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11 September, 2013

Transforming lives and communities

Fare building
Fare building

By Kirsty McGrath

At Glasgow’s Emirates sports arena, 800 primary school students recently competed in an annual mini-Olympics event. This was organised by FARE, which stands for Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse. The event is just one of the many ways in which FARE brings young people together, helping to eradicate territorialism and gang violence. Out of modest origins, the organisation has evolved into an effective faith-based  initiative, tackling tough community issues. 

FARE  started in 1989, in a single room in a flat by a local groupwishing to enhance the lives of Easterhouse residents, which was once regarded as a 'deprived area'.

Said Bobby Kerr, who has been with FARE since its creation: 'Back then, there were no facilities in Easterhouse, especially for young people.'  They acquired their first premises in 1997, a tenement block of six flats, before moving into their new purpose-built building in 2010. Although the organisation has enjoyed considerable development, FARE has has never forgotten its origins. Most of the board, staff and volunteers live locally.

Fare's community cafe
Fare's community cafe
The organisation’s building in Easterhouse plays host to a wide range of services, including youth clubs, over 60’s activities and parental support groups. Staff offices are also located within the building, which contains a community learning computer suite, a games hall and a community café. Nicola Strike, a local resident, who frequents the café with her young children, thinks that it generates 'a real community spirit' as well as providing 'low price, high quality food and a friendly environment.'

Over the years, FARE has helped to transform many lives.Several of its current staff having come through the youth services and been inspired to devote themselves to a career with the charity. One such example is 22-year old, Jordan Tidser, former employee of FARE. From the age of fourteen, Jordan was involved in gang violence, alcohol and drug abuse resulting in convictions for violence and offensive weapons. He was sentenced to two curfews, lasting for over a year, as well as probation and community service. He believes that if FARE had not stepped in to help him, he would be 'in prison or dead, without a doubt'.

Jordan said he specifically owed his transformation to Jimmy Wilson, the deputy CEO at FARE. At one stage, Jordon was living in a halfway house, drinking every day. 'Jimmy got me a place in rehab, then he would take me out of the area I was gang fighting in, to outward bound trips. He became a mentor to me'.

Weekly buggy toddle
Weekly buggy toddle
Jordan says that there is 'a massive change' in Easterhouse, from when he was growing up: 'Gang culture in Easterhouse has dropped massively; it’s like a different place from where I grew up.' He believes this is a direct result from the work that FARE does in the area.

Making young people aware of the dangers of gang activity is the main focus of FARE’s StreetwYze programme. This is an eight-week programme, which involves visits to the local police museum and fire station, as well as various workshops covering gang activity awareness and prevention. Starting at the primary level, the work progresses to secondary school age, where issues are explored in more depth. All school pupils, who work with the project are given the opportunity to achieve either a Dynamic Youth or Youth Achievement award, and from the age of fourteen can undertake the Duke of Edinburgh award. FARE also organises diversionary Friday night activities for teenagers.

Throughout the years, FARE has built strong relationships with local partners, and work particularly closely with Glasgow Housing Association, the local police force and the local fire and rescue department. PC Steven Wood from the community safety department at Easterhouse Police office said: 'FARE is a successful youth diversion project bringing an increased standard of living to the Greater Easterhouse area and now further afield... they have assisted the police in carrying out successful street work with local youths in identified problem areas in an attempt to tackle a number of anti-social behaviour problems.'

Young people distributing Christmas hampers
Young people distributing Christmas hampers
The organisation has an open door policy management policy: it does not turn anyone away, constantly adapting, innovating and expanding its services to meet the ever-changing needs of all in the community, who seek help. Whether delivering over 900 Christmas food hampers to the local pensioners, or providing low cost nappies and baby supplies to struggling mothers or taking young people on holiday breaks, who in some cases would notbe able to do so. FARE has never lost sight of why they exist.

Throughout the year, many visit the organisation to learn about its work and methods. Ian Monteague, Chairman of FARE’s Board of Directors recalls inter-actions with Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions: 'From 2002 onwards, he has visited us several times and still keeps in touch, when developing policy. The poverty he saw in Easterhouse visibly moved him and was his epiphany. He was so impressed by the work of FARE and community groups that he vowed to find ways of getting government money directly to groups like FARE.'

What is FARE’s future? Ian responded: 'As every enterprise, FARE needs to remain with its original roots, however, like every successful venture, significant growth is on the horizon. So FARE will take hope to other communities.'

Ian Monteague has been involved with Initiatives of Change for over 40 years: 'After deciding to live and work in Easterhouse, I met several colleagues from Initiatives of Change, including Archie McKenzie, a British diplomat. They looked at ways of developing work sharing initiative in Easterhouse and Glasgow, during times of high unemployment, and proved me care and support over the past 40 years.'

Ian believed that the principles of IofC have had a huge impact in his life. Coupled with his personal Christian belief that ‘I am my brother’s keeper’ and a strong commitment to transform his community and society, 'IofC has been both nourishing and energising by acknowledging my work', he added.

Ian also had the following to say about his views on the Sustainable Communities Programme of IofC UK: 'The programme is vital for a number of reasons. It encourages, supports and refreshes those hoping to improve their communities as well as allowing those with different skills and experiences to learn and support each other. From this, a compelling strength and hope develops...people make the difference.'

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