Bus Stop Café [By: Tim]

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Last year, we started experimenting with meeting neigbours and passersby in the form of our Bus Stop Café. We’ve been at a couple of locations down the road from the prison in Winson Green and at the Visitors' Centre across from the prison. On our first occasion, we were welcomed almost immediately by a mum of unknown African descent. Coming from a road opposite was a man with a big smile, who I learned is a Kurdish Iraqi who was waiting for a lift to his job in Solihull where we used to live. A few minutes later, I watched an inebriated Eastern European man speak with Sam and who, when offered a coffee, snatched Sam’s coffee out of his hands! This man came for another coffee after stopping for some tins of beer at the local off-licence shop. And then there was a Somali Muslim woman with five children under the age of six. All in all, on that first morning we talked to about 15 men and women who embraced their tea or coffee in the cold weather whose national and ethnic origins were incredibly diverse!

Over the summer, we combined the Bus Stop Café with work on a community garden at the prison Visitors' Centre. During the summer, we had some regulars whom we met when they were getting off work from the prison or from the local industrial site. Others we introduced to each other, like these two French-speaking men from the Congo (Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congotwo different countries). And then there was the time we were treated to an impromptu concert from The Choir with No Name who were going into the prison to sing; all of them who are or have been homeless.

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This year, we launched work on the community garden in front of the Visitors' Centre with a team of students from Cincinnati Christian University (just like we did last year). Sam led the work on preparing the bedding and soil and planting flowers to make that space attractive and inviting. Though the flow coming and going between the prison and the Visitors' Centre is comprised of people who are all over the map emotionally and behaviourally, bringing a cup of coffee and a touch of care to this place is appreciated by locals. We’re glad we can do a bit to help.

We’re now thinking together as a Companions for Hope team about where we site our next Bus Stop Café. We have some ideas . . .  we'll be sure to share some stories about what we learn and who we meet!

-Tim

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I Love Birmingham in the Springtime! [By: Madz]

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Birmingham is bustling.

With spring having sprung over the course of the past couple months, the city’s energy levels simultaneously seem to have picked up—there is a certain buzz in the air as possibilities of being outside and enjoying the longer sunlit hours increase. Each day, new flowers bloom as buildings grow higher faster. Migrating birds fly about singing as people scurry through the streets chatting with one another. In all of this, there is an observable, interdependent relationship between people and place, living creatures and their natural as well as built environments.

Locally, it has been a joy to watch and participate in the unfolding of this interrelationship in Summerfield/Winson Green. Here are just a few things that I (as well as other members of Companions along the way!) have been able to be a part of recently!

 

Summerfield Sessions

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A community music night that Companions for Hope organised in conjunction with Christ Church Summerfield! Fairy lights and hoards of Real Junk Food decked the church hall as around 60 people gathered to appreciate and celebrate the musical and story-telling talents of locals during the first "session." The second (hopefully of many) of these events is happening this weekend. . . .

 

Interactive Map of Street Living/Homelessness Resources

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Currently, I’m attempting to compile a list of all organisations and groups working on some issue related to street living/homelessness in Birmingham. Hopefully, the project will result not only in a comprehensive database, but will also produce an interactive map (draft pictured above!) and relevant, accessible info cards for both those people who are living on the streets as well as those who would like to learn more about/help combat issues of homelessness in our city.

 

Permaculture Design Course

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As of January, Sam & I have been attending a permaculture design certificate course at Applewood Permaculture Centres/Waterloo Farm in Herefordshire. One weekend every month, our group meets to learn and apply permaculture principles regarding earth care, people care, and fair share. These weekends not only provide opportunities for fostering education and friendships, but also offer regular times and spaces to retreat to a beautifully quiet and lush part of the country. What a gift!

 

The Real Junk Food Project

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We at The Real Junk Food Project Brum are soldiering on in the face of astounding numbers of Freegan Boxes (getting close to 300 a week at their peak!). But the number of boxes is not the only number that is increasing—we’ve had a whole host of new people coming to the cafes and volunteering with the project, which has been fantastic! It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet and connect with new and old friends around food whilst joining together to challenge patterns of waste in our culture.

 

Litter Picking with Winson Greeners

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At the initiative of a lovely neighbour and friend, Meike, along with the help of another friend, Alicia, and her team Litter Watch, as well as some Council affiliates, we’ve begun a once-monthly litter picking group in the Winson Green area (affectionately dubbed “Winson Greeners”)! We've had two outings thus far and have received much positive feedback from people passing by on the streets—hopefully a sign that more and more people will join us in the future!

 

Companions Team

Our Companions Team continues to meet once a week for Communion, reflection, and sharing. We are looking forward to community meal tomorrow evening as well as more outdoor events in the near future as the summer weather approaches!

-Madz

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Welcome!

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Thank you for taking time to browse through our Companions for Hope website! As a team, we've enjoyed the process of collecting pictures and information to present through this platformit has been a meaningful way for us to reflect on all we've seen God working through here in Summerfield/Winson Green.

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This page will be a running blog on which we post about various neighbourhood 'happenings.' Check back regularly for the latest stories!

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