Residents moved by Auschwitz trip

AROUND 40 Thurrock residents launched themselves on the road to promoting equality and fighting prejudice this month.

Thurrock Councillors Phil Smith and Tunde Ojetola joined young people, teachers and council staff on a three day visit to Krakow in Poland where they saw first-hand what can happen when prejudice runs amok.

The visit marked the start of the 2012 The Diversity Champions Project which will explore how the lessons of the Holocaust are relevant to us today. It will involve work across the borough through schools and community groups to promote equality.

Those taking part in the project will undertake training and will be contributing to the development of a number of resources for schools and groups to use to share learning across Thurrock.

The project will continue until September with a range of events in schools and with community groups and the council.

The Poland visits — the fourth organised by Thurrock Council — have always included local councillors. This year, Phil Smith, the portfolio holder for central services, joined the young people.

He said: “In a lot of our day-to-day dealings with residents, the youths of Thurrock are often described as being the cause of many of their issues. The young people who attended this course acted in a manner that was a credit to them and the borough.

“One of the really good things was some of the analysis they applied to the whole weekend.

“This shows we are producing students of the highest calibre and that we must not fail them.

“We have one other duty in relation to this. That is to ensure Thurrock residents can live and grow in a borough which fully embraces the diverse nature of all people. We must show we are committed to diversity by our actions on a daily basis.”

Cllr Tunde Ojetola added: “Going to Poland was an emotional experience — much more shocking than I had thought. Standing in the gas chamber, staring at the wall of death and filing past the stacks of shoes, glasses, clothes and human hair are images I will never forget.

“I am pleased I went to Poland, now I have to continue the work of telling others of the effect of ignorance and hatred to ensure its not repeated in Poland, in the UK or in Thurrock.”

And Ruth Juett of the Thurrock Racial Unity Support Taskgroup which has been closely involved with three of the trips, said: “TRUST’s involvement in the Diversity Champions Project organised by Thurrock Council has been both a personal emotional journey for all those involved, and it has enabled TRUST to work in partnership with schools and the Corporate Diversity Team to make a difference in Thurrock.”

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