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Building Bridges with Our Communities

Gwent Police Community Support Officer, Jenny Mullis, has been appointed by Race Council Cymru (RCC) as a part-time Development Worker to promote Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) inclusion throughout the region. In a project funded by Ian Johnston, the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Gwent, Jenny will be working part time on the task until March 2016.
 
The project aims to address some of the challenges faced by members of established and emerging BAME communities within Gwent by identifying and engaging with them. For example, it is apparent that there is an underreporting of hate crimes and incidents by members of BAME communities. That's why Jenny will be immersing herself in grass roots engagement in communities and in the areas of Gwent where the greatest need is perceived.
  
The intention is to enhance trust and confidence in the Police and the OPCC, leading to better communication and understanding between the Police, OPCC and BAME communities across Gwent. There will be a specific focus on those perceived as the hardest to reach groups.
 
Jenny Mullis was born in Namibia (formerly known as South West Africa) and was part of the minority there. Her son was the first of his generation to be born in a free Namibia. She moved to Newport 18 years ago and has been working as a Community Support Officer for Gwent Police in Maindee over the last 11 years. Jenny understands, from her own experience, the struggle of trying to fit in and to become part of a different culture and community.  It took time for Jenny to find her feet in Newport and it was only by being embraced and supported by community groups did she finally feel that she was 'home'.
 
Jenny also has experience of setting up domestic violence surgeries in the area and she has been recognised by the Gwent Domestic Abuse Pathfinder Project as the winner of an Innovation in Practice Award. She will be working closely with Communities First, South East Wales Racial Equality Council and Gwent Association of Voluntary organisations (GAVO) and will be visiting schools and English classes in the region as part of the new project to find out more about the demography of Gwent.
  
Delighted to get the project underway, Jenny, said: "I want to do what I can to break down the barriers of isolation in communities, instil confidence and let them know that through working together, their voices can be heard and will make a difference.
 
I've worked closely with diverse groups in and around Newport already including the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and more recently the East African communities. I love my job as a CSO and I love engaging with different communities. This is something I've always done and I've always wanted to expand on the engagement work with minority communities.
 
The people we currently engage with know about us already and they're the ones we keep on going back to over and over again. However, many of our communities don't have any representation and there's no link in to them at all. This is what makes this project such and exciting prospect. It's about breaking down barriers between the police and the different communities."
 
This piece of research is essential so we can find more about our communities and the areas where they live. We also want them to know that the Police are approachable and that we are here for them. If they don't have any meaningful contact with the Police, I would like to know why and what can be done to improve this.
 
The demography of Gwent is also changing daily and it's important that we keep our eye on the ball. For example, Newport is one of four designated dispersal areas for asylum seekers in Wales under the government's national arrangements. My work will involve finding out where these communities are based and linking in to them."
 
She added: "This research will probably throw up some surprises with regards to where these communities are in Gwent and will help us find out what issues they are facing and what support we can offer them. It's also about what they can offer us. I'm hoping at the end of this project that we can develop a working group. It's important because if, for example, there was a serious incident in one of these communities, the Police would need a direct link to them."
 
Congratulating Jenny on her new role, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "We have a very diverse population with over sixty languages spoken in Gwent alone across communities of varying sizes. Jenny brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience of working with minority ethnic groups and individuals and is passionate about working within these communities. It takes a lot of time to establish trust with some groups and that's why understanding our growing and changing population is vital so we can build strong relationships and understand their varying needs."
  
Jenny is very keen to engage with everyone and welcomes all communities in Gwent to contact her. Anyone wishing to contact Jenny as part of the project can do so by email jenny@racecouncilcymru.org.uk