On Thursday 8th October, two Near Neighbours project workers and one worker at our partners, The Feast, were invited to spend the evening with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.
In recognition of Black History Month, Downing Street held a function at which a variety of wonderful Britons from BAME backgrounds were invited to talk with Parliamentarians and with the Prime Minister himself.
Near Neighbours’ representatives at this event were Pastor Ben Ayesu from Bradford and Shantel Mitchell from Birmingham. Both have used Near Neighbours funding to bring together their community and have had amazing success. Meanwhile, The Feast were represented by Natasha Griffith, who was responsible for organising The Feast’s incredible trip to visit Ghana earlier on this year.
Then it emerged on the morning of the event that, actually, both Pastor Ben and Shantel were being invited to have a private conversation with the Prime Minister, himself!
When I spoke to Shantel after the event she was so pleased to have been able to share her work with the Prime Minister. Shantel works for an organisation called POD, based out of Nechells in Birmingham, that provides information and guidance, as well as training and learning opportunities for their local community.
Shantel outside No. 10
Shantel has been using Near Neighbours funding to run Keep Fit classes for the elderly in her community through POD and has had amazing feedback. She told me that one of the ladies came up to her after one of these classes and told her how valuable they are for her and that they are what keeps her going.
Speaking to the Prime Minister at the event, Shantel told him about the great work that POD are doing and how Near Neighbours have been providing funding to allow for services, like Keep Fit, that the community has found invaluable.
Pastor Ben has been using Near Neighbours funding to work with refugees in his Bradford community to provide them with the opportunity to get work experience whilst also doing community service to say thank you to the city that has become their new home. He told me that it was this work that Pastor Ben spoke of to the Prime Minister and that the Prime Minister asked him to send over his thoughts on supporting refugees via an email.
I also spoke to Natasha after the event and she told me that it was an honour to be at the event,
“Black History is so precious to me, so to be at this event and celebrating all that the black community has done in Britain was a real honour. It was also nice to meet so many Ghanaians that were really excited to hear about what we’d been up to in their home country!”
Natasha outside No. 10
Taking a quick look at the POD website gives you some indication of how proud they are of Shantel, and we echo those sentiments. Shantel, Natasha, and Pastor Ben are shining examples of people committed to uniting their communities, and we are so glad that they were our representatives with the Prime Minister!
Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones
Date: 09 October 2015
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