There are some very energetic, creative, dedicated people here in SE23 working hard to make our community an even better place to live. Take Fiona Hull. She’s one of the founders of the Honor Oak Park Action Group (HOPAG) which has made a big difference to the high street there already. HOPAG has now changed its name to the Friends of Honor Oak Park. Fiona would love to inspire some of you to set up similar schemes around SE23 so she passes on these tips.
Why we set up the group
After walking past this kind of mess for the umpteenth time, I thought to myself enough is enough.
I’m lucky that I have a close friend who lives in Honor Oak Park whom I could moan to about the state of our neighbourhood. Eventually, we decided to stop moaning and do something about it. We gave ourselves a name - Honor Oak Park Action Group - and we started the slow, painstaking process of finding out whom to talk to about the things we wanted to change. Recently, we changed our name to Friends of Honor Oak Park. This way we will be able to work more closely with Southwark and Lewisham Councils and residents on larger projects.
Rule 1: Getting started
We contacted our station manager, sent him photos of the mess outside the station and asked him to come down and pay us a visit. Seeing that we were passionate and determined, he agreed to give us £250 to plant up a drought-tolerant garden in front of the station. He arranged for the railings to be painted a nice, pale green and removed all the fly tipping and rubbish.
Rule 2: Get to know your local councillors and Council
We held a planting a planting day at the station, invited local councillors and raised money and awareness of what our group was trying to achieve.
Rule 3: Get to know your members
We set up a blog www.honoroak.blogspot.com where we could let our members know what was going on and ask them what they thought. We told them about the cleverly designed Moo Moo recycling bin. We decided we wanted one because, apart from its funky design, it increases recycling rates by 66%. We put a paypal donation button on the blog and had raised £200 in less than two weeks. We were amazed and excited. Lewisham council agreed to contribute the rest so that we could have our own Moo Moo bin.
Rule 4: Create partnerships with people who are in a position to help you
We invited Joan Ruddock MP to come down and have a look first hand at what we were trying to achieve, particularly the fly tipping issues and overflowing refuse bins in Honor Oak Park. We spoke to the Head of Environment who encouraged our non municipal approach and we now have a lovely, clean high street.
We spoke to a Director at O2 as we have an O2 phone mast painted navy blue and a cabin outside Honor Oak Park station painted dark green. We asked him to come down and see our Moo Moo bin and how we wanted the O2 mast and cabin painted black. Not only did he do this, but he put us in touch with his community funding scheme at O2. Encouraged, we applied for funding and were recently awarded £750.
Rule 5: Get informed and involved and don’t take no for an answer
Find out what’s going on at all levels, locally and nationally. There’s so much going on now at a grass roots level and we firmly believe that this is the way things are going to change. This is the way to keep inspired and motivated because you have to have a huge amount of energy and determination to get things done as some projects are not easy to get off the ground.