Young people can sometimes get a bit of negative press, perhaps being obsessed with TikTok, or fast fashion. Here in Exeter there are young people who are passionate about standing up for what they believe in – something that all generations can learn from. And none more so than Maia Thomas – an equality activist, international speaker, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) consultant and the founder of a number of community projects.

What brought Maia to Exeter?

It was after visiting Devon on holiday as a family that Maia’s mum decided to move the family here from London, 10 years ago. Maia enjoyed the family’s new life in Exeter, making the most of the beaches on the doorstep and the beautiful surroundings, although she sometimes suffered at the hands of bullies who targeted her for her skin tone and hairstyle. It was an experience which made parts of her childhood and teenage years difficult, and which sometimes left her with a negative view of her home city.

However, Maia’s perception of Exeter has changed since then, partly because of lockdown, and partly through the work that she has undertaken in the community, as an equality activist and EDI consultant.

‘Through my work as an equality activist I have met a lot of amazing people, so my perception of Exeter has changed. I have met so many positive people here who want to make a long-term difference in the community. The community feeling in some areas of Exeter is unlike no other place!’

Maia's projects

Another of Maia’s community projects, started only in January of this year, is Feed our Community, something that she says she felt compelled to start after seeing the struggles that people in her community were going through just to get food on their tables. She’s partnered with FareShare and has so far provided food packages to more than 3,000 families in Devon.

The project also allows those in need to attend free Zoom meetings on household and financial budgeting – the meetings provide mentorship and an opportunity for those who feel isolated to network and connect with others.

And Maia says that she’s realised the true power of the Exeter community since starting the project only a few short months ago: ‘I started Feed Our Community because food poverty should not exist in 2021. It is scary how many are suffering in silence and do not feel able to reach out for help. There are so many people in need who are suffering in silence but when someone is in need, the community always comes together to help.’

What makes Exeter home for Maia?

And it’s that community that makes Maia really appreciate the place that she calls home: ‘I think the community makes Exeter unique. The community bonds in different areas across Exeter is amazing, everyone in the community does a lot to help each other whenever they can. Whenever someone is in trouble or needs any assistance and posts in community groups or calls out for help, countless people try their best to do all they can to help.

‘It is great that even though everyone may not be in the best position themselves people still do their best to help others whenever they can.’

To find out more about some of Maia’s work, go to Keep Devon Safe, Black Lives Matter Exeter and Feed our Community.

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