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Newham charity still helping the poor 130 years on

PUBLISHED: 13:57 11 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:57 11 March 2015

Aston-Mansfield YAG music session with Elizabeth and Umar

Aston-Mansfield YAG music session with Elizabeth and Umar

©Andrew Aitchison

"We still serve the same people in poverty like they did 100 years ago."

An Irish Tea Dance at Durning Hall in Forest Gate, run by Astons Mansfied that are dedicated to helping people in poverty across NewhamAn Irish Tea Dance at Durning Hall in Forest Gate, run by Astons Mansfied that are dedicated to helping people in poverty across Newham

This is what the general manager of one of Newham’s oldest charities explained to the Recorder during a recent visit.

For the past 130 years, Aston Mansfield charity, which operates from two centres based in Forest Gate and Manor Park, has been providing a range of community activities and support to residents across the borough.

Today, more than 2,000 people from east London use services provided by the organisation and in turn Aston Mansfield aims to tackle poverty by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and ages.

General manager Caroline Rouse said: The sad thing is, not a lot has changed poverty wise in Newham over the last century.

“Once people learn the skills to improve they move on and the next set of people come along. It’s like a revolving cycle.

“We aim to help the poorer community but we also provide space to rent to small businesses, charities and even faith schools.”

The charity runs a number of programmes aimed at different groups of people.

This includes after school clubs for children, dance clubs for people with disabilities and a group for young members of the LGBT community.

Caroline said: “There is a lot going on and we have programmes which we organise as well as clubs held by external groups too.

“It is a complete mixture, but it brings together a community and a wide range of people.”

John O’Connor, 75, of Hornchurch started his club for elderly members of the Irish community from east London at the charity’s Durning Hall estate in Earlham Grove three years ago.

On Thursday last week members celebrated St Patrick’s day with a tea party dance.

John said: “Many of these people live on their own and are lonely.

“So this gives us all a chance to get together and have some fun and that’s what today is really about.”

The charity also supports the young gay and lesbian community across East London with a weekly support group called Paris.

Dawn Bassinger, who leads the group, said: “It’s a place where young people can come and find comfort.

“Many of the youths haven’t even opened up to their family or friends and this is something we help with.

“We also go into schools across the borough to educate young people on homosexuality because it is something youngsters in the borough still don’t know much about.”

Aston Mansfield charity’s two centres in Romford Road and Earlham Grove are open to the public seven days a week from 9am to 9pm. Call 020 3740 8100 or visit aston-mansfield.org.uk for more.

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