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Ashleigh: “I think we will become known for making a change”

What drives activists and activism? For Ashleigh, it is a combination of love, hope, and a passion for equality and justice.

Ashleigh has experienced powerlessness, homelessness, the criminal justice system and poverty. But her experiences have also shown her that change is possible, and achievable.

She now strives to make that happen, through the Moms On A Mission group she co-runs, and through work with others, in Yorkshire and London.

Here, Ashleigh tells her story of speaking truth to power.

Ashleigh, right, with fellow Moms On A Mission campaigners

Ashleigh: "I did not realise I had power... but that changed"

I would definitely like to see more equality. That is what pushed me on in the beginning, and wanting to see people being able to reclaim their power and implement change. 

“I did not realise I had power within me to make a difference in a big society, but that changed. The Young Women’s Trust played a big part in that. I was born in and lived in London and went past Westminster many times but never felt valued or welcome to be in those spaces.

“Then I went to an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting in about 2017, and to participate in that conversation was powerful. The Young Women’s Trust brought me power, and then I started Moms On A Mission, because the YWT works with people up to age 30, and I wanted to be able to help more people. 

“My work with Moms On A Mission is to empower communities and build resilience and confidence so people can overcome the challenges of poverty, breaking the generational curse of poverty.

Ashleigh at the 2023 Dignity For All conference

Ashleigh: "If we aspired to do everything with love, the world would not operate as it does now"

“I am a born again Christian. I grew up in a Christian background but started to stray from the church, and started being involved in some crime and alcohol, being a rebellious teenager, but in situations I went through I saw God’s hand. Every trial or tribulation I came through, such as going to prison, homelessness and being sectioned under the mental health act, made me feel stronger and ignited a flame. 

 “For me, love is at the centre of everything. If we aspired to do everything with love, the world would not operate as it does now. 

Ashleigh: short-term needs and long-term hope

“It’s hard to balance a long term vision with what needs to happen now. You can get distracted from the main goal but I feel everything we do is directed to the long vision. I was relocated by my council from London to Halifax because there are not enough houses in London – that was not part of my plan but we now have work to do in Halifax and things have turned around.

“I did not see how I could keep running the Moms work down in Barking & Dagenham, with me in Halifax. I felt in the wilderness and wondered what my purpose was, but God was with me and he has sent people who need help to be. There were not many groups here focusing on BAME communities and the issues we faced, but now we are doing that. 

Ashleigh was part of the 2022 roundtable on tackling poverty in Yorkshire

Ashleigh: speaking up in Parliament

“I have a lot of hope for Speaking Truth To Power. I definitely hope we will have more opportunities for young people to meet politicians, and I would like us to help have the poverty rate decline and have some policy change. I want to see a significant reduction in poverty in the UK.

“So many issues we see now are impacting on mental health. The cost of living, the cost of food – people wondering how they can cope on a daily basis? Where we live in Calderdale has a high suicide rate and people are struggling.

“One of the big issues I care about is the need for more support for families with children with special educational needs or disabilities (SENDs). Moms On A Mission is a big advocate on this, because it relates to issues we have experienced ourselves.

“We need more support and the pandemic has made it worse, impacting on more children and creating a backlog for support. Parents want to go to work, but when your child has additional needs or is getting excluded and there isn’t the support, then it’s hard. People get labelled as “challenging children” but there just isn’t the proper support. 

“So in October, Moms On A Mission and other groups went to Parliament and spoke to MPs, and tell them what support is needed. We want to raise awareness that there have been so many families with SENDs but not diagnosed – you get adults who end up in prison because conditions were not diagnosed when they were young and they were never supported and end up in difficulties. 

“We see also, especially in our BAME communities, that there is sometimes a reluctance and a sense that it’s forbidden to say a child has extra needs. So we want to bring up how the authorities can approach families before situations get out of hand.

“NHS services need improving and there seems to be a reluctance from GPs to put referrals through. There was already a big waiting list, and covid made it worse. The country needs to be funding the support that is needed for families.

“Another thing we are doing is working in our community in Halifax, to promote everything we are doing and to encourage more people to get involved and become community organisers. We are looking at power and who has it, and at collective power, and to talk about what we’re doing to speak truth to power, and we held a community brunch in Challenge Poverty Week.”

Ashleigh: I am very hopeful

“I’m very hopeful, with the generation we have today.

“When I was growing up, I did not see as many people speaking up as are speaking up now. I feel a lot of people really do want to make a difference now, but a lot of people still don’t know how to get started. So having groups like the Speaking Truth To Power panel is really important. I feel we have a really good group here with different perspectives and experiences, and I’m hearing a lot from different individuals. I think we will become known for making a change, and people should be the change you want to see.”

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