Residents in Kingstanding are benefiting from a local church helping them to gain jobs and skills, following a call for action at the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) latest faith briefing.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, faith groups have been brought together at regular online meetings chaired by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, to share public health messages to help local communities across the region stay safe.
The October briefing focused on jobs and skills, with speakers including Nathan Dennis, of youth and community engagement specialists First Class Foundation, who called on faith leaders to share training and support with their local communities.
L-R University graduates Lucy Pinfield and Jody Smith are pictured with Sarah Kisumba from Cedar Church, before the lockdown, at a ‘Hot Topic’ session held at the church for young people, discussing the challenges of everyday life. Jody, a talented violinist, is also featured on the ‘Talent Spotlight’ section on www.cedarhope.com
In response to this appeal, Cedar Church, based in Kingstanding, Birmingham, has set up a new website www.cedarhope.com to match local people with jobs, training and volunteering opportunities in the area.
Pastor Andrew Kisumba, who, alongside his wife, Sarah, leads Cedar Church, said: “We have already been working with local employers, a recruitment agency and a training company and, on hearing Nathan’s appeal, decided to gather all the information we have gathered about jobs and skills through our networks in one place.
“The website is only just up and running, and we’re adding to it all the time. We’re also linking to the WMCA’s Youth Employment Platform and featuring a virtual marketplace for residents to sell products and services, a section offering volunteering opportunities, and training to help people become more confident online. We have personal contacts at every organisation featured on the website and every day they are coming to us with new offers, helping to change people’s lives. We’ve also created an app, which we’re populating at the moment.
“We’ve called the project ‘Hope Again’ as there are great people here in this wonderful city and we need to bring hope in this difficult situation.”
The WMCA holds regular virtual round tables to provide faith leaders with updates on Covid-19 from local authorities and public health experts, and on funding such as the Government’s support for the charity sector. Faith leaders are playing a vital role in the fight against coronavirus by sharing key public health messaging to ensure their communities understand the latest guidance to stay safe, including the importance of following social distancing and washing their hands regularly.
The forum also gives faith leaders the opportunity to grill each week’s panel about issues that directly affect their communities.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Faith leaders have a powerful voice within their communities, and the pandemic has emphasised just how important faith is to many people in the West Midlands.
“As well as spiritual guidance, faith leaders can provide support by sharing information about practical issues such as training, education courses and job opportunities, helping our region to recover economically from the coronavirus crisis. It’s great to see Cedar Church has already responded to the call to action from this month’s event.”
Nathan Dennis, of youth and community engagement specialists First Class Foundation, added: “Faith leaders have a voice that others can’t replicate so they are in an ideal position to get the word out about opportunities, especially for young people. They deliver hope to their communities and that’s exactly what the Cedar Church is doing – it gives people hope at a time when there is a lot of negative news.”
This month’s latest briefing also looked at support available for businesses and residents during Covid-19, especially for those who are unemployed or whose employment has been affected by the pandemic. A number of programmes and schemes were highlighted such as #WMstrong, the campaign to promote jobs and training opportunities for all and Swap Don’t Drop which encourages young people not to give up on education and training if they think they’ve chosen the wrong course.
Other speakers were Qasim Majid from the Asian Chamber of Business, Dr Ruth Tennant, director of public health for Solihull Council, and Julie Nugent, director of productivity and skills at the WMCA.
To sign up for the next briefing on Thursday 12 November, visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wmca-covid-19-faith-briefing-tickets-125904526829