Reflecting on 2020 Breaking Boundaries in Barking & Dagenham with Samir Sawhney

 Breaking Boundaries is a three-year programme (2018 –2021) funded by Spirit of 2012, supported by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and The Institute of Community Cohesion (Icoco).

We sat down with our Barking & Dagenham Activator Samir Sawnhey for a reflect chat on the last year of the Breaking Boundaries programme.

  1. What are the main aspects of the project Breaking Boundaries that resonate with you the most?

I feel that the most important areas which come up time and time again is the ability to use this project to support local people's personal empowerment and community voice, which can also help them to feel more involved in how they are making local change, increase their sense of belonging and engage with other grassroots programmes to learn more about the wealth of activity that is happening around the borough.

  1. How has your experience of being an Activator for Breaking Boundaries been for this year and how has it varied from previous years?

The main difference this year has been around going online, which has posed several challenges to the concept of bringing people together via the community training and social action activities we work towards each year. It has meant a complete rethink of how we engage with people and groups.  Ensuring they share their feedback on how they wish to be engaged with has been even more important based on their availability and confidence around going digital. 

  1. What key challenges did you find in your role for Breaking Boundaries this year?

Keeping project momentum and motivation levels maintained during the pandemic and to encourage groups to stick with the programme, but in ways that suited them and their young people.

  1. What were your best highlights and successes in your role for Breaking Boundaries this year?

The Jo Cox Great Get Together event that took place online this summer. It was just a positive platform that the groups who attended used to swap stories of how the year had gone so far, and how they were coping. It was a simple, but effective way to bring people together and give each other a safe space to talk about pandemic challenges, but also celebrate wins.


  1. What difference do you feel you made as a Breaking Boundaries Activator this year?

Ensuring there has been a consistent representative presence for the BB project in Barking and Dagenham. Sometimes, groups knowing a friendly voice is available on the end of a phone can make a huge difference to wellbeing and has kept the programme in people's minds for when offers and opportunities have been shared.

  1. What do you think is key to bringing communities together and how has this had to be adapted this year in light of Covid-19?

Following on from the last question, there is no one size fits all solution, but allowing for people to know there is support out there, should they need it is important. Regular check ins are important too, again if only for a quick “how are you?” touch base chat / message / email.

  1. Are there any key stories or moments you can recall that occurred during this year for Breaking Boundaries that reinforced that project's core values?

Saj Goraya of TKO Boxing / The Community Project has been always someone who has exuded positivity and mentioned at the Great Get Together how important calls like this are to keeping people sharing and supporting each other. This was great to hear from a local stakeholder, who we have earned the trust of over the last year.

  1. How do you feel you supported communities this year through your role as an Activator for Breaking Boundaries?

By ensuring that their understanding of the power of their work in local communities in Barking and Dagenham is contributing to long term change in terms of community connectivity and integration. It has been all about empowering groups to understand what this means to them and activating them to do more!

  1. What key stories did you uncover this year as part of your role for Breaking Boundaries?

The main areas that come up time and again has been how important bringing people together is, and how simple story telling sessions can remind us that we experience similar things. In addition, I have learnt that there are lots of people who have been willing to give their time to help others and have worked to share these stories of giving back in this time of need.

  1. If you could summarize your experience on Breaking Boundaries this year in three words what would they be?

Listen, Adapt, Positivity