Christina Wheatley lives on the City of London’s Avondale housing estate in Southwark. She grew up there, and returned in 2014 from the Isle of Wight to care for her mother.
In summer 2014, the City of London started a WW1 centenary programme, ‘Remembering Yesterday, Celebrating Today’. Flyers were circulated to all Avondale residents inviting them to get involved, and Christina volunteered to run a WW1 themed tea dance. She had no previous experience of organising events but successfully applied to the City for some funding. The tea dance was a major success, attended by lots of local residents, the Mayor of Southwark and Chelsea Pensioners.
The opportunity to earn Time Credits for organising the tea dance gave Christina the initial motivation to get involved and she’s now been earning them for 18 months. She says,
“I grew up on the Avondale and noticed on returning there was no sense of community anymore. Earning Time Credits gave me the chance to encourage others to help. I wanted to give something back to my community, tackling the issues that are important to me. This has increased my confidence and makes me feel part of the community.”
Christina was inspired by running the tea dance to explore more opportunities to make a difference for Avondale residents. She applied to the South Bermondsey Big Local for funding to set up Edible Avondale SE1, an environmental and gardening group, which runs workshops and activities for the community and children from the local school, community wellbeing days and an annual forces event. Edible Avondale also make and sell recycled bird boxes and wine racks and have become a Community Interest Company. Christina is the CEO and works with other local residents to run activity. As well as one off events, the clubs and Edible Avondale SE1 have reduced isolation for some of the older people in the area and also encouraged skill sharing between generations – for example Christina’s mum, Mo, runs a children’s ‘Tea and Craft’ club teaching knitting and crochet.
Inspired by what was happening, other people in the Avondale community decided they too could make a difference on their estate, and Christina worked with a group of other local community members to set up ACE (Avondale Community Events). ACE runs events throughout the year that bring local residents together, including Halloween and Christmas parties and summer picnics. ACE are now supporting the setup of more local community groups on the estate.
Christina is now training to become a community development worker and has accessed mentoring from Lloyds Bank, as well as courses through City Lit with Time Credits. She also works with the Mayor of Southwark to raise awareness of community action and has spoken about her experiences at a number of Spice & City of London events, building her confidence further and inspiring other people to make a difference in their own communities. She is also working with City of London housing to support communities on other estates to make a difference locally, helping develop a network of ‘good neighbours’ that help each other out.
Christina earns so many Time Credits for the time she gives to her community she is not able to spend all of them, and she has donated some of them to other groups. These include the local school, Bede House youth group, Blackfriars Settlement & Pembroke house for older people’s trips and Southwark Young Carers, enabling the young people to go on trips out in London and try new things. The Southwark Young Carers Support Officer said,
“When we told our young carers that we had been donated some Time Credits and explained what they were for, they were over the moon. The Young Carers were tasked with choosing a location and then arranging transport and timing in order to make these days out a success. The Tower Bridge Exhibition and Tower of London came up top of the list along with a ride of the MBNA Thames Clippers. Without the donation of Time Credits the Young Carers would not be able to access such trips so a massive thank you to Christina and her team.”
Christina has been also been featured in a number of press articles, including the South London Press.