When presented with the opportunity to select a humanitarian organisation within which to experience a 20-day work placement, the values and the story of the Chrysalis Centre immediately appealed to me. Chrysalis was initially established in 1994, with the core aim of providing support and childcare to vulnerable young mothers and fostering a sense of community in Alexandra Park estate, Moss Side, a neighbourhood at that time highly disrupted by local gang crime. Since then, the centre has evolved and adapted to meet local needs, with a particular focus on BME and migrant residents – now offering a diverse range of personal, family and community development and support services, from a weekly foodbank, to informal English lessons combined with a sewing class, and a Bridging the Cultural Gap in Parenting programme. This is done on an entirely voluntary basis, from its original location of two, seemingly average terraced houses at the heart of the community.
Having been previously made aware of the Chrysalis Centre through knowledge of the University of Manchester partnership ESOL scheme, Multilingual Manchester, upon a little further research, I decided that as a student having recently arrived in the city to study for a Humanitarianism and Conflict Response MA, a placement at a grassroots, holistic organisation such as the Chrysalis Centre would offer me a unique opportunity to fully experience and further integrate myself into both my new local area and academic institution.
The Centre’s full time staff members, Julie Asumu and Erinma Bell, were welcoming and accommodating, allowing me to participate in a full range of the centre’s activities, whilst also providing me with the opportunity to engage in more personally challenging and self-directed tasks. For example, I attended and assisted at an amazing event held in collaboration with the Nigerian Women’s Group Manchester, Greater Manchester Police and Stop the Traffik, to raise awareness for the prevalence of Modern Slavery and the individual responsibility we all must be observant, report and work to prevent this ongoing, hidden abuse. Alongside the informative speeches and an interactive workshop, the evening included being treated to drama performance, dancing and delicious food! However, following the event I was given the responsibility of collating and presenting the participant feedback in a coherent and aesthetic format that would be presented to the Modern Slavery Coordination Unit of Greater Manchester Police Force in order for them to assess its strengths and the need for any improvements in future, as part of its recently established city-wide trial programme. This, alongside hearing about the Chrysalis Centre’s previous work in this area, inspired me so much that I later attended another talk on Modern Slavery provided by the police at the University, gaining certification of practical knowledge on the subject that I feel will be useful and relevant in my future career.
Being part of such an important and positive collaborative effort between such a diverse range of organisations particularly impressed upon me the value of supporting and sustaining smaller, integrated community organisations such as Chrysalis, whose influence and ability to respond quickly and directly to issues in local areas make them an asset to our society as a whole. I felt fortunate to be able to contribute to this even in a small way, whilst both the skills I acquired and experiences I had will stick with me as a highlight of my postgraduate experience.