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Building community spirit

The Howard Estate Green Hearts, led by a core group of six Havebury Housing Partnership tenants, has been working hard to improve both their surroundings and the lives of other people in its community 

Founder of the Howard Estate Green Hearts, John Chandler, explained that tenants originally came together to create care packages for NHS staff during the first national lockdown in March 2020. 

“I run a cleaning company and obviously couldn’t go into people’s houses, so I had more time on my hands. I’d see the nurses and doctors on the TV add I wanted to help them,” John explained. 

“We created drop‐off points and asked people to donate things like tea, coffee, and hand creams. We made up 120 packages for West Suffolk Hospital. Then we branched out and made boxes for the pharmacies, plus the police and the fire brigade. That’s what kicked things off.” 

The group gathered momentum after there were reports of young people being bullied on the Howard Estate. Keen to help, John galvanised fellow tenants to display green hearts in their windows, giving young people a safe space to go to in case of emergency. 

He said: “By putting up the hearts, the kids knew that they could knock on the door and that we’d look after them until their parents came. Of course, they couldn’t come in during lockdown but we’d wait with them on the doorstep to make sure they were safe.” 

John and his fellow group members soon turned their attention to sprucing up the neighbourhood. “We started going out every Sunday and tidying up the overgrown areas,” he said. 

“One Sunday, we had 50 people out. We even won a Bury in Bloom award for Outstanding Achievement in the Community, and I won a £100 voucher in a competition run by the garden centre Dobbie’s. I’m going to use it to plant a tree and put a plaque up for the estate. 

“There’s such a positive feeling when you walk around now. People are engaging again, and waving when they see each other. I’d seen the community spirit go missing over the years, but it’s amazing now; everyone talks about it. It’s made us want to keep going and going as the Green Hearts.”