Medway Culture Club: Bringing people together to learn from each other

Born in 2020, the Medway Culture Club is a community-led charity that was created to improve social isolation and promote racial harmony in Medway.

 

Camealia Xavier-Chihota is the Chairperson of the Medway Culture Club and she spoke to us in depth to tell us more about this wonderful club.

 

What inspired the birth of Medway Culture Club, and how were you able to start the club?

CommunityAd Exclusive - Medway Culture Club: Bringing people together to learn from each otherThis community-led club was formed in the Summer of 2020, with the objective of addressing social isolation and promoting racial harmony within Medway. Medway Culture Club aims to not only educate, but also empower children by encouraging an appreciation of diversity, building positive relationships, and understanding the perspectives of others.

Founded by a collective of home-grown educators and industry professionals, our growing team each volunteers both time and expertise to make a difference within our community. We provide positive representation and encourage community cohesion, which broadens the understanding of ourselves, each other and the wider world.

When lockdown restrictions meant that we had to cancel our first face-to-face event in November 2020, we decided to proceed with an online quiz instead. This went so well, that we continued to offer free sessions via Zoom for a further six months.

We were apprehensive to start online learning, as one of our main objectives is to bring the community together to learn from each other. We thought online sessions may lack impact and prevent full engagement. On the contrary; we received lots of positive feedback from parents and participants alike. It was reassuring to hear that our goals were still being achieved, despite this remote approach.

In July 2021, we launched our first face-to-face monthly workshop and, nearly three years later, we have built up a steady following and continue to reach new families with our fun, interactive and diverse classes every month.

 

Your objectives are to improve social isolation and promote racial harmony in Medway. How have you been able to do this in the past 4 years?

Our monthly sessions have covered a range of topics, to promote a better understanding of the wide range of cultures we have here in Medway.

Our previous sessions have included ‘Easter Treats and the Middle East’, where the children learnt about Middle Eastern cultures and baked some delicious treats led by one of our volunteers, Heyam; ‘The Dawn of Diwali’, which was a Bhangra drumming and dance workshop; and the ‘Medway’s Got Culture! Black History Month Bus Tour’, during which we hired a double-decker bus and travelled around the Medway Towns learning about local heroes such as Asquith Xavier, William Cuffay, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Charles Dickens and Sarah Forbes Bonetta. We have even held a session at Wagamama in Maidstone, as part of their ‘Bowl to Soul’ scheme, to learn about Japanese food and culture.

As well as teaching local children about cultural diversity, we put on events for the whole community too, such as our annual Medway Culture Club Carnival and our Caribbean Christmas Fayre. We have also hosted an Afro haircare workshop and a ‘Wonder of Windrush’ exhibition, which the whole community were invited to attend. We regularly receive positive feedback from children and parents/carers alike. We are encouraged by the responses from various local Councillors, including the leader of Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple and the Mayor of Medway, Cllr Nina Gurung, who have attended our sessions and can see, first-hand, the difference we are making in Medway. It makes all of the volunteers feel like they are contributing to change in Medway, and providing a unique and celebrated service.

 

What would you say have been your proudest moments since forming in 2020?

The proudest moment to date has to be in August 2023, when we had close to 500 people attend our third annual Medway Culture Club Carnival. It showed such growth, and exemplified community cohesion at its finest!

Some close accolades have included being a finalist in the Pride in Medway Awards in 2023, and a finalist at the National Diversity Awards in 2022.

Also, at the end of each monthly session, our volunteers feel a huge sense of pride as the children tell us how much they have enjoyed the sessions, and share their new cultural knowledge with their parents and peers!

‘I hope that Medway Culture Club will become a cornerstone of the increasing celebration of diversity in the Medway community.’

Are you looking for volunteers? How can interested readers enquire to find out more?

Yes! This is an exciting time for our Charity as we plan and develop our mission to grow and empower young people inclusively!

We welcome volunteers of all backgrounds, with a genuine desire to make a difference and a passion for promoting diversity within Medway, particularly those with experience (or looking to develop their experience in) the following areas:

  • Education & youth work
  • Events/project management
  • Accounting
  • Fundraising
  • Website maintenance
  • Marketing & social media
  • Graphic design

We are a very friendly team, and you can volunteer in a variety of different ways – be it helping out at our events, or assisting behind the scenes with administration and general operational management.

To apply, or for more information, please email us at: [email protected].

 

What projects have you planned for 2024?

CommunityAd Exclusive - Medway Culture Club: Bringing people together to learn from each otherOur next session takes place on Saturday 11th May, and will be a chocolate-making workshop; children will be learning about the history and origins of cocoa, and then making their own chocolate creations! We also have a graffiti workshop on Saturday 8th June, where children will graffiti on canvas to produce their own artwork. You will see us at the Chatham Carnival on Saturday 6th July, as well as hosting our own ‘Medway Culture Club Carnival’ at Woodlands Youth Centre on Saturday 3rd August – this will be our fourth Carnival event, and it is a fun day for the whole family! Later in the year, we will host an ‘Everyday Action, Everyday Change’ session with Natalie and Naomi Evans, and we are planning another ‘Caribbean Christmas Fayre’ for December!

 

What are your long-term plans over the next 5-10 years?

In the long-term, we would love for Medway Culture Club and our message to grow in popularity across Kent, so that we can reach even more children with our inclusive appreciation of the multicultural Britain we live in. Through affiliation with the education system and youth service, we’d like to showcase how our model could reduce the educational gaps and drive more relevant diverse content to the national curriculum. We would like to provide even more support and mentorship to school leavers and those studying and preparing for the world of work, as well as offer opportunities for adults to harness and develop their skills by working with purpose in our growing charity. The progress I have seen over the years to make Medway a more inclusive place where people can thrive is a huge achievement, and I hope that Medway Culture Club will become a cornerstone of the increasing celebration of diversity in the Medway community.

 

What do you enjoy most about living in Medway?

The best thing about living in Medway now is seeing how progressive and diverse it has become since I grew up here in the 90’s. The representation I see around me of different cultures who all contribute to the Medway Towns in their unique way is a joy to see and spotlight. People are the lifeblood of the community, so it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the things that make us different, as well as the common ground we share. Statistics show that when people feel seen and heard, they feel valued, and offer more value to our communities and economies. It is a highlight to see how diverse people like Asquith Xavier and William Cuffay are being celebrated with local landmarks.

 

Keep up to date with Medway Culture Club via their website or socials: Facebook @medwaycultureclub, Twitter/X @medwayculture, and Instagram @medwayculture.

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