The selfless mentors going out of their way to help disadvantaged Cambs children

Professionals from a range of sectors, such as law and medicine, are using their own time to empower and support disadvantaged children.

[July 31, 2020: Cambridgeshire Live]

Cambridge's newest mentors Tinuke Bernard, Chloe Grimes, Cecil Chipendo, Edwin Panford-Quainoo, Jerron Kotei Okai, Sean Chipendo, Emeka Johnson-Ikpe, Taz Chisango, Charles Nyambuya, Chiedza Chisango, Simon Chiremba

Professionals from a range of esteemed sectors, such as law and medicine, are using their own time to empower and support disadvantaged children across the county - especially Black children and children from ethnic minorities who need help navigating a racist world.

Black people are overrepresented in the UK's prisons and low paid jobs, and underrepresented in parliament and the media.

They are 40 times more likely to be stopped by the police, and in Cambridge are five times more likely to suffer from aggressive police tactics such as handcuffing and tasing.

Sheku Bayoh, Jimmy Mubenga, Rashan Charles and Edson Da Costa died after aggressive UK police and security restraint. In healthcare, Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth, and Black people are disproportionately contracting and dying from Covid-19.

Statistics like this make for a shocking read and as similar headlines flood our feeds, many feel powerless to change things.

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That’s not the case for Edwin Panford-Quainoo. A pharmacist from Cambridge, he asked himself, what can he do to stop his children becoming one of these statistics?

In June, after the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police triggered a new wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, Edwin decided to take action on an idea he had sat on for many years.

Rallying the help of 11 friends, Edwin’s goal is to create a mentoring programme for the county’s most disadvantaged children.

The new mentoring scheme, CB Mentoring, already has the backing of Cambridge City Council, Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum and Cambridge African Network. These new mentors and trustees are in some of the hardest to reach professions such as Accounting, Law, Tech and Medicine, recruited to inspire and encourage the future generation to aim high.

Chiedza Chisango, a lawyer and vice-chair of the project said: "The responsibility to tackle racism is universal. For these Trustees, part of the solution is taking Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire children under their wing and helping them navigate their futures with greater aspiration, assuredness and empathy towards a level playing field for all races.”

Edwin explained: “We aim to empower, teach and support kids to move forward. There will be a Saturday School where university students come in to help with homework.

“Another part of our vision is to have talks and visit with local Black entrepreneurs. Figures that will make an impact and inspire them beyond where they are now. My friends from Apple will come in to support IT skills, a chef will come in to teach basic cooking skills.”

But it’s not just about education. Edwin wants to specifically tackle the topic of race and racism with these children: “There will be a big brother and sister programme, providing children, especially children of colour, to have an opportunity for those conversations you can’t have with Mum and Dad. They will be sounding boards as well as friends.

For Edwin, this new project is personal: “The school I went to growing up was underfunded. Even though you come from a place like that, it doesn’t mean its where you have to end up. I’m proof of that, and want to show children how.... Read More

Joseph Shavit
Joseph ShavitSpace, Technology and Medical News Writer
Joseph Shavit is the head science news writer with a passion for communicating complex scientific discoveries to a broad audience. With a strong background in both science, business, product management, media leadership and entrepreneurship, Joseph possesses the unique ability to bridge the gap between business and technology, making intricate scientific concepts accessible and engaging to readers of all backgrounds.