Stoke-on-Trent’s African and Caribbean communities unite in new community organisation

Joe Ndilla (left) and Danai Gombera believe African culture can be celebrated in the city, empowering their communities to greater participation in all aspects of life in Stoke-on-Trent. Photo: Jerome Whittingham.
Joe Ndilla (left) and Danai Gombera believe African culture can be celebrated in the city, empowering their communities to greater participation in all aspects of life in Stoke-on-Trent. Photo: Jerome Whittingham.

A new organisation has been formed to draw together members of Stoke-on-Trent’s African and Caribbean communities, celebrating their African culture and empowering their greater participation in all aspects of the city’s life.

The formation of Stoke-on-Trent African and Caribbean Community Organisation, SACCO, has been announced ahead of Africa Day on Tuesday 25th May.

Local businessman Danai Gombera, is a founder of the new group.

He said: “The African and Caribbean community has been in Stoke-on-Trent for a very long time. But a lot of us have been living in isolation and we’re not connected, we’re not working together. The pandemic has made us realise how we are stronger together, and how we can build a better and stronger community going forward, not just as African and Caribbean communities but also as part of the wider community.

“We want to celebrate our ‘Africanness’, but most importantly, we want to celebrate our contribution to our home city, the beautiful city of Stoke-on-Trent.

“We appreciate the hard work our council is doing, bringing communities together. So we, as a community, we want to be part of that. We feel we can positively and actively contribute. As a community we need to be strong, connected, being able to share the vision of Stoke-on-Trent collectively, and being a more active part of the decision-making process too.”

SACCO now aims to work with its members and others, building its connections and networks locally, creating opportunities for all people in Stoke-on-Trent to engage with the city’s African and Caribbean residents. The new community organisation has been supported in its development by VAST, a charity dedicated to developing, advancing and promoting the Voluntary, Community, and Social Enterprise Sector in Staffordshire.

Founder of SACCO, local businessman Danai Gombera, hopes the organisation will help build better and stronger communities in the city. Photo: Jerome Whittingham.
Founder of SACCO, local businessman Danai Gombera, hopes the organisation will help build better and stronger communities in the city. Photo: Jerome Whittingham.

“We want to be measured by how connected we are to the bigger vision of the city,” said Mr Gombera. “We’ll be measured by how active are we in the wider community, and how much of a contribution are we giving.

“As a business person, I’ve got a lot of things to learn, and I’ve also got a lot of skills to give as well – to my own community, and also wider.

“So it’s about embracing the young African Caribbeans in Stoke-on-Trent and other people too, giving them skills to establish businesses, supporting them. It’s also about recognising the social value that this organisation brings.”

SACCO Board member Joe Ndilla, a young entrepreneur in the information and technology sector, believes the new group will be a voice to and from the African and Caribbean community. Photo: Jerome Whittingham.
SACCO Board member Joe Ndilla, a young entrepreneur in the information and technology sector, believes the new group will be a voice to and from the African and Caribbean community. Photo: Jerome Whittingham.

Joe Ndilla, a young entrepreneur in the information and technology sector, is a board member of SACCO. He explained how the African and Caribbean community in the city is growing, as people that moved here a generation ago for work now have family of their own that are settling here and adding to the vibrancy of the city.

Joe said: “These young people understand the culture of Stoke-on-Trent. They’re more willing to contribute positivity to the community. We’ve got to start appreciating the culture these people are bringing too, and it’s just good to feel more welcome.

“So, we’ve established SACCO to support the African and Caribbean community. It’s to provide a voice to, and a voice from, our community.”

Hector Musonza is also a board member of the community organisation, and works locally as a senior community mental health nurse.

Hector said: “We believe SACCO will help address the healthcare inequalities, and particularly mental health, in the African and Caribbean Community in Stoke-on-Trent. The organisation will work with the community to address the low uptake on the vaccine.”

Mr Gombera concluded: “We want to build a better community. It can always be better. We want no-one to be left behind. We want no community to be left behind. We want a more collective Stoke-on-Trent going forward, and we want to be part of creating that.”

Written for VAST and SACCO, 25/05/2021