Just before the current lockdown, we were lucky enough to get together with some incredible, local women to record a podcast as part of our ‘Invisible Visible’ project.
For this part of the project we were interested in talking to people who have felt invisible or not heard in our society, but through circumstances have become visible and found their voice.
The podcast, themed ‘Invisibility in society’, enabled us to speak with a range of women from within our community.
Our guests spoke separately about their experiences and each had an interesting and truly thought-provoking story to tell.
We heard from 18-year-old Grace who spoke most eloquently about her experience with her own mental health, as well as her advocacy for raising awareness of the young person’s counselling charity, Youth Information Service (YiS), through her volunteer work.
As a shy child who lacked confidence, Grace suffered in silence for four years. She sought counselling support and soon realised the relief and effectiveness of speaking to someone about her worries. The experience was so impactful for Grace, it enabled her to discover who she was, be more honest and open with herself and realise that ‘the sooner you talk, the sooner you feel more confident’.
Now an active advocate of mental health and counselling, Grace volunteers at YiS supporting and inspiring young people to be more open about their mental health. She is focused on making a difference to our community and breaking down this stigma that is attached to mental health. She says: “It’s nothing to be ashamed of…
Helen tells us of the amazing service she and her team at Food Connect/Old Bath House Community Fridge are offering to local people in need of food, particularly during the pandemic.
Food Connect was created to share food within the community that, first and foremost, stops food waste. Did you know that food waste is the second biggest contributor to climate change?
Working alongside the community fridges, the team helps to distribute surplus food quickly to those who need it, for example those shielding, the elderly, those in care and more.
Working throughout the pandemic they have had to adapt and re-adapt their service offering, but they have not stopped providing this much needed lifeline. They continue to collect and distribute around 2.9 tonnes of food each week to 155 households. Helen and the team are certainly a positive force within Milton Keynes.
Lisa has worked throughout her life for social justice and fairness. She is the child of Windrush parents and has carried on her parents’ dedication and drive to help people in her own life and career.
Lisa comes from a large family and for a variety of reasons didn’t feel she was able to speak out. At the age of sixteen she started writing poetry and found her voice, and a new passion in drama. With the help of a drama coach she came out of her shell, grew in confidence and knew that a job in drama was the way forward.
She began volunteering with a young person’s drama group and worked her way up to a management role. She found that the job came with many barriers in the workforce and said that ‘race can polarise a lot of things for different people.’ She wanted to help break down these barriers and be there to help everyone and not be seen or treated differently.
She has overcome a number of challenges throughout her life, but one she had to face only a few years ago was absolutely devastating. She had to start her life again.
Rooda moved from Somalia with her husband and young children to Amsterdam to study at University. She knew this move wasn’t right as there was a lack of equality and multicultural diversity in the city, so decided to set up home in Milton Keynes where there were many positive opportunities for her family. However, she found there was still much work to do to break down barriers.
It is incredibly important to Rooda to empower her community, raise awareness of Africa and celebrate her culture and diversity. She did this through the MK50 Festival in 2017, which gave her a powerful voice ‘That changed the perception of the Somali Community’.
Rooda says that steps still need to be taken to create an environment that engages with all communities and ensures inclusivity. She says: “Step by step we will get somewhere to be really proud of and some place we can call home that is safe for all of us.”
This is just a snippet of the inspirational discussions we had with these extraordinary women.
We hope it has enticed you to listen to the full podcast, which is available here.
Thank you to all those who took part in our project and thank you to MK Gallery for hosting us, Caroline Devine (sound designer) and Mark Niel for providing the music.