“We could achieve a lot if people came together.” Rahim Miah feels there is more to come from residents of the Isle of Dogs. “While there is a sense of community, we haven’t properly grasped it yet,” explains the Chair of the Phoenix Heights TRA.
“We are quite close knit on this estate, but in terms of engaging, we can do more.” Sitting in the Phoenix Heights Community Centre, Rahim speaks passionately about the power of the community, and the need to fight for the future of the Island. “We could achieve a lot if people
came together, but people don’t realise the strength they have as a community.” Rahim moved to the Island from Whitechapel in 2009, and the father of four believes that the area has changed considerably. Older Island residents will have seen incredible changes since the
1960s and 70s, and Rahim sees the pace of development over recent years as cause for concern.
“We were talking about what the Island is likely to look like in a few years’ time, the number of people who are coming in… it makes you wonder how the Island will cope. I don’t know how much green space we’re going to have left. Air pollution in Tower Hamlets is a problem, and one reason is that we don’t have enough trees to clean the air.” But he also believes that, by becoming more engaged, residents can help to shape the Island’s future. “I’ve been involved in the TRA since day one,” says Rahim. “It’s difficult to get people engaged, coming along to the meetings and having an input. For all of us, it’s about priority. If you prioritise something you will find the time.”
He also understands the difficulty in juggling roles; Rahim is a bus driver and union branch chair alongside his work with the TRA and helping to organise the E14 Festival. The Phoenix Heights TRA meets quarterly, with anti-social behaviour and repairs among the key concerns
raised regularly by residents. Rahim says the TRA has “fairly good communications” with One Housing, although adds: “There’s always room for improvement.”
“The men on the estate are more often engaged and involved with what’s going on than the women,” says Rahim, whose wife has recently started up a coffee morning for women. “It’s another way of engaging. In our culture I don’t think ladies are as comfortable talking at meetings
in front of men, or getting actively involved. It’s one of the taboos we have in our culture, but it is changing.”
As a parent he also believes there’s a place for the community to get involved in the education system: “Schools are improving quite fast, but I think as a community we can do a lot as well,” says Rahim. He sees after-school community clubs and weekend activities
as a way to help youngsters to achieve more. “There are funds available for the community to organise things like this, all we need is enough people who are interested, to put a proposal forward.”