It was a pleasure to spend a day in Stevenage with the Mayor Cllr Mrs Margaret Notley and Mayoress Cllr Laurie Chester and I was grateful that the day had been tailored to my particular interests in stronger communities, interfaith and integration. I also met the Leader, Deputy Mayor and Chief Executive.
We met with Terry Wolfe, and later with Anuradha Sharma, of Stevenage Interfaith Forum and discussed the pros and cons of a county wide interfaith event. I have discovered that, with interfaith as with other initiatives, there is much work going on locally rather than at county level.
Next we visited the HAFLS (Hertfordshire Adult and Family Learning Service) Group where we met ladies from Turkey, Bangladesh, Spain, Nigeria and other countries who want to improve their English to find work or get better jobs and to be more fully integrated into their communities. They have found new friends at this group and support each other.
The Hampson Park Community Centre, where we met Karen Robson and Diane Greene, has a popular café and hosts many different groups in their buildings and events in the lovely park. A dedicated volunteer helps in the office.
Next came a visit to the Hindu Ladies Group for over 60s who meet at the St Nicholas Community Centre as there is no temple in Stevenage. They support each other with traditional prayer and chant, chat and food and their husbands (who accompany them on their journey to the centre) sit in the corner!
Finally, despite it being Ramadan we were welcomed by Imam Monyul at the Stevenage Mosque and learnt about the plans for an education room for young members.
I also learnt about the benefits of twinning with French and German towns, the many cycle paths in Stevenage, initiatives on equality and women in the workplace, connections with local business, the Stevenage Community Trust and of course the vibrant life of different faiths, cultures and nationalities that contribute to life in Stevenage. Thank you for an excellent day and a warm welcome.