I had the chance to take two full weeks away from work with my family in August, getting back to VCKC in time for Carnival. One of the benefits of spending the last five years in K&C is that I have learnt how much the Carnival means to people, both positive and negative. In the days leading up to Carnival the sense of excitement was palpable, especially from the friends kind enough to invite us to join them on a float (sadly we had commitments elsewhere). Thousands of people spend the whole year volunteering to make the Carnival the amazing event it is, and after two years postponed because of the pandemic it was hugely important to them to make 2022 a year to remember.
While it was a great success in so many ways, it was a tragedy for the friends and family of Takayo “TKorStretch” Nembhard, who lost him in a stabbing incident less than 100 metres from our offices. Our colleagues at the Westway Trust had prepared us for a week of cleaning up after Carnival, for the tagging, the pressure washing and bad smell, but all these things faded into the background of a life ended far too soon during an event that, for so many, stands for hope and joy and the power of a community to build something of international repute with hard work, dedication and self-belief.
Immediately after Carnival we started talking to partners about how we can respond collectively and effectively to the increasing poverty in the borough, knowing that the huge increases in fuel and food costs that have only just begun to be felt by the better off are already crippling for many low-income households. We will need all the voluntary help we can muster as a community and, as during the pandemic, our voluntary activities will need to be closely coordinated with professional community services, the support already offered by RBKC and the NHS, and new work to respond directly to people who will be cold, hungry and struggling to keep a roof over their heads. If you think you or someone you know might have a contribution to make to this, please do get in touch or keep an eye on the newsletter, our website and social media feeds – we’ll provide as much notice as we’re able to for opportunities to help.
The death of Queen Elizabeth has shown us once again that volunteering reflects the diverse views and very different capacities of local people. RBKC’s request for volunteer hosts to help look after people arriving at tube stations in the borough before and during the funeral had to be closed after the first 60 people signed up, so there’s clearly an appetite for these roles. We recognise that, as the borough’s universal volunteering service, we play a part in ensuring that every part of the community can make the contribution to K&C in the way that makes sense to them.
Michael Ashe, CEO