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From saving sex slaves to Southport

A couple who helped rescue over 30 girls from sex trafficking, in Cambodia, are now helping lead a Southport Church and will be officially inducted into the role on Saturday, 14 September 2019.  David and Esther Allen joined Lakeside Church earlier this month, but connections go back much longer, as the couple have been over to visit; with Church members also visiting and helping their mission, in Cambodia, which began in 2011.

David explained:- "We started the Be Free Centre for girls who have been rescued from sexual trafficking after we had seen some of the atrocities taking place and all that these girls were being subjected to. At 1st we didn't know exactly what to do, simply that we must do something to help them. Over the past 8 years, it has developed and now there are plans to increase the number of girls who can be supported. During the 12 months the girls are with us, through pastoral care, counselling, much love and heaps of encouragement, the Be Free programme helps the girls rebuild their lives and prepare them to work in normal jobs again."

Esther added:- "Amidst all we've been involved with in Cambodia, our work in Be Free has been the most rewarding experience. We have seen young girls' lives transformed as they start to both understand and experience what true love is and begin, often for the 1st time, to start believing in themselves. Their smiles speak more than words can and their eyes are bright and full of joy! The work will continue with the amazing team there. We're now ready for our next challenge here in Southport as we join Lakeside's Leadership Team and help bring this same love to those hurting in our Town."

The service, at Lakeside Church, Fairway, PR9 0LA, starts at 4pm and is open for anyone to attend.

City Council empowers residents with ₤1m 'Community Chest'

The right ingredients sees Michelle O’Dwyer of Bay Tree Cookery Academy, along with Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden, taking part at a 1 of her community sessions.

COMMUNITIES across Liverpool are being given the chance to take control of their future thanks to a new ₤1m City Council improvement fund. The Mayoral Inclusive Growth Fund has been designed to empower residents and groups to become the driving Forces for change within their communities by encouraging them to apply for cash aid.

The fund will support grass-roots initiatives and help individual communities tackle the specific issues they face. The cash pot is made up of 4 separate funding streams including a ₤550,000 Communities Grant, which will be devoted to projects that address issues of deprivation, support children and older people and contribute to the City's local economy. A further ₤150,000 has been set aside to encourage crowd funding initiatives for community based projects. City Council grants will be used to pump-prime initiatives that will then raise the remainder of the money needed through crowd funding donations. The scheme will look to support projects that seek to transform civic spaces and bring communities together.

The rest of the Growth Fund (₤200,000) will be used to devise a sustainable food strategy for the City. This will include setting up a series of food collection points and community pantries across the City that will be used to support people and families facing extreme hardship.

The plan has been approved by the City Council's Cabinet and now local Councillors will play a leading role in identifying community groups and projects that fit the funding criteria for the ₤550,000 Communities Grant.

This summer, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, invested ₤50,000 in creating a Lunch Club to ensure that children could get a decent meal at children's centres and community venues across the City. Working with community groups, organisations and volunteers, the scheme has fed more than 1,000 children each weekday of the holidays. Whilst a further ₤10,000 has been provided to support the Bay Tree Cookery Academy in providing community based cookery and food education courses throughout the holidays at venues across the City.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said:- "Our communities face many challenges and we believe that the people best placed to meet them are those who live in our communities. They know best what will make the difference and we want them to come forward and take control. We must also accept that, as the Council's funding from central Government continues to be cut, we can't tackle these alone. The Council works in partnership with many groups and organisations and this new fund will be a way of extending that network and enable residents to take an active role in shaping the future of our City."

Chris Brown of Gourmet Social Enterprise, who has worked to support the Mayor's Summer Lunch Club this summer, said:- "We have managed to enlist an army of volunteers from the community who have been only too willing to get involved and support their fellow community members who are in dire need.  It's truly amazing what a little bit of money and an enormous amount of goodwill can achieve. It is great news that the City Council is now planning to extend this thinking to other areas and give local people a leading role in driving change and tacking the real quality of life issues that affect us all."

Michelle O'Dwyer set up her own community interest company the Bay Tree Cookery Academy, to provide cookery skills and food education courses across Liverpool. With the help of funding from the Mayor of Liverpool, Michelle has been putting on cookery sessions at children's centres, community centres and other venues throughout the summer. In total Michelle has worked with up to 400 people during the summer holidays.

Michelle said:- "Projects and activities that are designed by the community for the community are hugely important. There are growing issues of social isolation within our communities which is one of the things I set out to tackle. Thanks to support from the Council and the Mayoral Fund we have been able to teach parents and children how to cook and enjoy a healthy diet on a budget. The sessions also bring people together to enjoy food, have fun and learn new skills."

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