How I developed a successful support network for my community

Junior Mtonga was keen to create a sense of community in his local area, which is undergoing a huge amount of redevelopment. He started by organising community events, which then led on to taking over an empty commercial space in Canary Wharf, London and creating a pop-up shop. Now, as founder and director of 1 Love Community, he is a positive voice for change and has the ambition to improve people's quality of life in the city.

I love life, I love people, genuinely, and I just want to see improvements in the world that we live in and however I can contribute to that — I will.

The challenge

Junior and his team first got together over three years ago with the aim of organising events that would help develop relationships within their community. Their initial aim was to hook up with other with actively minded locals in order to form a network which could then take positive steps towards creating a better environment for them all to live in. Initially called 'One Love Get Real', Junior's network searched for ways to be able to alleviate the pressures experienced by people at an individual and communal level.

'I love life, I love people, genuinely' says Junior, 'and I just want to see improvements in the world that we live in, and however which way I can contribute to that — I will. Probably forever.'

The network has now evolved into a Community Interest Company, 1 Love Community. As Junior says: 'Our aim is to establish projects and practices that can easily be replicated by others to help enhance their experience of the social world; especially in cities where there is a noticeable disintegration of community.' 

What Junior did

'I heard about Eden's Community Camps through a friend of ours who told us about them and how they linked into what we were doing,' says Junior. 'It really opened my eyes and made me realise how much was going on out there that I could tap into. The energy and vibrations you get from being part of it, you don’t get anywhere else. The advice from the start has been, well, priceless really.'

Junior has since opened up a pop-up shop in a formerly disused commercial space in Canary Wharf.

'The idea was not just to create a shop but also to help people to re-imagine what the space could be,' he says, 'so what we have here is an opportunity to provide good, low-cost furniture. It’s another way of bringing people together. We’ve got various classes like yoga, meditation and personal development activities that are going to function through here. So we want to look at it more like a community space rather than just a furniture shop.'

Impact

'We truly value the term “love thy neighbour” and we now feel that we're well placed to develop programmes for others to experience and enjoy. There are so many benefits to this seemingly long forgotten concept that are so important at a time when urban environments are becoming increasingly more populated. To achieve this we employ creative, inclusive and educational means that promote equality, harmony and empowerment… as one… with love.. for the community.'

Catch up with what Junior and his team are up to via the 1 Love Community website, Facebook and Instagram .