A member of the Mulgrave Street Action Group explains how Khan Odita is playing his part in shaping his area for the better…
Like many, Khan was excited for the summer break. After two years of lockdown birthdays and two summers of limitations, he wanted to do something memorable with his Summer of 2021.
As restrictions lifted and the nation began to be vaccinated, he inadvertently set out to create the biggest summer holiday project of his life
The 14-year-old was disturbed by fly-tipping on a plot of land near his home.Every day new items would appear, from dirty mattresses to general waste, attracting vermin.
Khan, an aspiring filmmaker with a passion for social justice, decided to make a film to discourage residents from littering.
Whilst shooting, he interacted with individuals who asked what he was filming. From conversations, it was clear the land had become a dumping site due to the community lacking pride in their area.
Nobody cared about them and in turn, they didn’t care about their community. Khan soon realised that the people he had spoken to were neighbours and after residing at the same address all his life, recognised that the neighbourhood lacked interaction, which had been further exacerbated by the isolation the pandemic brought with it.
He knew his voice alone would not be strong enough to make a change. Khan asked for his Mum’s support to create a community action group to bring neighbours together for a common cause and he founded Mulgrave Street Action Group (MSAG), with its first project to create a Community Garden on the site used for dumping.
The Community Garden will be delivered for the community, by the community and will comprise of raised vegetable plots, alongside shrubs, flowers, and seating areas. Khan said, “The vegetables we grow will be organic and support those most in need. The community deserves a space where neighbours can interact, away from their homes and have a green space that looks nice, and a community garden makes perfect sense”.
After producing an artist’s impression of the Community Garden, he contacted Labour Councillor for Princes Park Ward, Lucille Harvey, about the plans who said, “I think it’s a great idea to build community resilience and cohesion”.
Following the uploading of the complete film on MSAG’s social media, Labour MP for Riverside, Kim Johnson, said “The plans look amazing and I’m very much looking forward to this coming to fruition”.
Khan’s film can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/uEIO_0S61nM
Many have stepped forward to lend their voices of support and bring the vision to life. Khan is currently fundraising to secure enough funds to create the garden and has already reached 7% of his total of £6k for the garden. The link for the fundraising can be found here:
He hopes that the project will be complete by September 2021 when he returns to school, and is using his summer to achieve the objectives.
He urges anyone with skills and expertise to make the idea a reality, to step forward and support in whatever way they can. He’s keen to speak to local businesses that can support with fencing of the land and garden design.
Conversations have occurred with the local council and Khan is waiting for the formalities to be approved and the green light given so that work can progress.
Khan appeared on BBC Radio Merseyside and also BBC Northwest Tonight, discussing the project and why people should get involved either by donating or volunteering to make the vision a reality. He said, “I’ve dedicated my whole summer holiday to this project, to make a difference and inspire adults and children alike. Someone needed to step forward to make a change and I thought, why can’t that be me”.
Khans vision for the garden is to create a space for people to meet. Rather than having rushed discussions on the street they will have a place to sit and reflect. The hope is that once residents see something positive in their area and realise the efforts everyone has gone through to make the space beautiful it will discourage dumping and fly tipping.
The local Pal Centre that is based on Mulgrave Street have stepped forward to support with the project. The plan is that once vegetables and fruit are grown in the community garden, they will allow MSAG volunteers to use their commercial kitchen to produce soups and meals with the produce to provide food for the community and those who need it, which is a great step.
Since his appearances many people have made contact with MSAG to congratulate Khan on his efforts and one charity in particular have asked him to be a Mentor for some younger children. Khan is currently developing a 6-month training programme to inspire the younger generation.
Also in the pipeline are the plans to ensure that the whole street can benefit from the beauty the garden will provide, by placing large planters and hanging baskets up and down Mulgrave Street to enhance the look of the street.
An online community consultation is in progress to ensure that the voices of residents are heard about what they would like to see in the garden as well as a physical consultation, hoped for some time this month to be held at the PAL Centre.
The online consultation can be found here.
Khan’s community activism and willingness to create a better environment for everybody in his area is inspiring. It is these forms of local community activism that will form the basis for the broader positive change needed across the city.