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Wokingham Baptist’s pioneering community resilience project

5th July 2022 | County Lines

The Clewer Initiative

In the summer of 2021, Wokingham Baptist Church started dedicating one Sunday a month to “church in the community.”

CL leaflets

People were invited to act on their passions and start up activities in the community rather than come to church. Jackie Mouradian, a County Lines trainer for The Clewer Initiative, decided to gather a team to visit one of Wokingham’s new estates and provide activities that build community and at the same time, raise awareness of county lines.

Jackie explains: “We had been informed by the local police that nine county lines run into Wokingham and we know that recruitment of children happens everywhere – not just in the big cities. Children from more affluent households are drawn in as well as more vulnerable children from deprived households.

“The best way to protect children is to raise awareness of county lines and build community cohesiveness so that people know their neighbours and know what’s going on. With this culture of care and support, it is much easier to tune into potential threats, spot the signs that something is not right and stop county lines from getting embedded.”

Humble beginnings

A small team met to pray and plan and meet with Wokingham Council and the Police to share ideas and get insight. The team chose to focus on Mulberry Grove Estate as it had a contact who lived there who offered to do art activities with the children.

Jackie comments: “Faraj is a Lybian asylum seeker who we know at our church and lives on the estate. He is a human rights lawyer but also a very fine artist. On the estate there is a mix of social and luxury housing and we know from our association with Faraj and with the council that there has been a reluctance from those in the luxury housing to mix with the people from social housing. This meant that building community there was not going to be straight forward.

“We decided to buy a gazebo and provide refreshments as well as activities for children, including art activities and games. We agreed to meet on a Sunday morning, once a month, on the green in the middle of the estate. I had plenty of county lines materials which I had turned into flyers for parents and also for young people.”

A discouraging start

The team’s experience has been very slow-burn. In September, October and November, very few people came out to meet the team and participate in the activities. However, the team made contact with Joyce, a key person at the council who had a particular remit for community building in the new estates and knew of other organisations working on the estate. Together, they agreed to put on a Christmas event, with someone from the church dressed as Santa giving out goody bags for the kids, art activities and free food and drink as usual. More than 50 people came out of their houses to talk to the team and each other and they nearly ran out of refreshments.

Jackie remarks : “It reminded me of the story of Elisha and the widow’s oil as we had just enough hot water in the thermoses and all but one of the goody bags were given out.”

Christmas 2
Christmas event
Xmas goody bags

Unfortunately, in January, the event was cancelled because of the miserable weather and the team considered going back to the drawing board. Jackie met with Joyce and sat in the rain discussing what they could do for an Easter event.

“As a team, we were learning what worked and what didn’t and especially the importance of social media for advertising. I had got the Next Door app and also found out who administered the Mulberry Grove Facebook page and we began to use these to advertise events and generate interest in county lines. This of course had a much bigger reach than meeting people on a Sunday morning so as far as raising awareness of County Lines goes, social media has definitely been proved to be the most effective way.

“However, that is not the only reason we are involved at Mulberry Grove. In our county lines training, we talk a lot about how building community cohesiveness and resilience can help in the fight against county lines. We really wanted to bring people together as well as informing them about county lines.”

Momentum builds

The Easter event took place on Palm Sunday, with the help and support of the council. The housing association heard about the event, got involved and advertised it with the social housing tenants. The church ran an Easter egg hunt (with full size Easter eggs donated by the local Tesco’s) and provided free hot cross buns and drinks for the residents. The team also invited Dr Bike to come along and offer free bike checks for people - this was extremely popular. A local resident on a penny farthing joined the event and attracted a lot of attention.

Jackie concludes: “Perhaps the piece de resistance of the Easter event, was the link we created with the local police. They have several police dog handlers in the area and were looking for events to take the dogs to so they could have the experience of interacting with the public. Five police dogs, a puppy and a sniffer dog as well as the dog of a handler who actually lives on the estate came along. Naturally, they were a great hit with the public."


“Joyce set up a stall with council information and I also added the county lines leaflets. Like the Christmas event, it was a huge success and lots of families came out, enjoyed the Easter egg hunt and the police dogs and being with each other. In our conversations with the residents, it emerged that quite a few were musicians so we decided to host a jamming event, “music on the green,” in early summer. Our next gathering is in August and it has an ‘emergency services’ theme with a fire engine, the police and police dogs in situ. We will be posting county lines material through letterboxes beforehand so people can come and chat to us on the day about any concerns they have.

“What has been especially pleasing about our work over the last year, is the collaboration between the church and other organisations and the way we have made serendipitous links with people who can be called on in future events to take part and spread the word.”


Key learnings and conclusions that could apply in other settings:

• Communication

o When it comes to advertising events, leaflet drops do not work, particularly if they are delivered several weeks before the event.

o Social media is the best way to advertise and also to spread the word about county lines. Through social media, we have been able to share links to information and videos that show the nature of the crime and its impact and how to spot the signs.

o However, there is also great value in talking face to face to people about this issue and being able to answer any questions that arise.

• Collaboration

o Building relationships with the council, police and housing association in particular means we have established goodwill and important connections

o In the future, we hope to approach other churches to see how we can collaborate and work together to provide events and county lines awareness raising on the other estates in Wokingham.

• Events

o Providing fun activities for children is essential for good attendance.

o These events also act as a window to listen to our community. It is through these conversations that we learn what is going on in the community, what the challenges are and also what we have in common. This could lead to future cooperation between church and community in addressing issues that affect us all.

o It was great to build on people’s existing passions, skills and talents. The core team is made up of people passionate about church being in community, and supported by bakers, artists and musicians. We also have a couple of circus performers connected to our church who we hope to include in future events.

o As previously stated, in the long term, we hope that the residents of Mulberry Grove will take ownership of these events and realise they can do this for themselves, building community cohesiveness and removing all barriers between those in luxury housing and those in the social housing.

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