This is a unique role that the West Midlands VRP has pioneered but which could provide a blueprint for other Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) and partnership organisations across the country. The Clewer Initiative spoke to Fred to find out more about his job:
What did you do prior to this role at the VRP?
My first job, after studying Geography at university, was as an intern and research assistant to the Bishop of Coventry. This consisted of a number of different elements including being a lay chaplain, supporting the Bishop’s work in Parliament, and facilitating local community engagement with churches and other faith groups.
It was during my time working for the Bishop that I attended an event that would change the trajectory of my life. In December 2018, the Bishop presided at the funeral, in Coventry Cathedral, of a 16-year-old boy who had been murdered in Coventry. Some 2,000 people attended the funeral and I saw first-hand the devastating human cost of youth violence. No longer could I just read about youth violence in the newspaper and take no further action, I felt compelled to respond. I’m a Christian and reflecting on the funeral I felt God speak to me about the dire need for greater peace and reconciliation, not only in faraway parts of the world, but on the streets of my own city and the wider West Midlands.
Responding to this need, I assisted the Bishop in organising a conference for faith leaders to mark the visit of the Knife Angel statue to Coventry. I was also tasked with establishing a working group of church representatives who either worked with young people or who had experience supporting those affected by serious youth violence. We also began a pilot inter-faith youth project, funded by the West Midlands VRP, in which a church and neighbouring Sikh gurdwara worked together to create a space where young people could be safe after school, when they are most vulnerable to becoming a victim of violence.
I was therefore excited when, in September 2020, the role of Community Navigator for Coventry became available at the VRP. My role has since evolved into a regional Faith & Communities Navigator position.