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City Hall praise as ‘Shadwell Responds’ to Covid crisis helping isolated families get online

PUBLISHED: 17:02 11 November 2020 | UPDATED: 19:05 11 November 2020

Alliance praised for helping people cope with impact of pandemic. Picture: Shadwell Responds

Alliance praised for helping people cope with impact of pandemic. Picture: Shadwell Responds

Shadwell Responds

An alliance of 10 community institutions in Shadwell has been selected for special praise by City Hall as one of five London projects recognised for its work during the Covid-19 emergency.

Youngsters get their own digital tablets and keyboards... thanks to Shadwell Responds volunteers. Picture: Shadwell RespondsYoungsters get their own digital tablets and keyboards... thanks to Shadwell Responds volunteers. Picture: Shadwell Responds

The Shadwell Responds alliance which includes St George-in-the-East church and Darul Ummah Mosque has been invited to an online event by the GLA and Near Neighbours organisation tomorrow, November 12, marking the work of faith organisations helping people cope with the impact of the pandemic.

“This special recognition by City Hall is testament to the resilience of our neighbourhood,” the group said in a statement to the East London Advertiser this evening. “This is the enormous value of faith institutions in this difficult time, working together for the good of our communities.”

Shadwell Responds has been recognised for its work around digital exclusion.

Many children didn’t have access to online learning early on in the lockdown when Tower Hamlets Schools had to be closed.

Shadwell's Online citizens' assemby putting politicians on the spot to respond to Covid crisis. Picture: Shadwell RespondsShadwell's Online citizens' assemby putting politicians on the spot to respond to Covid crisis. Picture: Shadwell Responds

So volunteers got help from the Jesuit Social Fund and the National Lottery to buy digital tablets and Wifi hotspots for families and set up a Shadwell Technology fund.

The first tablets and wireless keyboards were distributed in June, reported by Advertiser at the time.

One mum who received a tablet, Zubeyda Abdullah, said: “My daughter was using my phone to do work during lockdown which was effecting her class work.

“Now she’s learning to use a keyboard and browse the internet for studying and has discovered a whole new way to learn.”

Volunteers distributing food to families in Shadwell at height of the first lockdown. Picture: Shadwell RespondsVolunteers distributing food to families in Shadwell at height of the first lockdown. Picture: Shadwell Responds

Another 20 families were given devices during the October half term, with 40 digital tablets now having been distributed to date.

Volunteers like Philippa Cook, trainee vicar at St Paul’s Shadwell who helped coordinate the Shadwell Technology Fund, are hoping to secure more funding in the New Year.

She said: “It’s shocking that such a huge need exists in our community, but we are determined to continue tackling this issue.

“It’s a joy to be able to give children such a precious gift, only possible because we all worked together.”

The alliance has also set up its own Shadwell Responds website with resources and video stories, as well as making up children’s activity packs, and helping a food distribution hub at Darul Ummah Mosque (Tuesdays 11.30-1pm), with plans to set up another at St George-in-the-East parish church.

It successfully campaigned in the summer to get Iceland supermarket in Watney Street added to the government’s free school meals voucher scheme, for families to get more affordable food.

Its member organisations, part of the UK Citizens network, held an online assembly in June with politicians such as Deputy Mayor Rachel Blake and Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum as an “act of solidarity” at the height of the pandemic.

The assembly was aimed at holding the politicians to account on issues such as digital access, free school meals and homelessness that had been exposed during the lockdown.


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