The One Rhyl Project: rebuilding trust in deprived communities

Building lasting relationships of trust between people and institutions is the way forward for community development and cohesion, says Nigel Moores

Moments in Time, a photographic celebration of the town’s seaside heritage situated at Drift Park on Rhyl’s promenade.

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
Margaret Mead, anthropologist

The One Rhyl project was born from an idea conceived by the local Catholic priest, Father Charles Ramsey. Father Charles is well known in west Rhyl as one who is concerned with the plight of the area and its community.

Sadly the ward of west Rhyl, in which his church stands, is the most deprived in Wales. Indeed, of the top five most deprived wards in Wales, three are in the town of Rhyl. Over the years many third sector organisations have come and gone, most having started to achieve good things, but who failed through lack of funding. It was two years ago after one such organisation, the West Rhyl Community Company, closed, that Father Charles decided on a plan of action and through his hard work and determination The One Rhyl Project was created.

Through building relationships of trust we hope to provide the one link we believe to be vital in deepening and broadening citizenship, participation and communal life among populations of south west and west Rhyl. The project aims to provide a bridge of trust between people (who often see themselves as disenfranchised) and local institutions.

Part of this involves establishing a community organisation in west Rhyl, and to enhance existing ones in south west Rhyl, aimed at enriching community life and participation.

The One Rhyl Project will provide space for people to discern their strengths, aspirations and potential – and that of their children – and to support them as they begin to direct and channel their life energies in appropriate ways.

Over two years a full-time community worker, accompanied by a team of volunteers, will engage in a series of one-to-one interviews with local people in south west and west Rhyl, especially parents.  The group will meet weekly to review the work, sharing experience and mutual support.

‘Our ability to communicate
through meaningful conversation
and to listen with empathy
has enabled the progression of society.’

Through growing trust-based relationships, we hope to channel people through to venues where they can address a range of obstacles, such as a lack of parenting skills, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and bad diet, poor financial skills and towards education, training, employment, literacy, community involvement and flourishing lives.

The project worker and team will contact people through schools, community and youth groups and existing networks of contacts in local residents’ groups. By using a range of different strategies the group will channel people to appropriate agencies or convene them in common interest groups.

The project, through its one-on-one conversations, will not only build up trusted and open relationships, but will also, through the provision of training from Together Creating Communities, empower members of the community, so that their concerns, needs and desires for the future are heard by those in authority, so that they are taken into account and duly acted upon.

Rhyl’s rundown Abbey Street area in 2010

Building relationships of trust is not some new twenty first century concept. It has in fact been part of society since the birth of the human race. Our ability to communicate through meaningful conversation and, most importantly, to listen with empathy, has enabled the progression of society.

This initiative has arrived at what is an exciting time of change for the community. Rhyl, and specifically west Rhyl, are the main focus of the regeneration and re-development that is planned through the strategic regeneration area (SRA) being funded by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The regeneration will see the demolition of many of the existing buildings that are at the moment homes of multiple occupation, most of which are in a state of disrepair and in many cases uninhabitable. Though the One Rhyl Project agrees that most of these buildings do need to be demolished, as a community company our concerns are those of the local population, who are worried about displacement and the possible gentrification of their community.

We believe that this trusting, caring, friendly and open approach to community development and cohesion is the way forward. Its aim is to build lasting relationships within the community and beyond with solid foundations built on mutual trust and respect and to provide a voice for those who may otherwise go unheard. It will listen with empathy to the concerns of the local population and act accordingly in a positive and productive way.

The One Rhyl project is also committed to building strong links with the ward of south west Rhyl and specifically with South West Rhyl Communities First. Indeed, a joint working agreement has already been established with regard to volunteers going out into the community to do one-to-one conversations aboard the south west Rhyl community bus.

The project is, we believe, an innovative way forward in community development and community cohesion. A way forward for the people led by the people and always with their wishes, needs and desires as its aims.

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