Near Neighbours has had the privilege of working in some fantastic communities across England. Each day sees new people brought into the Near Neighbours world as our coordinators work in their communities.
Needless to say, the people that we are fortunate enough to work with are brilliant and constantly act as the backbone of their communities.
One such individual is Lewis O’Rourke. For eight years Lewis worked for Birmingham City Council as a Community Safety Officer, but in 2013 he decided to make a bold move by setting up his own social enterprise. With a mortgage to pay and a young family to support, Lewis was aware that this was a big move for him. However, he pushed ahead and set up CPR Solutions, which aims to use sport as a method of helping people in the community.
It was not long after Lewis had set up CPR Solutions that he came across a project taking place in Smethwick, encouraging young men to take part in sport as opposed to getting involved with crime.
It was shortly after this that Lewis came across our Black Country coordinator, Ruth Burgess. Ruth put Lewis in contact with Jess, our Near Neighbours coordinator for Birmingham, who in turn helped Lewis to put in an application for a grant from the Near Neighbours small grants fund.
Lewis’ application was accepted and he used the money to set up a project in Billesley that was very similar in style to the project in Smethwick.
Billesley was struggling with a few community issues at the time. Lewis wanted to run a football project that engaged with young people from a mosque and other young people from the area. However, he was told that many other providers had previously failed to make a difference within the area.
Lewis persevered and got to the launch day of his project. It was not easy; disagreements flared up amongst some participants as cultural tensions came to the fore.
Once the project had been able to run a little while longer, however, the young people taking part began to build friendships. Some of the frictions that they had brought with them at the start began to melt away.
In fact, the project has been so successful that, although it was due to end in February, it has received new funding and is now sustainable until March 2016.
Because of his success here, Lewis signposted other service providers onto Near Neighbours. As a result of this, there are also boxing and cricket sessions within the area. Lewis also supports Billesley Faith Forum. In recent months, this has been reinvigorated and provides social action services such as a local food bank.
Talking to Near Neighbours, Lewis said that the Youth Services in Billesley cannot believe the change in attitude amongst young people in the area.
He then went on to praise the Near Neighbours small grants fund,
“Near Neighbours cuts out the bureaucracy so that people in communities can access the support they need to strengthen their neighbourhoods- that is both unique and valuable for communities.”
Thankfully for Lewis and his family, because of the great work in Billesley, the social enterprise has been very successful and he has received requests for work from all across Birmingham and beyond.
Lewis told us that one of the proudest moments for him came when one of the older guys taking part in the football project came up to him and told him that, before the project he would always be looking for problems but that now he only looks for solutions. Lewis said that this individual now helps Lewis out whenever he can.
We at Near Neighbours want to thank Lewis for working with us, congratulate him on his amazing success, and wish him every luck in the future as he works to bring together communities!
Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones
Date: 29 July 2015
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