by Tracy Pallant, Film Development Worker
Valley and Vale Community Arts and the Ethiopian Gemini Foundation received the Equality UN Goldstar Award. Hosted by First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones. The awards were presented by former environment minister Jane Davidson to Tracy Pallant and Alison McGann from Valley and Vale.
The Equality UN Goldstar Award recognises work that is improving the social cohesion and fabric of communities, increasing understanding and breaking down barriers between diverse groups, and supporting the most marginalised in society to gain dignity and access equality of opportunities. This was a great honour for Valley and Vale.
The UN Gold Star Awards for Wales Africa Community Links aim to ‘recognise the best to inspire the rest’ building quality, mutually beneficial partnerships that make a difference in learning, partnership and community and contribute towards realising the UN’s Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction.
Valley and Vale have been linking with the Ethiopian Gemini Foundation since 2003, when they facilitated three young people from South Wales to participate in a ‘film for development’ project with Addis ‘ Gem Youth’ to produce ‘Youth in Focus’, a short film exploring issues affecting teenagers in marginalised communities. From this, regular exchanges and collaborations developed as a natural synergy emerged between Valley and Vale’s mission ‘to promote positive change in people and places’ and Gemini’s groundbreaking programme supporting 2,000 families in the most deprived parts of Addis Ababa, through participation in community arts, dance, music, drama and film initiatives.
In recent years the link developed ‘twin community choirs’ between Ethiopia and the Garw Valley, who performed at the 2010 Gold Star Awards ceremony; the ‘Double Take’ photography project that empowered young and old to document their two communities, displayed as a touring photo exhibition in 2010. There has been an annual programme of creative activities bringing Ethiopian artists to Welsh schools to stimulate personal confidence and creativity in young people. Valley and Vale have also been a key catalyst in networking other Wales-Ethiopia Links, working with Abergavenny/Yirgacheffe to support their coffee and schools work, and Labata Fantalle to support their climate change and cultural storytelling work. They are now developing an exciting livelihoods project between six Welsh and Ethiopian partner organisations, which will pilot an ethical trade link supporting Welsh businesses and Ethiopian craftspeople trained through Gemini’s streetkids youth programme ‘Gem Art’. For these inspirational mutual benefits in creating opportunities and empowering marginalised communities, Valley and Vale and the Ethiopian Gemini Foundation received the Equality UN Gold Star Award.
In the tradition of town twinning, Valley and Vale was awarded a road sign to raise the profile, visibility and celebration of our link with Gemini, as you can see from the photo, Tracy was quite literally blown away