Cowley is a community on the outskirts of Oxford, UK. Oxford is well known for its educational and research prowess, being the home of one of the leading universities in the world. The city has a rich cultural heritage, with the likes of C.S Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and Dorothy L. Sayers being just a few of its illustrious literary alumni. It is known for its growing international Tech Enterprises. Wealth and intellect combine to make this city home to the U.K’s largest volume of world-leading research in the country. The University is also the largest employer in Oxfordshire.
Many cities in the U.K have a large gap between the richest and poorest, but possibly none, outside of London, as pronounced and stark as Oxford. The gap has reached such a critical point that research has revealed the life expectancy of the city’s poorest is 15 years lower than the richest.
The community of Cowley is a colourful and vibrant part of Oxford with people living and working there from a wide array of cultures, a great deal of whom are from Muslim backgrounds.
The stark contrast between the richest and poorest is displayed most prominently in the schools of Cowley. Most of these schools are only a 20 minute bus ride from the resplendent ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford’s city centre, and yet are full of children from families dealing with broken relationships, material as well as emotional poverty, and lack of opportunities, which sits in direct contrast to many of the children just down the road attending Magdalen College School.
As a result, many of the children in Cowley suffer from anxiety from a young age, are in poor physical and mental health and find it hard to study because of the chaos or neglect they experience at home. Their families come from similar backgrounds and so the issues have become generational; parents are often unable to hold down a regular job, are financially illiterate and lacking in parenting skills. Why? Simply because they have never been taught the necessary life skills.
For a long time, there has been a sense of ‘spiritual oppression’ in Cowley; however, we are incredibly pleased to report that recently God has planted three new churches in a small area, so we can already see that He has plans to bless this community.
The community of Cowley is a bustling and eclectic mix of many cultures and creeds, and along with most communities on the edge of our big cities, it is now more important than ever, post-lockdown, and in the face of the rising cost of living crisis, to double down on our efforts to bring those who have help to give, to the people who actually need the help.
This vital work began during lockdown with the launch of Cowley Collective, (click here) an online directory of resources available to the community in the local area, a 'one-stop' shop to find help, from addiction to childcare, food to finance, prison leavers to refugees.
The second iteration of Cowley Collective comes in the form of our social media campaign @humansofcowley, where real people tell real stories of hope and transformation. Through small videos and photos, we show you the wonderful faces of the heros behind the help; through the power of social media, you can find out about the local preschool group, or food bank, or budgeting course. What is the CAP Life Skills Course? Let Phil and Dorcas explain it to you! Want to know if Jellytots is the right preschool group for your toddler? Let Ben tell you all about Jellytots! You get the idea...
The third iteration of Cowley Collective is a physical space. A place where we can connect to the community, build friendships, nurture holistic transformation and point people in the direction of all the resources that are available to them. In September 2022, Cowley Collective partnered with Micah Hayns, a local Christian artist, to collaborate on a joint space to display art and to reach out the hand of friendship.
Cowley Collective welcomes you to the Jungle...
What better way to connect to the community of Cowley than in the middle of a shopping centre? The beating heart of Cowley, Templars Square Shopping Centre is the place to be and we have joined forces with Micah Hayns to create the JUNGLE. The Jungle is a space for Micah's Art Gallery, Studio, and a place for Cowley Collective's Community Workshops, Resource showcasing, pop-up cafe, Senior Socials, Jungle Throne Storytime and so much more! A neutral place to facilitate programmes and workshops from churches, organisations and people of peace. We are excited to be developing a programme of events/sessions/drop-ins, including:
Storytime and crafts for families with small children
Seniors Social, boardgames, puzzles, tea/coffee and conversation for the elderly who are lonely and isolated
Free Budgeting Course for those struggling financially
Women's Self Esteem + Life Skills Course
This is a space where people in the community can come and just 'be', enjoy the immersive experience of the JUNGLE and, if needed, be introduced to any help that they might need and that we can connect them with. The JUNGLE is a place of beauty, fun, friendship and signposting, where we believe all should have access to food, freedom and forgiveness, and that no one should be invisible.