Covid-19 Action Fund winners: race equity

The Covid-19 Action Fund provides grants for Churchill Fellows to run projects combatting the effects of Covid-19 in all areas of society. Hundreds of pandemic projects nationwide are being run or assisted by Churchill Fellows, using the international expertise they gained during their Fellowships overseas. Here are the Action Fund recipients working on issues relating to minoritised racial groups.

December 2020 awards

Alvin Carpio: ending racism towards people of East and South-East Asian heritage


According to police reports, hate crimes towards people of East and South-East Asian (ESEA) heritage have almost tripled during the coronavirus crisis. People from this community have been subject to verbal and physical assault and have been wrongly blamed for causing the pandemic. News reports over the last five years also show that many people of East and South-East Asian heritage experience racism that is largely unreported or ignored.

Alvin Carpio is a human rights campaigner and entrepreneur from Newham in London. In May this year, he launched and co-founded End the Virus of Racism, a coalition of British-based East and South-east Asian academics and human rights advocates who are urging the UK government to condemn these growing hate crimes and give extra protection to targeted communities.

Alvin will use his grant to set up the UK's first non-profit dedicated to addressing racism towards people of ESEA heritage. The non-profit will be led by people with lived experience of the problem and will provide support to victims of hate crime, including a hotline service and a peer support group. It will also connect with local community organisations for joined-up action and will conduct research to build knowledge, lobby the government and inform policy. Alvin hopes that the group will tackle the rise in hate crime and also underlying structural inequalities and racism in British society. Alvin's Churchill Fellowship to the USA in 2014 explored how community leaders are transforming the lives of the socially excluded, and was supported by the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services.

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Anita Shervington: engaging Black communities in science and health topics


This year has seen a surge in the online circulation of misinformation about the coronavirus crisis, increasing public fear and uncertainty about what and whom to trust. For many, distinguishing between the various claims can be a challenge. It is important to provide access to research in relatable formats, and opportunities to engage in dialogue with trusted experts, so that the public is well-informed.

Anita Shervington is a community science and cultural organiser from Birmingham who has spent the last 10 years working to open up health and science engagement for broader participation, visibility and leadership. She is the founder of BlastFest Ltd, a pop-up festival and engagement platform that fuses the creative power of science, Black arts and culture, as a force for social change.

Anita will use her grant to design a strategic, culturally responsive, science communication model for Black communities. The model will be integrated with BlastFest’s events-based programme, ensuring that information on science and health-based issues, including the current pandemic, is provided clearly and accessibly for the audiences it serves. Anita hopes the project will increase science and media literacy through its creative and culturally responsive delivery and provide an evidence-based knowledge exchange platform that the public can understand and feel they can trust. Anita's Fellowship to North and South America in 2015 explored community-led approaches to building ‘Science Capital’ through arts, culture and philanthropy. 

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Erica McInnis: tailoring mental health support for people of African heritage


A recent survey from the mental health charity Mind has shown that, during the coronavirus pandemic, existing inequalities in housing, finance, employment and other issues have had a greater impact on the mental health of people from minoritised racial groups minoritised racial groups than white people. Research has also shown that providing tailored and culturally sensitive mental health support for different minoritised communities is vital.

Dr Erica McInnis, from Stockport in Cheshire, is a chartered clinical psychologist. 

She will be using her grant to professionally publish and market self-help literature and online courses tailored for people of African heritage. The material will provide a culturally appropriate, African-centred perspective on emotional strategies to heal, survive and thrive during and after the pandemic. Erica will also use the grant to market and publicise these resources in order to reach a wide audience from the African heritage community, thus enabling a diverse population to have access to mental health support they can relate to and trust. Erica's Churchill Fellowship to the USA in 2016 explored models of African-centred psychotherapy for wellbeing, and was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

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Freya Aitken-Turff: tackling pandemic-related racism towards London's Chinatown


Throughout 2020, anti-Chinese sentiment has grown in the UK. Hate crimes against East and South-East Asian people have increased by nearly 300%, whilst hate speech online has increased by 900%. Chinatown in London, which is a focal point for many Chinese people living in the UK, faces significant pressure, with a dramatic decline in footfall since the first reports of the outbreak emerged from Wuhan.

Freya Aitken-Turff from Newham in London is the CEO of China Exchange, an organisation that promotes greater understanding of China’s international impact.

She will use her grant to launch a 12-month project that will facilitate discussion about the impact of pandemic-linked racism on Chinatown, and provide a counter-narrative to racist sentiment and prejudice that is harming the community. The project will give 88 participants the opportunity to join 8 workshops on identity, racism and allyship, providing a platform for the community to share experiences and encouraging ideas about how to rebuild Chinatown's image and create an anti-racist narrative. Following this, a toolkit will be developed along with a report and advocacy pack, for the participants to communicate the new culturally sensitive narrative with opinion-formers, influencers and decision-makers. Freya's Churchill Fellowship to Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and the USA in 2017 explored perspectives on Chinatown's economic, cultural and social prospects, and was supported by The Linbury Trust. 

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Geraldine Esdaille: delivering tailored mental health services for marginalised women


A 2018 report from the mental health charity Mind revealed that Black women experience substantially higher rates of mental health problems than white women. This has been exacerbated during the pandemic as Black communities have watched disproportionate numbers die from coronavirus. At the same time, reports show that Black people are less likely to access mental health services than white people, perhaps out of fear and mistrust or because there are very few services with Black therapists (in the UK, only 6% of psychologists are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds).

Geraldine Esdaille, from Old Trafford in Manchester, has a BSc in Counselling & Psychotherapy and is currently studying for a post-graduate degree in Public Health.  She is the founder of We Are Black Gold, a social enterprise that helps marginalized communities make sense of their difficult experiences and distress.

She will use her grant to create a psycho-educational training programme designed for Black and marginalised women. Ten women will be trained to deliver the programme to 10 organisations across Greater Manchester.  As a result of the training, they will be able to offer a tailored support programme for women from African, Caribbean and marginalised communities who are impacted by social, economic and health inequities. Geraldine hopes to collect data and learnings from the project, which can be used to inform the development of a wider training programme across public services and the mental health system. Geraldine's Churchill Fellowship to the USA in 2017 explored culturally appropriate services for Black women, and was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

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Jiselle Steele: empowering female social entrepreneurs from minoritised racial groups


The 2019 Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship highlighted that half as many women start businesses as men, and female-led businesses receive less funding than male-led ones at every stage. Recent reports have also shown that women and people from ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in the labour market and also in terms of infection and mortality rates. At a time when radical solutions are needed to overcome the social and economic impact of Covid-19, it is important that the communities most impacted are equipped with the tools to lead their own recovery.

Jiselle Steele, from Balham in south west London, is a Senior Project Manager at SocialStarters, a female-led social enterprise that delivers consultancy and mentoring programmes to other social enterprises and entrepreneurs.

She will use her grant to lead the development and delivery of an enterprise support programme for female social entrepreneurs from minoritised racial groups. The programme will offer training, mentoring and an online toolkit to support them to overcome business challenges and access investment, providing guidance which will enable them to train others in their communities. Jiselle and the SocialStarters team will create a network of female social entrepreneurs from minoritised racial groups who are tackling structural inequalities in society through their work, to share learnings and best practice at online events and lobby for systemic change. Additionally, the programme will create a self-sustaining fund that enables female social entrepreneurs minoritised racial groups to access small loans to scale their businesses. Through this, Jiselle hopes to help address racial, disability and gender inequalities and build a fairer and more resilient economy. Jiselle's Churchill Fellowship to Brazil in 2014 explored how enterprise can be used as a catalyst for social mobility amongst disadvantaged young people, and was supported by The Rank Foundation.

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Laurelle Brown: equipping Black safeguarding professionals


Black safeguarding professionals (BSPs) working with children and young people (such as social workers, police officers, youth workers and mental health clinicians) are often underrepresented in their professions, paid less and concentrated in junior roles. This lack of diversity and equity across the workforce makes it more likely for Black children in the care of these services to have fewer Black role models to look up to or identify with culturally. Additionally, reports have shown that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate effect on Black communities including within the labour market.

Laurelle Brown, from Waltham Forest in East London, is a principal consultant, programme manager and co-founder of KIJIJI, a membership organisation for BSPs.

She will use her grant to develop a framework and toolkit to encourage equitable career progression of BSPs and increase diversity in the safeguarding professional workforce. This will include running workshops with key sector organisations to co-develop an equitable framework, launching a website with training resources, and delivering a free leadership course for 50 BSPs. In a recent survey of BSPs across the UK, 100% stated that a priority of KIJIJI should be increasing the number of senior Black staff in safeguarding. Laurelle plans to expand this research, surveying other organisations to understand systemic barriers to racial equity in services. She hopes to effect change on a systemic level, increasing representation of BSPs across the workforce, particularly at senior levels, in order to deliver more inclusive services to children and young people. Laurelle's Churchill Fellowship to France, Germany, Portugal and Sweden in 2018 explored foster care for adolescents with complex needs. 

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Saeida Rouass: providing tailored support for Arabic-speaking women in need


The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people from minoritised racial groups. One group that has received little public attention is Moroccan and Arabic-speaking women. Al Hasaniya Moroccan Women's Centre in West London has reported that, in the first three months of lockdown, it provided domestic violence services to more women than it would normally help in a year. It has also seen a rise in mental health needs, loneliness, confusion about the pandemic, and exacerbated complex needs - particularly for Grenfell survivors accessing their services.

Saeida Rouass from London is a Trustee of Al Hasaniya and has been supporting the organisation to respond to increased demands on its services during the pandemic.

She will use her grant to undertake participatory research with The Bede Starfish Domestic Abuse Project in South London and Al Hasaniya Centre users, key workers, senior staff and trustees, exploring their needs resulting from the pandemic, in order to tailor and adapt their services for this time. She will gather the research and design a policy brief to be launched at Al Hasaniya and to be shared with other local charities, service providers and community leaders supporting Arabic-speaking women within the area. She hopes this will raise awareness and effect change across the wider community. Saeida's Churchill Fellowship to Australia and the USA explored the impacts of hate groups on women, including survivors, community members and former members of such groups and was supported by The Linbury Trust.

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June 2020 awards

Arfah Farooq: mentoring Muslim and other students from minoritised racial groups


A Resolution Foundation report warned recently that youth unemployment in Britain could reach the 1 million mark over the coming year and that the 'corona class of 2020' – school leavers and graduates due shortly to join the labour market – is the most exposed age group to a likely unemployment surge. Furthermore, rates of poverty amongst minoritised racial groups are double that of white people and, due to this socio-economic status, these students are more likely to be vulnerable to the economic fallout triggered by Covid-19.

Arfah Farooq, from Newham, London, is the co-founder of Muslamic Makers Community, a networking and mentoring platform to encourage and support Muslims into the tech sector.

She will use her grant to create and develop a summer mentoring programme for Muslim and other students from minoritised racial groups, to replace internships that have been cancelled due to the pandemic. The programme will connect a minimum of 20 students with tech companies such as Facebook and Google, for online mentoring, skills training, challenges and mini work projects so that they can gain experience, build new digital skills, meet professionals and build their confidence during this uncertain time. Additionally, Arfah will reach out to universities to grow the number of students receiving online support from Muslamic Makers, as well as expanding their network of professionals who are able to offer mentoring and advice during this time. Arfah's Churchill Fellowship to Pakistan, the UAE and the USA in 2017 explored how to encourage greater participation in the technology sector among Muslim women. 

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Patrick Vernon: supporting families from minoritised racial groups bereaved by Covid-19


Recent statistics have shown that minoritised racial groups have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 with studies suggesting that they are more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than the national average. Many of these families and communities are struggling with bereavement and unable to say goodbye or conduct funerals, with the current social distancing measures and restrictions on mourning.

Responding to this urgent need, equality campaigner Patrick Vernon, from Hackney, London, set up The Majonzi Fund, a special fund to help these families bereaved by Covid-19. The Fund has raised over £7,500 to date and received press coverage.

Patrick will use his grant to develop and expand this Fund which will offer small grants for memorial events and tributes to be held post-lockdown as well as for access to bereavement counsellors and therapists. Additionally he will develop a website which will provide online resources for bereavement support, case studies of how people can celebrate the life of loved ones under current restrictions, and a memorial wall to recognise those who have died of Covid-19. Patrick's Churchill Fellowship to Barbados, Jamaica and the USA explored cultural interventions aimed at supporting good mental health in African and Caribbean communities. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation. 

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Dr Ruth Oshikanlu: mental health support for health and social care workers from minoritised racial groups


The Guardian has recently reported that 61% of UK health workers killed by Covid-19 are from an ethnic minority background. The disproportionate number of deaths among staff from minoritised racial groups has caused a great deal of anxiety and stress for frontline clinicians, with more than three-quarters of NHS doctors from minoritised racial groups fearing for their health, according to a recent survey from the Royal College of Physicians.

Dr Ruth Oshikanlu is a nurse consultant from Lewisham, London, and a member of the Chief Nursing Officer BAME Strategic Advisory Group, where she has been part of several meetings listening to the views and concerns of staff from minoritised racial groups. Although several employers and trade unions are offering counselling and other forms of psychological services, many of these staff have reported that they do not meet their needs, and have requested trauma-informed strategies as well as spiritual support from faith-based leaders.

Ruth will use her grant to provide frontline health and social care staff from minoritised racial groups with culturally and spiritually sensitive psychological support. She will develop a nurse-led healing programme, using a trauma resilience informed system (TRIS), to be rolled out to health and social care service providers. Additionally she will implement a 'Train the Trainers' programme to include health and social care professionals, community and faith leaders, and will recruit and train a cohort of 'TRIS Champions' in order to do this. Ruth's Churchill Fellowship in 2019 explored trauma-informed care for young people in Australia and the USA and was supported by the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

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Yvonne Field: giving a voice to women leaders from minoritised racial groups


Recent statistics have shown that minoritised racial groups have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Community organisations have had to respond quickly to this need, tackling food insecurity, job loss, poverty, bereavement, financial exclusion, social exclusion, domestic violence and immigration issues which have come to the fore and been amplified during the pandemic. Much of this community action has been led by women from minoritised racial groups, whose stories are often overlooked and marginalised in public discourse.

Yvonne Field from Tottenham, London is founder of Ubele, an African diaspora-led social enterprise that supports communities across the UK through social action, founded in 2014 as a result of her Churchill Fellowship.

During the pandemic, Yvonne has been campaigning to ensure the voices of minoritised racial groups are heard, including launching a national petition, conducting research and gathering case studies. She will use her grant to gather stories from women leaders from minoritised racial groups working on the frontline of their communities during the lockdown. She will develop this into an online platform of content to inspire others in the community, recognise the achievements of these women and ensure that their voices are heard. Yvonne's Churchill Fellowship investigated national Black leadership, the transfer of indigenous knowledge, and community enterprise development in the USA and New Zealand. Her Fellowship was supported by The Rank Foundation. 

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