“When I was 15 I did work experience living with Anna and Chris Hembury for a week with Hull Youth for Chris (HYFC)”.
This influenced Sam a lot, including his Christian journey. This journey has carried on since then. He has volunteered with several groups including HYFC. Sam went away with HYFC to Green Belt (Annual Festival of arts, faith and justice) in the Summers, getting to know other people there over the years.
Another influence on Sam’s life was living in Nepal with his family and experiencing the poverty of the country. This experience also helped to shape his Christianity.
Sam went to University where he studied Philosophy, Economics and Politics. He had an interest in Philosophy and Religion. He ended up doing Peace Studies and developing the economic stuff. At the end of his MA, he became disenchanted with the Aid world and bureaucracies and became more anarchic in his way of working. He heard about L’Arche community through his parents who were fostering Adam. (Adam has special needs). The founder of L’Arche writes quite a lot about peace.
( L'Arche is an International Federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programmes, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities Ref: Wikipedia)
After his Peace studies, Sam was living in communities on a smaller and bigger scale. Communities learning to live and love together in community.
Sam was in Bognor Regis L’Arche for three years. He had a’ breakdown’. The ‘breakthrough’ was coming back to Hull and slowly getting back into stuff. This he could do because of his previous connections e.g. Chris and Anna at HYFC and Emma Crick. There was another connection with Seedbed.
Sam wasn’t particularly well when he came back and lived with his Mum and Dad. He started to volunteer with Andy Paxton (Living Better for Less in Hull (LB4LiH)- a SEARCH project) and a Charity shop. Sam helped with the HYFC garden on the Boulevard and then was successful in obtaining an internship with SEARCH through the Rank Foundation’s A Time to Shine Programme. “Stuff came just when I needed it”
A Time to Shine gave Sam his first bit of income. He moved out of his Mum and Dad’s and came to live in St Matthew’s Boulevard. This is now owned by CMS (Church Mission Society - who support HYFC (Hull Youth for Christ). This was a great way for Sam to get back into work, freedoms, flexibilities etc.
Since then, Sam has obtained monies from Seedbed and other Trusts for his work which has freed him up to do what he wanted to do. Sam feels privileged to have that freedom. He has tried to invest in spaces, people, groups and conversations. Therefore, he has the freedom to work on and with things that have potential and energy e.g. mental health and Icarus groups, Mad Pride (mental health) etc.
Sam is also interested in the influence of ‘national’ on his work, through the small, radical, politicised and egalitarian approaches to mental health and being open to spirituality and differences to main stream. This includes the social model (mental health) not just biological models.
Sam is also involved in Solidarity Hull, working with migrants and refugees plus Selby Street Mission. He is also a part of St Matthew’s, HYFC etc. He has the freedom to do and keep connected with other stuff, such as city and nationwide Peace work.
St Matthew’s is an’ intentional community’ with a Christian anarchist vibe. Sam feels passionate about the intentional community. It means he has chosen to live alongside and together with others, who share a common ‘why’ and philosophy and ethos. There is a common spirituality and a recognition that you can achieve more together than on your own. You can also grow as a person.
Sam was thinking recently about how people are formed including dominance which, he feels isn’t good in this kind of work. So, there is a need for spaces to develop in a different way. It’s a totally different way of being human.
“From a personal view, L’Arche also acts like that. It is formed in a way, that you learn that vulnerability and weakness is a gift and a liberation stepping away from the competitive rat race. There is a different understanding of Church and spirituality from the traditional and evangelical Church. L’Arche transformed me.”
“St Matt’s House is a space where a certain understanding of the world, its politics, faith etc can be explored. People can come in and explore with us.”
“There aren’t any glorious stories, which says something important! I went with my sister on a protest against the Arms trade in Paris. There were a few of us and hundreds in suits. It was like the David and Goliath story!”
The importance of faithfulness and hope- participatory techniques
“There are different ways to our approaches and we are trying to hold these things together. We are trying to be productive. It was a long tiring week protesting in Paris. At the end of it there was a Quaker style meeting. It was difficult because people were tired and things didn’t go to plan in the meeting. It was frustrating and long. A lady sat in silence the whole of the meeting. She is seen as a wise figure. She asked if she could say something to close the meeting. She said, ‘it’s important to remember why we are here’ This lady apparently had come for forty years protesting alone.”
“So, it is important to remember the faithfulness of people, including the woman mentioned above, the Hemburys and the Dortons, living/working in their communities. We need to build on this faithfulness. I was talking today about participatory action. E.g. PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) and how there was some radical participating with the poor using these methods. Now PRA is back in universities, but it has lost its meaningfulness. Faithfulness then, needs to build up methodology and technique in participation, empowering methods etc”
“At L’Arche I was confronted with people with learning disabilities who were not going to improve. Community work is similar but there is more hope for social change. But many people are so broken and hurt they cannot see changes soon. But through faithfulness I can see that(changes) happening in the day to day grind.”
"I feel grateful that I have a wonderful life to be able to find happiness and serve the community and do what I love to do. I have an Anarchist leaning. I am always financially insecure, but it is wonderful to be free! I am not in ‘alienated labour’ as per Marx analysis of the working person.”
Tiny fruits, connections and challenges
“I see tiny fruits”. Farah, an Iranian Christian asylum seeker came to a Quaker meeting. Sam sat and chatted with her and gave her the ORTS (womens’ crafts) contact details and mentioned her to his Mum and Dad. They invited her round to dinner at their home.
Sam feels privileged to have access to that sort of network. Farah was lonely in a country she didn’t know. So, he connected her up with the Selby Street and ORTS networks. Farah adopted Sam as her son and brought food round to celebrate her asylum status. This was a privilege for Sam. He loves who he knows because he can connect people together.
“It is quite adventurous not knowing what I will be doing in a year’s time! It keeps life challenging and interesting. I still see Fridays as a Boulevard day. I help with the (HYFC) Breakfast Club and Selby Street Mission.”
Importance of networking and developing ‘family’
“We had a party at Ground (Arts place on Beverley Road). An Afghan guy was staring in the window. We asked him to come in. He likes drawing. So, two weeks later he had his own exhibition of work with Ground! Seedbed money was used to help that happen."
Sam feels that networks are important. Now he comes to Solidarity. He is weaving webs of networks and relationships. This is also conversational.
Solidarity has just moved into an office. (This had been mismanaged before). They had a party planned but found themselves locked out and the landlord asking them to get their stuff out asap, today. Through Martin and his van and Andy and SEARCH, stuff was moved and stored in The Annex (SEARCH). Ella at Ground said, ‘Have the Party here’ So, at the end of the day all was saved through accessing the networks. It was still difficult to establish Solidarity office. It took a further four months. “Faithfulness is the name of the game” “Victory is knowing that you can call on a network of people to help do things. I am grateful that these networks exist. Like the family we are!”
Community/global linkages and influence
“How do we support the local community and link/influence global movements? How do we integrate this with political engagement? Often community stuff is not integrated with political stuff. Both worlds do not interact very well. We need to know how to make changes and influence them. People living in disadvantaged areas have no way of making changes. How do we politicise people in this context? Educate etc? Don’t know where to begin. E.g. current election. There was a swing away from austerity towards Corbyn. But where is the momentum? One of the biggest parties in Europe(Labour), are not present in communities. They don’t do grass roots. There is a huge divide. Labour represents me at the National level. Where is that conversation? How are we going to work together?”