Welcome to Amida Newsletter #13

In this edition you will find an inspirational article by
Acharya Modgala Duguid about her involvement  in Interfaith work in Islington, North London.

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Whispers from the Bamboo Grove

Amida Newsletter Number 13

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Acharya Modgala Duguid

Mental Health and Poverty

31st July 2013
Islington Faiths Forum

The Islington Faiths Forum is a community partnership of faith-based organisations working together to assist local community development and the delivery of community services
Every year the Islington Faiths Forum committee (IFF) holds an “Awayday” to review their work and to plan future work according to the needs of the communities we serve. We share about the difficulties facing our congregants and ourselves as we try to provide what is needed as far as is humanly possible. The needs are always great and in 2011 the report from “The Fairness commission” made stark reading. The rich/poor divide in Islington is greater than any borough in the UK and we have the greatest number of disabled people.

IFF work around mental health & poverty arose as a result of reports from the Muslim community in March 2011 at a Community Safety event the IFF delivered. Here we heard about people with mental health and/or poverty issues going to their faith sites with increasing frequency. In particular the Muslim Welfare House saw people in desperate need and their staff and volunteers did not always know how to respond to them. There had already been two outbursts of violence. Anger and fear can go hand in hand and we humans often take it out on the wrong people. We often felt inadequate and vulnerable ourselves.
We resolved to look into concrete ways in which we and our congregants could be helped. Our director attended a research group and saw that sound advice, training and guidance on relieving such situations were needed. We realised that frontline workers like ourselves needed training both in mental health first aid and how to advise people facing poverty issues. Therefore we made an application for funding to the “Health and Belief programme”. As we heard there were other communities facing the same difficulties we decided that all trainings commissioned would also be offered to BME and refugee groups. The bid was successful and a programme of trainings from professionals commenced. These were very well attended and much appreciated and have continued on a rolling programme. Sadly in September 2011 a local Imam was killed in his office by a person with mental health problems he had been trying to help, just before our first mental health first aid course was due to start at this site in October 2011. It highlighted the urgency for this work.
In 2012, cuts in jobs, benefits and provision were imminent. .As we shared our stories in the 2012 ”Awayday” a sense of great concern emerged. We all worried about the impact the cuts would have on some of our congregants. We found that participants in the programmes came from many different organisations working in many arenas. After talking with representatives from various groups we wondered whether our idea could be extended. At our 2012 Islington Faiths Forum committee Awayday  we explored the idea that we could do more together with other organisations in Islington  who were helping people facing issues around Mental Health and Poverty and decided to look into setting up a working group for this.
I will always remember the intensity of that first meeting at my little Amida centre in Islington. About eight of us discussed ideas and needs and out of our discussions the idea of having an Islington Mental Health and Poverty Networking Forum facilitated by the Islington Faiths Forum was born. The Forum was then set up formally in September 2012. The interest was immense. The need for this type of forum became clear as more and more groups wanted to join. Numbers of organisations grew rapidly and currently there are twenty seven groups involved (a mix from the third and statutory sectors), in addition to faith based organisations.
In March 2013 we held an excellent conference at Islington Town Hall - “Best Practice and Networking: Mental Health and Poverty”. 115 people attended, service users and providers from many groups including hard to reach groups took part and raised awareness of current issues and needs in Islington.
The forum continues to circulate accurate information on welfare reform, poverty related services and mental health service provision. It also helps bring together partners to bid for funding and co-ordinate with health and other services, works to reduce stigma and to reduce isolation issues. Above all we support and encourage each other as we do this much needed work

Namo Amida Bu
Acharya Modgala Duguid


Amida Academy
AA is an on-line academic platform established by ITZI to deliver distance learning programmes. The ITZI English language distance learning programme in Zen Therapy & Buddhist Psychology was the first programme to go live, quickly followed by the Amida Trust ministry training programme: Vow 22. In February 2013 a Spanish language version of the Zen Therapy & Buddhist Psychology programme commenced.
The Introduction to Pureland Buddhism course is now available on Amida Academy. Other programmes are in preparation.
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