Over 100 people celebrated the unsung heroes in our community, who support and empower women on the fringes of society, at an event at the Sattavis Patidar Centre in Brent.
Hosted by TV’s Shaun Wallace, and organised by local charity PLIAS resettlement, the evening celebrated the life and legacy of Susan de Mont, who lost her two year battle against bowel cancer in 2016. A fund – established in her honour by her husband – is providing financial support to many local residents for education courses, books, equipment and childcare costs.
Susan was particularly passionate about supporting the development of women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Through her Legacy Fund she continues to have a huge positive impact on the lives of vulnerable and marginalised women across the capital.
Welcomed by the superb steel pan band from local charity St Michael’s Youth Project, guests from all backgrounds and professions settled in for a passionate night of celebration, reflection and emotion.
Opening the event, Shaun Wallace, from ITV’s The Chase, explained that this event is close to his own heart, stating that you can have all the riches and fame in the world, but you can’t take it with you:
“Leaving a wonderful legacy like this fund is everlasting ‘til the dawn of time. Tonight celebrates people who are selfless in their deeds, selfless in their thoughts, and want to help people. I’m passionate about using my fame and responsibility to try to help others.”
Susan de Mont Award
Shaun went on to present Awards across a number of categories:
Award in Excellence for Mentors
This award celebrates a willingness to share skills, knowledge and expertise; take a personal interest in the mentoring relationship; set and meet ongoing personal and professional goals; and motivate others by setting a good example.
First prize: Michelle Randof
Michelle became a PLIAS Resettlement Mentor in January 2017. She has consistently seen her mentees weekly and mentors two individuals. One of her mentees said: “I found my mentoring relationship very encouraging as I have someone to talk through issues with at all times. Michelle is not judgemental, and is patient and understanding.”
Award in Excellence for Mentees
This award celebrates mentees who are dedicated, engaged and courageous.
First Prize: Helen Facey
Helen has been mentored for 18 months. It has been said that “She has developed exponentially from a shy individual who lacked confidence. She has undertaken a number of ICT courses and can walk with her head held high as she works towards a progressive future. “
Award in Excellence for Placement Students
First Prize: Shannon Delboyer
Shannon is a third year Applied Social Science student at Bedfordshire University. Shannon has been consistent and committed to her student placement at PLIAS Resettlement. She is always willing to do any task without any hesitation and has an excellent attitude in her approach. She has not only supported service users at PLIAS Resettlement but played a key role in supporting the development of the Susan & Alex de Mont Legacy Fund.
Outstanding Achievement of Community Volunteers
First Prize: Aaliyah Ali
Aaliyah Volunteers for the Asian Women’s Resource Centre. She is hard working and focused and put herself forward for many tasks. She is supporting the centre with new projects and is leading on setting up a blog. She has a passion for equality and empowering women and has put together research based analysis of different areas of Violence Against Women and Girls.
Award in Excellence for Voluntary/Community Organisations Supporting Women & Families
First Prize: Rev. Dr. Trevor Adams
Epitomizes what it is to be a “Father-figure”, Mentor and Community Leader through his integrity, passion and personal qualities. His vast range of knowledge, expertise and wisdom has benefited the community, families, individuals and in particular young men from ethnic minority backgrounds supporting and encouraging them to aim higher and achieve their educational goals.
He very much believes in supporting young people to reach their academic potential. He conducted a pilot study for mothers and sons (in year 9-11) between 2015-2017. He understands the importance of parental input in the education of boys and the relevance of mothers working alongside their children in order for them to achieve their goals. It was said of him “he has a rare and unique gift for raising aspirations for people to see beyond where they are at.”
Empowering BAME women in the Criminal Justice System
Following the Awards ceremony, and with emotions running high after hearing some inspirational stories, Dr Suzella Palmer took to the stage to launch the Phoenix Project report ‘Bringing reality to the Baroness Corston Recommendations for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women in the Criminal Justice System’.
Dr Palmer instantly connected with the audience by sharing her experiences of growing up on the Stonebridge estate in Brent and experiencing many of the issues women growing up in the Borough face – poverty, low educational attainment, witnessing and being a victim of domestic abuse, and contact with the Criminal Justice System.
She paid accolade to her colleague, and Susan de Mont’s widow, Alex de Mont, whom she described as not just somebody who talks about it, he actually does something about it. This pragmatic approach is the reason so many people are now benefitting from the Legacy Fund, and lives are being changed. This is summed up perfectly through the words of Brazilian academic Paulo Friere, who said:
“If I am not in the world simply to adapt to it, but rather transform it, and if it is not possible to change the world without a certain dream or vision for it, I must make use of every possibility there is not only to speak about my utopia, but also to engage in practices consistent with it.”
Dr Palmer closed with a well-received call to action for everybody who works in women’s services: “We must empower women. Empower them to care for themselves, instead of looking after everyone else. Empower them to solve their problems themselves, to grow and to develop.”
Alex de Mont
Legacy Fund recipient Cameron Qali, presented Alex de Mont with a gift, to acknowledge the incredible impact he has had on her, and many others, life. In a moving speech, Alex said:
“This is a bit emotional for me, in a strange way I’d rather this wasn’t happening at all. I’d rather my wife was here. But life moves on and takes its own course. I’m very proud we can do something in her memory, for a cause she cared so passionately about. To all the organisations and individuals here tonight – you embody what my wife is about.”
The Susan de Mont Communities of Excellence Fund
Five Community organisations were awarded funds for work that supports women, their children and the wider family members. PLIAS is working closely with these organisations to help further the Education, Training and Employment of women and to jointly work on fundraising and partnership initiatives to secure additional funding for a seamless approach to supporting women, children and their families, enabling them to further their educational and life aspirations.
Asian Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC)
AWRC works with vulnerable women, victims of domestic abuse and their families. They provide training, skills and tailored support for individual women. AWRC is a specialist women’s organisation providing quality assured support services to Black, Minority Ethnic (BME) women and children who have experienced or are at risk of domestic abuse across the capital.
AWRC support women to increase their understanding of health and social care through referrals to adult social care, as part of the advice casework. AWRC arranges workshops that include a mobile screening unit to test for diabetes, blood pressure & general wellbeing.
301 women improved their English language and IT skills through accessing ESOL and computer classes offered by the Asian Women’s Resource Centre. The legacy will continue to support women into education, training and employment.
Many of their clients have complex needs and often, because of their ethnicity and/ or their immigration status, have numerous intersectional needs facing discrimination and multiple barriers to access services. Being from heavily patriarchal communities that circumscribe women’s activities and ability to participate in society, there is low awareness and understanding of human rights, meaning there can be a deep reluctance to approach services, therefore there is a need for proactive engagement with women and girls in the community.
Potential Mentoring (PM)
Potential Mentoring (PM) works with 5-19 year old’s at risk of social exclusion, offending, re-offending, gang membership, being expelled or excluded from primary and secondary school or college. The main aim is to keep these individuals in education and lower the risk of them offending. Potential Mentoring (PM) has been operating since 2006, with a demonstrable commitment to the mentoring of Children and Young People aged 5-19 years in the borough of Brent.
Since its formation, (PM) has supported in excess of 1500 families, mainly BAME, as well as working with 300 plus of the most vulnerable and disengaged children in the following London boroughs: Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Slough, Westminster and Richmond. Referrals come from various sources, Primary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, Social Services and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).
Many of the families have been through relationship breakups and as a consequence; mothers head the majority of the families they work with. As a service provider, (PM) works on self-esteem, life skills, anger management, drug and alcohol and sexual health awareness, along with knife/gun awareness and all aspects of communication.
Programmes are tailored to meet the needs of each individual through one to one mentoring sessions over a 12-week period. PLIAS is working jointly with PM and Social Services with a number of clients on the verge of exclusion from school.
St Michael’s Youth Project (SMYP)
SMYP was set up to raise the self-esteem, self-worth and the aspirations of children and young people to provide educational, musical, recreational, personal development and leadership activities for children and young people aged 8 to 25 years old on Saturdays, after school and during school holidays in order to improve their life chances and better prepare them to recognise opportunities and take advantage of them when they arise.
SMYP brings communities together through music and supports women and families. Their work supports women and families through personal development programmes that help to give the participating children and young people the life skills to achieve and be successful. They provide food and other items for families because of their hidden poverty needs. This is done through the following initiative: The Lioness & Cub Initiative: the ‘Big Sister’ programme to The Girlhood to Womanhood Project. This overlap initiative has a musical focus and seeks to address the growing problem of social isolation for women with young children. The Girlhood to Womanhood Project is an all year round development programme that seeks to provide teenage girls from the local area with the appropriate support in order to deal with issues that are affecting their education and future. The project mission is to provide a platform where young girls can develop their morality, integrity, character, self-knowledge, self-worth and the ability to deal with life and its challenges.
The legacy fund will further develop their music programmes; in particular, further developing the Mother & child initiative: Lioness & Cub, the aim of which is to tackle the growing problem of social isolation amongst women with young children through teaching music in a social setting.
Sufra Foodbank is a local charity established in 2013 to address both the causes and consequences of impoverishment in the community. Based on St. Raphael’s Estate, Brent’s most disadvantaged neighbourhood, their Community Hub provides a lifeline for people in crisis – including families living in extreme poverty and people who are vulnerable, homeless and socially isolated. Families across the borough are struggling to survive with rising prices, benefit caps and high unemployment. Apart from being a food bank, Sufra run a food academy and advice surgeries. PLIAS delivers a monthly outreach session, receiving referrals for those in need of information, advice and guidance, training and equipping to improve their future prospects. Sufra provides the following:
- Community Kitchen that provides a weekly meal for low-income families and combats social exclusion
- A Food Academy training young people in cookery skills as part of an accredited qualification leading to employment in the catering industry
- An employability programme supporting the long-term unemployed transition into available roles in the catering and gardening industries
The fund will support Sufra to help women acquire English language skills, improve their confidence in accessing services and take part in accredited and informal learning to help them find work or set up their own enterprises to support their families. By linking this work to the Susan and Alex de Mont Legacy Fund, they can raise the profile of this important work, better advocate on behalf of the women and generate regular funding to ensure that this work can continue for the long-term.
Learning Through The Arts (LTTA)
Learning through the Arts (LTTA) is devoted to creativity, imagination, arts development and educational support geared towards community development. Projects range from music to writing individual imagination and creative abilities. Their workshops promote multicultural learning and enhance deeper understanding for children, youth and adults.
LTTA goals include:
- Providing training, organising workshops using all forms of creative arts as the medium of instruction. They produce learning materials and educational materials as well as workbooks to support individuals on their programme
- Organising and providing mentoring schemes in creative arts for children and young adults
- Engaging in partnership schemes with individuals, organisations and entities that would further the educational interests of the company and its community
Supporting unemployed people, including women through the provision of art and writing workshops as a means of boosting self- confidence and learning new skills.
‘Susan the Angel’
Poem by Vance McCall, in memory of Susan de Mont
Susan de Mont
An angel with a heart
A saint with a halo of glory
A mighty woman who walked this earth
She was made of love
Love for those in need
What we take for granted
Would make life worthwhile for others
Ethnic minorities, black women, Asian women or otherwise
Bear the brunt of hard life styles
They have babies they cannot feed
They run from uniformed men….soldiers with guns
They hide from planes that drop their bombs
They bury their little ones, their men
When they no longer breath
This is Hell….. hmmm…. Where is Heaven?
A little water would save so many lives
A need for basics – toothbrush, toothpaste, soap
Sanitary products would go a long way
A shower, some food, a place to sleep
A doctor, a nurse, some medical care
Protection by the state
None of these are available
When you are on the move.
The angel saw and noted these
But she was called to be with the King
We must not forget the work that she did
The kindness she showed, driven by love
The Legacy Fund in place, a fitting tribute
She will be happy as she looks down from above
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