writer and Digital Media intern

The Community Shop Newham is changing the lives of local hand-makers!

After dealing with the “frustration of not being able to find a pop-up service for hand makers in Newham,” Bianca Frimpong took matters into her own hands and founded The Community Shop Newham.

The Community Shop is a social enterprise seeking to empower local artisans in Newham by giving them a space to sell and share their handcrafted goods and grow their small businesses. The hand-makers are provided with a space to sell in person and online and the space needed to offer workshops on their crafts to the public. 

The Community Shop provides a physical and virtual platform for hand-makers and a venue for public workshops. Having this space serves as an invaluable experience for these hand makers. Bianca claims her favourite part is watching these small businesses and young people grow in the Community Shop’s environment. At the Community Shop, you can see the true creativity these local artists are displaying through their unique artistic innovations and one-of-a-kind creations. 

Bianca established the shop in July 2022. This journey has been anything except linear. She dealt with challenges along the way, including struggling to find a space for the shop. After being unable to find an actual unit to have the shop, Bianca had to detour from her original plan. Originally, Bianca set out for a three month project, and this debacle set her back to making this a one month project. 

Bianca showcased her creativity, resourcefulness and passion by taking “a shipping container and converting that into a shop front.” Bianca explains this layout proved to be handy because the business was now “convertible”. She was able to move the shop to be anywhere she wanted and expand the shop into a six month project and beyond. The Community Shop Newham has already helped twenty-two small enterprises in the first few months of its journey.

Bianca is optimistic about the shop’s future and is thrilled to continue sharing the talents of these local artisans. They have recently secured a new storefront in Canning Town. The Community Shop is moving to a brand new unit, which is being sustainably designed and built by architecture students. 

When pondering the impact she wants this shop to make on the local communities, Bianca finds it “exciting.” The Community Shop will “have this new space in Canning Town, so it’ll be interesting to see how it affects that community as well as the Royal Docks community.” 

There have been recent events such as the Spring Market, which was held in collaboration with the Good Hotel in Newham. Bianca was excited about this event because it was the perfect “opportunity to meet the hand makers and do some shopping.” This day was jam-packed with fun through various entertaining activities for kids, crafts, and an Easter egg hunt.The pop-up shop in Canning Town will be running from April 22nd through June 24th at Silvertown Way, Canning Town London, E16 1DH if you would like to attend!

Tips for Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is an adjustment for anyone who chooses to do it. It doesn’t matter if you are very independent, live far from home already, or aren’t close to your family, when you study abroad, you are leaving familiarity and comfort and have to adjust to a new environment. Studying abroad can seem even scarier if you are close to your family and find comfort in being in a familiar environment. I identify with the latter, but I chose to study abroad. Now that my trip is coming to an end, I have some pieces of advice I would like to share with others. 

Take The Leap

I am an only child and I am very close with my family and friends. I value quality time with my loved ones and don’t often travel far away from them for long periods of time like this. I have only been out of the country once and it was on a trip with my friends and family. In addition, my college is only two and a half hours away from my house. Whether it was on purpose or on accident, I have remained close to home throughout my life thus far. However, when the time came, I wanted to study abroad. I strategically chose London because of the classes offered, the internship component, and the location. Taking this leap and being away from my family and friends for four months was one of the best decisions I made. While it was scary at some points, I learned so much about myself through this experience. Even though I am close to my family and enjoy being home, I am an independent person in many ways but, going abroad showed me just how strong I am as a person. I shocked myself with how well I adjusted to London and being away from home. I was able to fully immerse myself in the experience and enjoy my time here. If you are hesitant, know that everyone has fears or worries about the abroad experience. However, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you are unsure about going abroad, learn from my example. You are probably stronger than you think. Don’t let your fear consume you and convince you not to embark on this adventure. 

Do Your Research 

Research all the locations your school offers for study abroad. You want to make an informed decision before choosing to study abroad. In addition, plan a meeting with your academic advisor. This will allow you to ensure that you will stay on track in terms of academic credit while abroad. Researching the specific classes that a program offers as well as their course equivalents is very helpful in preparing your academics for a semester abroad and can have an effect on your decision. In addition, your advisor can provide insight into whether or not your progamme offers special experiences like doing an internship. Remember to be organised and comprehensive when applying to study abroad. No matter what school you attend, this will help ensure that you are accepted into the programme. Each university’s process is different. For instance, my college Elon University does not require an interview as a part of the process but it might be different for you. To gain as much knowledge on studying abroad and the process, make sure to visit the study abroad office on your college campus. 

Once you have picked a location, do your research on the place before departing. This will help you gauge the expenses needed, travel in the area, what to pack, etc. It will also help you to be aware of the cultural differences between the United States and your chosen destination. If you know what to expect before going abroad, the transition will be smoother. In addition, it shows that you are committed to getting to know another culture.

Save Money

Now that I have convinced you to go abroad, let’s discuss logistics. You should start saving months in advance of your trip. You will most likely need more money than you expect, especially if you are studying abroad for an entire semester. You will have to pay for groceries, possibly laundry, weekend travel, dinner out, souvenirs, and more. It is never too early to start saving for studying abroad, trust me. Moreover, apply for scholarships well in advance. The deadline for submission will pass before you know it. In addition, if you don’t have a credit card, get one. Most debit cards will charge an international fee for all transactions abroad. To avoid spending unnecessary money, apply for a credit card that does not charge international fees. Once you are abroad, remain conscious of your money. Yes, money will come back, but remember that the money you saved has to last the entire trip. The first couple of weeks is the worst. You are adjusting and excited. In my first three weeks in London, I ran through more money than I realised. So, pay attention from day one. One thing that helped me was paying off my credit card every week. Even though the bill was due every month, doing this allowed me to keep track of how much money I had left over. Even though you want to keep track of your money, don’t worry about saving while abroad. Most likely, you will never have an experience like this again. You do not want to leave with any regrets. Take weekend trips, go out to dinner, and buy gifts, but, just be conscious while doing it. 


Don’t overpack for abroad but I suggest taking three suitcases if you can. I brought three suitcases to London and I do not regret it. At first, I was hesitant because most people only take two. However, I have bought a lot of stuff while abroad. Many of my friends are having to purchase another bag abroad, donate some of their items, or both, to get all of their belongings back to the United States. In addition, pack enough toiletries for the entire trip. Half of one of my suitcases was filled with toiletries to last me the entire trip. It was nice to not have to buy toiletries while abroad. In addition, I am particular about my products. Furthermore, all the space I took up with toiletries when departing is now free space for the items I bought while abroad. 


Other quick tips before going abroad are to have your family visit if you can, coordinate trips to see friends who are studying abroad in another country than you, don’t forget to explore where you are studying abroad, and the list goes on and on. Overall, have fun while studying abroad and soak up all you can. After graduation, you will probably not have the opportunity to study abroad like this. Take advantage of the opportunities at your disposal before they are gone.

By: Chloe Franklin

You Press’ 5th Annual Community Dinner

Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest has been serving service men, the homeless, and more for approximately 180 years. Salem Abdelkader of Queen Victoria Seasman’s Rest said, “It’s not just a hostel, it’s not just a place, it’s a home.” Members of the community and residents at Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest gathered last week for food and fellowship at the 5th annual You Press community dinner. A resident named Shek attended the event and has been staying at Queen Victoria Seasman’s Rest for a short period of time. This was his first time attending the community dinner. He said his favorite part of the event was seeing his fellow residents, some of which he only sees at meals. He said he was impressed with the event but also with Salem. Shek said, “I’m even more impressed with our man Salim because when I came, he was the first to receive me. Amongst all the people here, he stands out. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s done this for you guys for five years.”

Several other people played a major part in the success of the event. Ayesha Tariq works with the Clothworkers Foundation. The foundation donates approximately 10 to 15 thousand pounds to various organisations, many of which aim to help the disadvantaged or those in need. “For myself. It’s not just about giving cash or giving money and saying, hey, go away and just do your thing. It’s actually following it up and understanding how far it’s going, how empowering is it for that organisation,” Tariq said. The Clothworkers Foundation donated the digital equipment for the community dinner event. Tariq said that You Press and its mission to help young people find and broadcast their voice impressed them. “We never get the chance to visit projects. So this is like one of the very rare moments where you get to see it in action,” Tariq said. 

When the event started five years ago, it was small however, it has grown immensely. Set up for the event started at 4:30 PM, including setting up tables and chairs and preparing the food. As an intern, I helped with the setup, primarily helping in the kitchen with the food preparation. The doors opened at six and people filled the room. People began to talk and eat. At 7:00 PM the official program started and several people came to the stage to address the room. Director and founder of You Press, Farah Mohammoud gave the welcome address. He even shared a spoken word piece he recently wrote. He said that he writes when he is inspired and this event inspired him. Following Farrah, two poets from You Press shared their spoken words. Nomadic Libaax is an alumnus of The Collective Programme and shared words like “for in pain we find peace, in pleasure, we find release, with hard times comes ease, same words on repeat.” Tasneim Zyada, an alumnus of the Aspire program, was the second performer. She has been writing for 15 years and performing for a total of seven years. She shared three poems: “Swing,” “A Dedication to My First Flame,” and “The Beginning.” Two current participants of the Aspire Training Programme also attended the event. Furthermore, Amina Mohammad, a donor, and supporter of the event shared the ABCs of community with the group. She instructed everyone to stand and shout, accept, believe, and commit. At this time in the night, it was also brought to everyone’s attention that five residents at Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest who attended the community dinner event in the past have passed away. A moment was taken to address and honor them, to honor those in attendance, and to show the importance of an event like this. 

After the welcome and various speakers/performers, people had a few more minutes to fellowship together before additional food would be served. The warm food was served at approximately 8:00 PM and those fasting for Ramadan would break their fast together at that time. 

Several people who attended appreciated the event and noticed its value and impact. Olivia Reid attended the event for the first time with her son and said, “The creation of spaces like this is so important”, especially in these times of isolation, loneliness, and division (religious, racial, etc). In addition, she mentioned how she appreciated that the event took place during significant events like Ramadan and Passover because it also allowed people to share that with others and support their peers. Olivia said she plans to continue to attend this event in the future.  

“Incredible.” “Humbling.” “Inspiring.” “Amazing.” “Blessed.” These are a few words people used to describe the community dinner and I would like to add one more… “Impactful.”

By: Chloe Franklin

Day Trips in the United Kingdom

My study abroad journey began over four months ago when I boarded the plane on January 4th, 2023, to fly to London. Before departure, I had a list of places I wanted to travel to outside the United Kingdom. Thankfully, I was able to make it to a lot of cool places like Barcelona, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and more. Of course, these trips cost a lot of money. However, near the end of the trip, we had a four-day weekend for the Easter holiday. My friends and I wanted to take advantage of the long weekend and travel, but we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Therefore, we decided to do two day trips to the United Kingdom. We settled on going to Brighton on Friday and White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury on Saturday. Traveling on both trips was different than any other trip I had been on since being here. Throughout the entire experience, I have been flying to all my weekend trips. However, my friends and I took the train for our Easter weekend travels. I have taken the national rail and the tube in London, but never the train for a trip. Thankfully, the commute was simple. It was easier than flying. Since they were day trips there was no packing or TSA.  

Brighton was not what I expected but in a good way. We took an early morning train. When we arrived, I was worried. There weren’t many people on the street, and I didn’t see a lot to do. Our first stop was to get breakfast. I had amazing blueberry gluten-free pancakes. We ended up staying at the restaurant for a couple of hours. Then we headed to the beach. Once we got to the beach area, I felt a lot better. There were tons of people and the sun was shining. My friends and I stood by the water, soaked up the sun, and attempted to skip rocks in the ocean. I was unsuccessful. At one point, I stood and just listened. Since Brighton is a pebble beach, there was a relaxing sound when the tide would flow back and forth over the pebbles. Afterward, we headed to the pier we could see in the distance. To my surprise, there was an arcade. I hadn’t been to an arcade since I was a small child. Of course, my friends and I decided to play 20 pounds worth of games. I even won a stuffed animal in the claw machine game. When we ran out of coins, we walked around the rest of the pier, which resembled a carnival. There were rides, music, food, and drinks. Before coming to Brighton, my friends and I bought tickets to zipline over the beach. So, after walking around we headed to the Brighton Zip. We were given instructions, fitted with our gear, and sent up to go ziplining. It was a cool experience, and I received a video of myself doing it at the end of the ride. After ziplining, we spent the rest of the day walking around and eating food before heading home. 

The next day we took a train to the White Cliffs of Dover. I wanted to go here before I got to London. I was very excited, but finding a taxi in Dover was very difficult. Dover is very different than London in that way. In London, taxis are driving past constantly. In Dover, they were a rare sight. After an hour of walking around, we finally were able to pre-book a taxi to the cliffs. The experience was well worth the wait. My friends and I turned on music and walked the path, took pictures, and took in the sites. We even walked down to the bottom of the cliffs. This involved walking down a narrow path and climbing down a rusted and old latter, but the view was great. After finishing at the cliffs, we took a taxi to Canterbury, where we spent the latter part of our day. Canterbury was a very chill visit. We simply walked around the streets, taking in the sites, and eating food. After a couple of hours, we headed home.  

Overall, both trips were great and budget-friendly. It was nice to travel outside of London to other parts of the United Kingdom. Although sometimes uncomfortable, the train ride was simple. It was a pleasant break from the many trips to the airport and flights taken over the past four months. If you have the time, I highly recommend traveling to the White Cliffs of Dover and Brighton one weekend.

By: Chloe Franklin