Donna Murry-Turner shares how change starts by meeting people where they are

We all have moments where it seems like what we’re trying to do is just impossible.  The thing that is sometimes overlooked and that our special guest this week, Donna Murry-Turner from ANOS (Another Night of Sisterhood), urges us to remember, is that we’ve already accomplished so much to get to where we are today and that change in the lives of those most in need often starts by simply just meeting those families where they are. In todays podcast Donna talks about using this understanding and belief to help bring about changes that create a legacy for future generations.

– David Shosanya
Well hello is another podcast from the desk of The Institute of Wellbeing. IOW all the w’s at The Institute of Wellbeing dotcom and we’ve got every member of the team here today and our special guest is Donna Murray- Turner from Another Night of Sisterhood. Other guests include Rukhsana Hussain who is from The Early Years Mobility team at the Department of Education and then we’ve got Claire who is our Program Manager. Ricky who’s our creative techy guy and all round good guy and then we’ve got Michael Kelly who is the CEO, Founder and Chairman of The Institute of Wellbeing. Welcome to this podcast. Donna really excited to meet you.

You’ve challenged the team and you’ve inspired our perspectives and got us thinking very differently about the project that we’re embarked on in Croydon around Hungry Little Minds and reach the parents of 0-5 year olds you do a lot of stuff but Ricky, I’m going to hand it over to you just to ask Donna the first question.

– Ricky Kalsi
Thanks David. Donna when we last met there was just a long list of accolades of things that you do and have been involved in and I think we were all very inspired about some of the work you do particularly those are really you know most in need in our community and I guess I kind of walked away from that meeting thinking we got a real sense of what you do but can you tell us a little bit about why you do it. What’s really driven you to – you know get involved in so many of these kind of community projects and just enough to keep your finger on the pulse. So yeah, I’m just keen to know why you do what you do.

– Donna Murry-Turner
I think I have an innate sense of community and that was something that my parents taught me I saw in their everyday lives. My mom had her own ladies group, that my father helped a lot of older West Indian men learn to read – up update my reading ability so I’ve seen it first-hand.

When I started, my father died and I suddenly became the head of the family and there was something that for parents we were having a spike of knife crime at the time in the borough and I realized by asking my friends who would in the social care industry and have been there longer than I had. I was like “well what is there for parents” and they were like “there’s nothing” and so I felt (and for me as well personally) my son at that time was year 7th he just started secondary school. I was no longer a mom of somebody in primary school.

That whole transition I was living that experience and so for me it was very real and the need for support and awareness was very real and I think that has continued to kind of spare me on the need of awareness the need to educate at the community level to take education away from the institutional frame that we always tend to set in and bring it right back to grassroots that these things can happen within the community and we can learn together. I’m a big advocate for peer learning.

– Ricky Kalsi
Amazing, wow. You know Donna it gives us a really, well certainly, gives us a great perspective on what the drivers are that wake you up in the morning to continue fighting the causes for the people that you get alongside each and every day and I thank you so much for sharing that.

– Donna Murry-Turner
I thank you for having me.

– Ricky Kalsi
No, thank you.

– David Shosanya
Well Donna, Last week when we met you gave us some really interesting insights about the work involved in before you do that. Tell us a bit about what you used to do because when you told us what you used to do I completely blown away by that, so tell us your journey working with a particular organization and what you did there.

– Donna Murry-Turner
So I used to for 20 plus years, I used to work for what is now described as the UK Border Force but at the time I work there was the immigration service and I was there like I said for 23-24 years. I worked my way from admin officer in Lunar House back in the day, I worked enforcement in Beckett house, I worked at Heathrow, Stansted and when I started having children I ended my days in my career there at Gatwick. So I have as a Chief Immigration Officer – I have a lengthy history of working within what would you call a civil service and definitely work in an airport with people.

– David Shosanya
So what does what does it look like being the chief immigration officer. You know I mean today you’ve got on metalic pink Dr. Martins, you’ve got bright earrings, you’ve got piercings. I mean how does a chief immigration officer look like you.

It didn’t go down well. It never did. I’ve always been Donna. Anybody hearing this and knows me will be like shaking their head. I’ve always been the big earrings in the piercings and the hair colour and I just I am me I can’t change who I am but it was again there was always a conflict my managers will tell you there was always ” Donna we need to speak to you about the blonde” you know “Donna we need to speak to you about the size of your earrings” [laughter]. Can you a tape over your nose piercing on the control because safety and all that. It’s been a constant my whole life.

– David Shosanya
Love it though because it just shows how authentic you are and that you bring yourself to the table and that shows up in and in our meeting and our conversations. That’s what this team has really loved about you that you seem to bring yourself unreservedly to what you’re doing. So at the moment you run a group in Croydon with some other friends and community activist called Another Night of Sisterhood.

Before I invite Mike to ask a question just tell us a bit about Another Night of Sisterhood, how it started, what you do, some of the topics you covered, just tell us about the group.

– Donna Murry-Turner
I got back to my comment about seeing that there was no provision within the community for adults and my ethos and that of the rest of the team has always been that is the environment in which the child grows that often not always but often sets the pace and sets the tone for how the child goes going forward.

So we kind of tackled the serious youth violence that was kind of engulfing our borough at the time from a different angle instead of working directly with the youth we thought we support parents and little did we know that it was going to be a service that was going to be you know highly subscribed. We started our first meeting was in April the 21st 2016, there you go and I had 95 women in Winterbourne Youth Club standing room only. When I asked them if I did this every month would you come and they said yes and I we’ve never – the only month we don’t have a meeting is in December and we try to do something fun as a group to go for a comedy night or whatever. Yeah we meet every month without fail. Last Friday of the month Another Night of Sisterhood meets.

We’ve done topics as differential as financial literacy because I think that’s important especially where we are in the north of the borough people understanding that’s something we’re not taught in mainstream curriculum But yeah, we expect people to be able to budget especially the onset of things like universal credit people get handled this bunch of money if they don’t know how to budget that things fall.

So we had to financial literacy evening and that was really good getting different – we got the Croydon Caribbean Credit union to come in. We had a speaker from Genesis. I tried to make it different to kind of give that whole spectrum not just one lens. We’ve done domestic abuse with domestic abuse champions for this borough. We have done serious youth violence. We’ve done communication in relationships. We’ve discussed congruence the necessity for consistency not just in our relationships in terms of parents but also messages we send to our young people you name it pretty much. I think we’ve discussed another type of system especially with societal changes. So our next one next week is on this – a training course specifically for parents on how to challenge the disproportional exclusions we currently facing this borough from our local schools and that’s both primary and secondary. So we try to make curtail are our reach to what parents have said “yeah I want I need, this I need the support” and we just give them what they need.

– David Shosanya
Talking about parents about us a lot of stuff that you’re doing and in our conversations we’ve heard so much more I think at this point I just really want to say thank you for the contributions that you’ve made to the community and the selfless manner in which you do it and the consistency with which you do and The Institute of Wellbeing is absolutely privileged to be working with Another Night of Sisterhood with the kind of integrity that you do your work with.

You talked a bit about parenting. Mike who’s the CEO – you want to answer that question.

– Mike Kelly
Yeah. Thank you for coming down and Ricky did say he wanted to ask you why you do what you do and we’ve only really talked about your period of time in the civil service and Another Night of Sisterhood but from what I understand you sit on so many important boards or you’re navigating conversations that really affect the wellbeing and the benefit of living within the borough. So, I can see that you’re addressing many of the pinch points that people are suffering or contending with.

There’s one thing that does jump out where there’s some crossover correlation and that is around the parenting course that you do very intrigued in that because some months or some years it seems that government agenda is towards parenting then it dissipates down to the children and then this about every child matters and then you know supporting the adult couple – but parenting I think is very important as you mentioned the environment in which a child grows up is a key indicator for their behaviour. So can you tell us a bit more about your parenting course.

– Donna Murry-Turner
I think in partly to begin to answer your question. I think that communication is often about knowing your audience and having an idea of how that kind of conversation will start. What it looks like. So for me the fact that everybody on my team is also a parent kind of helps us in the way that we construct the course going forward and being very real. So having you know also Chair of Governors at local school, having you know I think my finger is on the pulse in the north of the borough – I know what’s going on. I speak to parents. My time is not constricted and if you stop me outside the school gates and we’re there for an hour, then we’re there for that hour – so long that I haven’t got an important meeting. I’ve had parents who can’t put on the electric, can’t on the gas, who are waiting for that money to drop on Wednesday, it’s Monday and they’re telling me “Donna there’ nothing in the house”.

So the very realness and I kind of bring that back to my team that when we’re engaging with them in terms of educating them or bringing a certain there’s an awareness piece that we’re trying to bring to them. You first have to engage them at their point of need. So it’s very important that we kind of meet them where they are. So if I go to a home and the mom, I walk in and she’s apologized, I just set myself up by the sink and I start washing up with to have an engagement piece I’m still talking to you but I’m also showing you that I’m not better than or you know I’ll help you make the beds but let’s talk about we’re making the bed. It’s about meeting people at their point of need where they need the support the most especially for parents. I often say that outside of minorities and parents like the next judged demographic, your judged if you do it right your judge if you do it wrong the expectation is placed upon you and nobody, no child is born with it with a book a guidebook and every child is different and everybody’s needs and experiences as a parent that influence that journey is also different.

So yes it is very difficult and sometimes I’ll speak in a roomful of parents who won’t relate perhaps on Saturday. Give an example I spoke in front of the neighbourhood watch. It was in a private school in the south of the borough and as I walked in nobody there looked like me, nobody was reflective of where I come from in the north of the borough. I said that to them. I was speaking as a chair of safer neighbourhoods but in talking to engage in them I tried to illustrate the disconnect that we could all sometimes have in thinking that things happen over there to those people.

That’s what happens to them and that probably helps them over there because they like that and just breaking that down and saying (crime that was a topic for the day) that it happens, parenting happens to all of us young people impacts the whole community.

So there’s no disconnect from it. I think stressing that as well and also showing very very big on sharing everything about my personal life but sometimes the sun is delivering I think it’s important that you share with other parents where it’s gone wrong because all too often in parenting we get it more wrong than we do right. So there is a feeling of we’re in this together. If I can share with you from my own my own reference “Yeah this is way way completely wrong”…

– Mike Kelly
So you take off the mask

– Donna Murry-Turner
Right but I’m doing two things. I’m taking off the mask I’m showing you that we’re the same but I’m also showing your resilience because I’m going to show you with my experience where it went wrong how I then made it back. That’s all part of it. It’s you know it’s not strategic It’s quite organic – but I think it’s important.

– Mike Kelly
So could you tell us the name of that course and how does someone engage with it, anyone of our listeners.

– Donna Murry-Turner
There is no one name for the course…

– Mike Kelly
Okay

– Donna Murry-Turner
It’s just having a conversation.

– Mike Kelly
Ok, fantastic.

– Donna Murry-Turner
I don’t you know, I don’t like to label and when we do have groups or parenting groups we don’t call them parenting groups we call them legacy groups because ultimately parenting is about your legacy what you leave behind you, that will speak for you. So it doesn’t put the judgment on it that parenting you know strengthening families, “you need to do this”, “are you doing this”, all these things I’m not doing. It’s about ensuring your legacy and we’ve had far more engagement once it’s been sort of patterned and labelled that way than if we perhaps call it a parenting.

– David Shosanya
Donna can I just ask you that – I’m going to come back to our community to Claire and Rox in a few moments. I’ve heard repeated “the north and the south”, “the north and the south”. . .

– Mike Kelly
Look across the tracks is the look here…

– David Shosanya
Tell us a bit about what you’re referring to and does that relate to legacy in any way and I would like to hear you just talk a bit about Mike – you talked about the mask, taking off the mask, what kind of mask do you think parents could face. Because we’re encouraging parents to be involved in 0-5 year olds in a proactive way. I want to hear because what do you think about some of the masks, because you talked about the north and the south for people living in Croydon maybe listening to this podcast outside of Croydon, what is it, what is it you’re referring to and what are the legacies that inform them?

– Donna Murry-Turner
So, I’ve lived in Croydon all my life. My grandparents came here in 1959. The house I sleep in was bought in 1961 so I can actually answer this with a bit of historical context. So back in those days the majority of the wind rush generation as they were people from Southeast Asia – all of that whole generation set foot predominantly centrally and to the north of this borough.

South of the borough, in terms of black stalwart has always been predominantly white middle class and in terms of reference the better end of the borough. You have millionaires at the Webster’s Estate you have all of that. So in terms of the north-south divide, If you live in Croydon and I was talking about the north or the south or you from Croydon, you’d understand instantly what I mean. So that historical context has also lended itself to the fact that the predominance of a BAME community live in the north of the borough, essentially in the north of the borough. . .

– David Shosanya
What’s BAME in case anyone listening

– Donna Murry-Turner
Black, asian minority, ethnic.

– David Shosanya
Okay

– Donna Murry-Turner
Okay and we live in the north of the borough and in terms of serious youth violence and so on and so forth. The context the narration has been predominantly in the north of the borough. So it almost is like everything. bad or negative happens in the north of the borough whereas the same focus is not placed on the South. Yet when I meet with my colleagues who write interventions in the south. It’s it’s the same problems maybe not serious youth violence but there’s binge drinking, it is a different type of youth interventions or whatever.

There’s still domestic abuse but unfortunately maybe if you live in the north of the borough you can’t take yourself off to the south of France to get over it. Whereas if in the south you might have that financial ability to kind of self-intervene, do you know what I mean whereas in the north you have a much more reliable services blah blah. So there is that differentiation in how we talk about the south of the borough and in the north.

– David Shosanya
OK. Thank you. That’s very helpful in terms of just helping our listeners understand something about the context of Croydon. And also informative to us as well in terms of the work we’re going to be doing with you and other partners to realise that we’re dealing with different demographic groups. Mike you talked a bit about masks and before bringing Clare, Rox in a few moments. What were you referring to when you interacted with Donna and talked about the mask of appearance and a bit about that for us please.

– Mike Kelly
Well, could you imagine if we lived in a society where we wasn’t judged by the colour of our skin, the job we do, whether we lived in the south or the north or Croydon at all. The car you drive to school you went to etc.. What we’ve developed is you know social mask and we put on these masks and we leave our house wearing these masks to fit in to the way we live and sometimes masks are given to you and there’s an expectation that you must wear the mask if you’re going to function meaningfully in this zone and for some that’s a mask a mask of poverty. That’s a mask of crime and violence and gang violence or group violence or you went to the rubbish school. So you’re never really going to be much more.

So that mask follows you and someone mentioned being authentic earlier on, to be authentic you have to take off some of these masks but because these masks have been formed in your subconscious for such a long period of time. It’s like putting your skin off. It’s very difficult and if you then become exposed you become vulnerable and you may change.

So unless there’s some guidance, there’s some information, there’s that nudge, there’s that support as you unveil I.e. some of your training or some of our training or some of our systems – there needs to be that handholding as people take off masks especially the masks that don’t serve you, the mask that limit you and I find that like you said Donna we get judged as parents when we do good or bad and sometimes that self-fulfilling prophecy goes through to that legacy to the next generation of children who think well this is how my mum done it or my dad done it so this is how I ought to do it and they’ve inherited a mask and so you know if the social masks were visible we might be horrified to see how many mask we wear. I walk around and I can imagine wow she’s wearing 42 masks. You see what I’m saying and they may be different colors and different expressions.

So that’s what I meant by this pairing too much. This this this expectation and then you go into a school system in they are excluding you because of the mask that you’ve inherited and you and the parents of the teachers have been excluded because of the masks that they’ve inherited. So it’s just about setting safe spaces where we can put the mask down for a minute have that conversation and maybe not wear it tomorrow until it comes to a point where I don’t need it.

– David Shosanya
I’m thinking as you’re talking, as parent some sometimes instinctively I’m just think some of the mask that we where we wear the mask of perfection that we never let people know that we – our children know that we made the same mistakes or the mask of comparison that actually the person next door is better than me. I always say to people when I speak everyone in a social setting has got the best marriage, the best children the best friends until you follow them home. [laughter].

It’s not as if it’s not as ideal as the mask makes out. So it’ll be interesting at some point to just really explore that in a podcast around the mask, but we’ve talked a lot about what you do Donna. We’ve talked about the kind of challenges you face in your work and the kind of people you’re dealing with and when I say kind of I don’t mean that as if they’re a unique type of person but they give people individuals facing real life challenges. We’ve got to the point now where we’re recognizing that they carry masks but we’re grateful for the “why” for you and the “why” for The Institute of Wellbeing.

Rox is here from the Department for Education and then I ask what’s the “why” for the Department for Education and also you know you’ve got a question for Donna. So what’s the “why” for the Department of Education in terms of some of the things you’re talking about and the 0-5, chat, play, read initiative and then please throw your question to Donna.

-Rukhsana Hussain
Okay. So it’s at the why from the DfE’s perspective is that we know that some of the poorest kids start school months behind their peers and that gap grows through the school year and that can have an impact on child well-being but also the life aspirations. My question for Donna, listening to you and Mike talking about masks and what you were talking about in terms of parents supporting parents and that you take an organic approach and the one thing like from a public sector perspective is that we tend to use terminology and labels to define families or segment families in terms of the way we’re trying to scope my programs.

What did you say are the biggest barriers of engagement from disadvantaged parents that are perceived as hard to reach and the reason I use the term perceived hard to reach because you know the one that’s kind of common debates that we have internally are we the ones that are hard to reach or are the parents the ones hard to reach. What would be your perspective on that?

– Donna Murry-Turner
I think culturally in terms of engaging the populace we and I said this before we go about the wrong way in this country. We are thinking what’s described as a nation of shopkeepers and we kind of we are the people invented the civil service. We’re very good at making departments and having meetings about the meeting about a previous meeting. So we kind of sometimes get lost in bureaucracy that within itself can become a barrier. A parent who is not from that background has never worked in within that kind of setting that can often seem like a barrier to engaging with, you know I’ve been to meeting the parents are like “I’m tired, we had the meeting – we want outcomes” and it’s the understanding we understand working in a corporate setting that sometimes we don’t work to immediacy. There is a process that has to take place – parents don’t understand that and what we do sometimes is we don’t communicate that. We almost all because in our heads we know it’s going to come to a certain point but we don’t communicate that to families and especially to parents and we need to take them on the process journey with us.

We need to have more transparency in the way that we communicate with parents and I would also say one other parents once said to me that you know there’s a program and somebody from the Ministry of Justice rang me and said I can get this group of parents and the woman said to me “listen you know you know I’m tired of people pimping off of my poverty” and that has stuck with me forever more. I think sometimes that parents feel especially from the more disproportionately, socially challenged, cohort demographic that people only ever want to come in and people for their poverty there’s just no other way to put it.

“Also why can’t you feed your children that’s really bad” and we go through this whole thing with them and then we say “thank you for much for the information” and we go and they’ve just exposed themselves at their most vulnerable point. For what. And so this is why I was as an individual, as a practitioner I’m keen to partner with yourselves because I can see that’s not what you want to do. You’re looking in terms of legacy, leaving something behind, sustainability these are words I’ve heard but often parents you know they’ll get that at local level – they’ll get the education welfare officer that will come and wanna talk about about why “John is late” and all of these things and then they go. There’s never any support we take what we want from these people and then we disappear.

Now I’m the parent and you’ve just done that to me, my situation with John is no better, my living can do mine you’ve not helped me address any of my social issues, you’ve taken what you want, another poor woman with five children and four different baby fathers and then you’ve lost – you’ve left. So for me it’s about understanding that and perceiving understanding from a parent perspective why there is a barrier sometimes to engaging with statutory and I mean this could be the…. you know the admin at the school gates because of perceptions and also you have to factor in people’s own experiences of educational process in their own lives.

If you’ve had a poor education experience or it was negative at any point that may turn you off and you may transfer that in a way that you could you interact with the service when it now comes to your own children and that can be at every level. So it’s about kind of looking at it.

We use the word holistic a lot but it’s about looking at from every angle what does it look like from here if I’m a poor parent and I was raised by poor parents they were raised by poor parents and school was not important to any of them. It’s hardly going to now be fourth generation that we’re suddenly going to be on time and it’s not going to happen like that. Understanding that journey and also understanding from the corporate side how best to engage. So delivering letters and flyering does not make it but conversations with a bit of coffee and biscuits and just having that whole conversation you’re more likely to reach them at that point or a pastoral visit.

All of that increasing the outreach that we have in terms of visiting people in their own city. That’s massive in terms of engaging.

– David Shosanya
Thats really insightful because one of the things you really brought to our attention – we talked about in our team meetings but you really brought it home and you’re bringing home again, is that actually when you’re hungry and when you haven’t got a light, it is very difficult to read in the dark and it’s very difficult to concentrate on an empty stomach and one of the reasons why we’re absolutely delighted to be working with you is that you talked about the importance of not just community but doing community around food and just tell, tell our listeners what you told us about food.

– Donna Murry-Turner
For me food is very important anyway but it is very important in terms of community engagement because for poor people food is a way that we express we show our emotions to one another. If you are – if I invite you to my home and I cook for you it means that I have a certain amount of regard for you. I may cook my best dish for you. I mean if you’re from a different culture from me I may want to cook you my national dish. I’m going to put my love into that to give it to you. So food is a great leveller because we eat – families used to eat together and it created a safe space, it creates a space of expression and and other forms of nonverbal forms of community would call that nonverbal forms of communication often shown through food and hospitality especially if you come from cultures where that is very important and as I said again in the north of the borough where we have the most the biggest BAME cohort in terms of populists in Croydon.

So we understand that I know if I go into an Asian home and aunties going to that’s exactly what I would call her, is going to offer me tea. She’s going to want to stuff me full of food because she’s showing me I appreciate you I’m warm to you, you’re in my home. So it’s very important in terms of the whole community engagement piece and also for practical reasons.

I know where I am and where we meet in Selhurst. Selhurst is one of those six deprived wards in our borough – right. I know that I have women who access my provision who are what we call the working poor. So they work but they still have to access food banks because the wages just don’t make it. I have women on zero hour contracts they’re partners, they’re husbands may also be on zero hour contracts. They can’t afford for their child to be sick because that means there’s no pay for that day.

So we do food and we kind of we’re known for our brand come from work, bring the kids dem. I go to Iceland buy a big bumper pack of crisp and popcorn. Don’t worry about it. You know by coming to ANOS you will be fed and you’re not just gonna be fed any old food you gonna be fed food that is culturally competent to you. So we have hot food predominantly we do West Indian food because that’s the food that’s kind of sold around. We do vegetarian food. We cater for everybody but it’s a leveler.

When you eat there’s a sense of familial belonging and that’s what we’re trying to create that sense of belonging because that ultimately creates community. If you belong to me and I belong to you there is a bond now when you support, when you need support I’m there and it works and so we’ve seen its worked within ANOS itself. Friendships have started, buddying systems have started just by coming to ANOS that support one another support for one another – so I can testify that it works.

– David Shosanya
Again you getting us to get us to think and hope you get the listeners to think as well. We’ve we’ve highlighted a lot of challenges and we’re grateful to ANOS and others wrestling with these challenges . We’re making some practical provisions as well as The Institute of Wellbeing. We’re partnering with organisation like ANOS because we want to leave a legacy behind. We want to meet with people that are really, who, are facing challenges but who we can make a contribution to so if you go to our website there’s a lot of resources that you can download all the w’s, The Institute of Wellbeing dot com. We’ve got a special Black History Month edition, a little resource that you can just download and once you download that resource you can get access to a don’t be a jerk recipe and it’s just a play on the idea that all sorts of organisations have tried to produce jerk, jerk dishes and it hasn’t quite worked.

So we’re saying here’s an authentic jerk dish, a piece of chicken that you can just get a young child to season or even after you see it just taste it’s part of Black History Month. T

There’s 10 activities that you can do. There’s 35, another one with 35 activities that you can do and there’s a lot of chat, play, read stuff. We’re not trying. We’re just trying to say as well as the challenges there are opportunities and one of the things that we’re really excited about and we’ll be doing this in partnership with ANOS in Croydon and other places, we’re going to be running a number of what we call subject expert days and so far we’ve secured the services of Dr. Albert Okoye who’s a consultant adolescent psychotherapist and he’s going to be talking about how you can build resilience into your motor five-year-old child so that you can get them strong mentally so that they’ve got a strong disposition towards the pressures of life and they are not going to succumb so easily to the mental health challenges that may emerge out of a lack of resilience. We heard the one about our team meetings from our Program Manager – Claire that, that there’s a 60 percent disposition in terms of young people’s prevalence rate of them suffering with mental health issues and we believe you stem this when you prepare them when they’re young 0-5. We think we can do something about that. I’m not saying it’s easy but we’re trying to say these are some practical insights you can get from a consultant psychiatrist to help you think about building resilience. We also have a subject expert day contribution from Dr. Grace Caluori who is a B.A.C.P accredited psychotherapist and also Chief Executive of her own practice and does significant amount of work with children and family, was involved in pioneering the government’s PIP program and formerly a senior school teacher.

So we’re bringing expertise but we’re also a partnering with people like ANOS to bring practical support and resources. So when we do events together we’ll be honoring the spirit of community and food and play we and ANOS live by. So look out for our subject expert days, look out also for some of the stuff we’re going to do. Chat, play read fun zones, where we’re just going to create opportunities for people to come and our food and just tap play read and bring in storytellers and musicians and stuff like that just to be practical.

Now, Donna. You’ve been doing a lot of work and we’ve heard about the work you’re doing. Every time we speak there’s something new that comes out even today you’ve just been given another role to work with adolescents and it is just a lot of work. Claire in our conversations was was asking you a question I’ll give Claire an opportunity to just direct that question towards you now.

– Claire Kelly
Okay. Hi Donna.

– Donna Murry-Turner
Hi.

– Claire Kelly
My question to you is in terms of understanding the daily barriers that you say parents face. How best do you think that parents can subscribe to owning the importance of chat, play, read into their lifestyle?

– Donna Murry-Turner
I think that first. We need to ascertain if parents feel that chat, play read for themselves is important. As I said before. If I’m not a grandmother a quiet “bookish”, if I’m not into reading or I’m not into to any kind of then how am I gonna – you come into tell me that that’s what I should be doing with my 0-5 year old that’s fine but maybe I can’t even read. Maybe because of my own experience my own learning capacity is quite limited. Maybe English is my second language my third language even and then we can add on top to that all those sort of social barrier differentials that can kind of go around that.

So for me it’s about and has always been about, we had a piece at this once about education and one of our colleagues led a group, we do a lot of group therapy and a lot of the parents are saying yeah but the thing is, you know we were encouraging parents to read to their children in different voices and accents and because I remember when my father would not read necessarily but he would do Nancy stories and in that Nancy story, my father was Jamaican and the Nancy stories with the accent, we loved it, me and my brother and sister we loved that and we’re encouraging parents to kind of bring that intonation in their voice and blah blah and a lot of them like well that’s fine but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It’s not my own experience. I wasn’t read to. Nobody read with me. So I think you know if I’m going to be honest and be an honest partner.

I think that one of the places we might want to start is, at point zero, what’s your own experience? What’s your own experience of nought to five. Get some of that in the room, it’s a really good gauge then as to where you go forward in terms of encouraging them with their own nought to fives, ascertaining how they feel about it. If you’ve got a roomful of parents who perhaps are not academically gifted but you know to me if maybe reading is not their priority then you will know to curtail your next steps to suit that but I wouldn’t want, I wouldn’t advise going in and doing what we always do, which is describe them because this is what we want, you got to find out what the need is first. Again you do that by finding out what their own position is. Is that alright?

– David Shosanya
Do you have another question, because I know Donna does lots and lots of stuff and the Institute of  Wellbeing would like to support practitioners, is there another question you’d like to ask?

– Claire Kelly
Hmmm, I suppose I could go in what wellbeing means to Donna.

– Donna Murry-Turner
Wellbeing to me is massive and I like the question because not many people ask me but somebody once described me an event as being the Oprah Winfrey of Croydon. You know, as in, I must hear a lot and she, the person was right but for me Well Being is massive, sometimes I find it all quite overwhelming. Sometimes but I’ve got a mom at the end of the phone and I’m hearing in her voice that in whatever’s going on in the background. I find it quite, I don’t always know, I have to, I have to take time out to process. So for me my own support structure is airtight. I have some serious gatekeepers in terms of my friends, things they will allow me to have access to and things they want. I have spa days, I have, they will just be like we’re coming round we’ve cooked, we’re coming and I can then offload. Fortunately for me a lot of my peers circles and are almost mirroring so they are in the social care industry so they understand, so I don’t have to kind of set the props up for the play, they get it straight away and that’s really big benefit to me. I have superb mentors and people, borough commanders, leaders of, you know, people that have taken their time out and see potential in me and checking. I cannot, I would be telling a lie on them. People that I can rely on, even our good friend David here, you know will take the phone call and I would also like to say, that this helps me have a sense of well-being, because part of the feeling overwhelmed is sometimes I take I receive all this information, most of it is not positive yeah, let’s be honest. If I don’t have somewhere, where I can place it where I know it’s going to help the people who’ve given it to me, sometimes that’s very overwhelming.

So having people DFE, people like yourself, professionals like yourselves, open up a platform or make a space for me to be able to offload and say look this is how the people are really living. What can we do to give us a partnership to make it better. That for me is massive and I don’t think that I’m not professional but oftentimes at the grassroots level the feeling is we’re not taken seriously by those who sit at this level. So this for me is massive guys and I want to, just you know, really really say that and get that out on the podcast that it means a lot. It really does mean a lot and I don’t think the community, whilst they don’t appreciate it, I shall never forget it, because it’s making space for voices that traditionally not listened to but are the first to be impacted by legislature and all sorts of policies by having that voice to return from the, I call it bottoms up politics, they don’t realize it now but in about five years this will be massive, it’s like it’s almost like a reverse, it’s not top down this is bottom up.

What you’re asking for and what we’re working towards is real information, real life experiences, that will then go on to inform policy and for me having that chance and being that voice, I’ve been a voice for a long time but often people have not created spaces for me to say what’s really going on, so this to me is also part of my wellbeing, it gives me clarity, it lets me empty and made more safe spaces within my head and it helps me strategically, so thank you.

– David Shosanya
Thank you, I think we want to keep thanking you because you know what you do and I think it’s also worth thanking Roxanne who’s saying she’s realised, from the early years social mobility team at the Department of Education, thanking her for the way she’s consistently helping us to rethink our practice helping us to reflect on our practice, helping us to understand what’s expected of us as we partner with the government agencies and often helping us to frame what we have to say to community’s, so Rox thank you very much as well as Donna, for the work that you’re doing with us and helping us to become better at and to impact grassroots communities and it’s a pleasure to be able to introduce you to people like Rox and likewise so that we can all make a difference and bring about a real legacy for children and also for families in Croydon. Mike, I just wondered if you’d like to give us a few words in wrapping up.

– Mike Kelly
Sure, yeah, Donna I too want to say thank you for coming and sharing with us your brilliance, your experience the tenacity, does anyone else feel that energy? There’s this creative energy and looking for new ways of skinning the cat, you know, that’s just an analogy guys

– David Shosanya
Don’t do that with your 0-5 year old that could be a problem [laughter]

– Mike Kelly
So, you know what strikes me is you could be the conduit that’s needed in, not only Croydon but in between statutory services, central government, local government and other organisations, because you understand the rhetoric, you understand the policy but you have a voice that speaks to your community in it in their own words and that is that interface that has been missing for many. I’m sitting here and I remember having this conversation with David a few months ago and he talked about safe spaces and what you would describe it is and this is not a religious conversation but it’s what religious organisations ought to be doing. i.e. gathering the people feeding them, preparing them, keeping them safe giving them information and so on and so there’s connectivity there’s the golden thread in this room where we can embrace with, engage with the church, we can connect with government, we can get collective community advocates but not only just advocates, people who are not just freedom fighting for the community but actually support community, so that we’re not just gathering information to inform policy but to change policy and I think that’s what I’m sensing, you’ll be brilliant at and so whatever we can do at the institute, you have us as your friends but also your support network also if we need to open a conversation or a door, then we know we’ve also got you who can represent to communities and constituencies that we’re not necessarily having a voice in and so we’ve been fortunate that we’ve connected with central government and we’ve been with them for 20 years and that longstanding relationship has been really great.

For them to permeate that information down, this is where I think you, your, you stand alone. Not alone but you shine on your own. Are you with me and so the networks and the support networks that you have and the connections and the groups that you’re part of, I think we can help create that bigger impact, something that’s measured, something that’s obvious, something that’s proven, something that’s built to last. So I’d like Donna, if we could just take some more time, not today but as we go, to think about some strategies where we can work together, where we can make deliberate impact, preferably quick wins, some situations that you may be thinking need some attention and maybe we can share our parenting course review and then maybe can be, you can share and we can do something together you may want to adapt some of ours, we may, it’s just working together cohesively and I think we can make some impacts again, thank you.

– Donna Murry-Turner
No thank you guys.

– Mike Kelly
And you know what comes to mind is that maybe we should just do something off the bat, which is a gathering exercise where we can invite those people that we’ve talked about, the IOW can underwrite it, do you know what I mean and just get people in a room where we can start the conversations. What strikes me is we’re gonna make no assumptions about the literacy level of the parents, we’re making no assumptions about their financial status, we’re making no assumptions about their parenting skills, just get them in the room disarm them and then give them information, or share with them and build relationships so I’m excited about that, that’s my gut feeling.

– Donna Murry-Turner
Definitely

– Mike Kelly
I also want to say guys, thank you David for facilitating this podcast. I’m sure our listeners are going to appreciate how well you’ve done that.

– David Shosanya
Thank you.

– Rukhsana Hussain
I’m just echoing the thank you. I just wanted to say thank you. Let me be part of the conversation and I think for me, what I’m struck by is that this echoes you know what we’re thinking is that no one person has all the answers and that we all, as part, we want to make system change, we wanted to kind of work together and I think what I love about what IOW and with what you’re doing Donna Murry, is that you hold the parents voice at the centre of what you’re trying to do and that that’s important, that’s all I wanted to say.

– David Shosanya
And I just, want to say if you want to partner with the IOW and get some resources, we’re doing an exciting project in Croydon with the National Literacy Trust and also it’s going to be, is one of our partners and so if you want to be in touch all the W’S the Institute of Wellbeing dotcom if you want to be involved, if you want to download resources but if you want to be involved if you’re Croydon-based or if you’re in another part of the country, we’re doing a particularly interesting piece of work in Croydon called a ‘collective impact project’, looking around place-based collaborative work with different agencies and there’s tremendous excitement from cabinet ministers in the cabinet counselors, from the heads of departments in Croydon. So we’re really excited to be working in Croydon but across the nation but particularly in Croydon with ANOS to make a big difference, so if you want to be in touch, all the W’s Institute of wellbeing dotcom – look forward to speaking to you again soon.

In this podcast you will learn:

  • Why Donna is so passionate about the causes she fights for and where that drive comes from.
  • What Donna used to do.
  • What ANOS (Another Night Of Sisterhood) does.
  • What divides the north and south of the Croydon borough.
  • The challenges parents face with parenting and the masks that cover those challenges
  • Why the DfE (Department for Education) is supporting disadvantged parents through its national campaign (Hungry Little Minds).
  • If there are barriers of engagement for disadvantaged parents.
  • Why Donna believes meeting the immediate needs of a family or parent is a critical factor to be able to introduce any other long lasting change.
  • How can parents take on the ownership of the importance of chat, play and read activities with their child.

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