Photo of Rosie Cook

Rosie Cook

Rosie has been nominated by Zoe Thompson. Rosie is the Founder of Roots Community Works LS9. She says “I help those in a marginalised community to feel empowered, no matter what their circumstances, background or beliefs. I want them to realise they’re more capable, worthy and deserving than they think and that they can have a better life.

This isn’t about Roots Community Works LS9 though. It is simply about community and showing love and kindness. This is about showcasing the impact one person can have in one community when they decide to care.

You don’t need to set up a huge charity, you don’t need huge amounts of investment. It’s an idea which can be replicated in every community with simple actions, which every human being can do.”

Who have you helped?

“A woman who lived on my street suffered from mental and drug problems. Her children would often come to borrow things like plates or a hoover.

When I’d come home with shopping, they’d be eager to see what was in there and I gave them things. I just remember thinking how wrong it is, that in 2018, this still happens.

It grew from there. Before I knew it, I was doing a weekly food run for 100 people, helping with the running of a playgroup and a local youth project. I also drop in on 30 families each week.

Just over a year ago, I helped a migrant family from Romania. The young parents had three children and had only been in the UK for a month. I got to know them after I spotted their little boy wandering into a garden and let the mum know.

They didn’t speak English and weren’t on anybody’s radar. The kids didn’t go to school, they they weren’t registered with any public services. It turned out that they were in bonded labour, which we reported to the police and the Council.

I helped them with the forms for school places, got them car seats, took them to English classes and helped her navigate the supermarket. I also registered them with a health visitor and a GP.

Their rent was bigger than their salary from their bonded boss/landlord. Eventually we got them moved, and I supported the dad to get a job with fair pay.

A year later, he’s still in a job, all three kids speak English and are in school, mum’s English is vastly improved and she’s looking for part-time work. They have a warm house with a nice landlord. And I can now speak quite a few words of Romanian!!

Council feedback was that no agency would have been able to achieve what we did. It was complex and would have required so many different services.”

What’s worked?

“The main thing that has worked is building relationships. Getting to know people, gaining trust, showing them respect, spending time together to understand what is limiting them and giving them the confidence to make the simple steps happen.

It’s amazing how a little thing leads to something else. I’ve been to court, filled in paperwork, given out wellies, helped someone repay a debt of £8000. I’ve even held a lady’s hand as she’s given birth! It’s small things which end up making a massive difference. Things that anyone can do.

I feel it helps that I’m impartial. I don’t come from an organisation that makes them feel they need charity. I don’t have hoops to jump through, paperwork to register, or criteria they need to match. I just ask “What do you need?” and do my best to make it happen.”

What have you learned? Any challenges?

“That poverty has nothing to do with money. Just because you don’t have much, that doesn’t limit your ability to create a fulfilling life. The biggest challenge is the cyclical nature of many of the challenges faced by people within my community. How do we break it?

Many organisations have been going for decades and still can’t find the solution. Why can’t we change the struggles of single mums, asylum seekers or drug users?

Local Authorities don’t always understand. They don’t have the resource or the alignment for grassroots empathy, time and love. Compassion to me is worth more than diamonds. It costs nothing to be kind.”

What’s next?

“To continue in all the ways I can to love, respect and serve my community. I’d love to do a diversity dinner to reduce hate crime, and do a homework club for those who don’t speak English. I’d like us to have a market in the park because we don’t have a supermarket and it costs £5 to get back from the shop.

There’s a derelict space in the community. I’d like it to be a space for drop ins, for a toy exchange, for entrepreneurs to use the space – a hub for community benefit. I’ve spoken to the Council about the space and the market. Fingers crossed!”

What advice, contacts or resources would help?

“I would love an angel investor, someone who understands the power of compassion, love and kindness and the impact that that can have in the world. Keys to the derelict building with no strings attached and DIY SOS to come in and make it usable would be a dream.

But the biggest thing would be for the people I work with to believe in themselves.  And to create a world where kindness is given to each other, where love is paramount and given without question. Where we break the cycle of poverty in its numerous forms and build genuine communities with love and compassion.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!

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