The half way point of an incredible journey.

The half way point of an incredible journey.

A blog by Tim Burton-Jones

Near Neighbours has continued to push forward the boundaries of community relations in England this year and, as we reach the half way mark in our second phase, we want to take a look back on the successes that have emerged in the communities that we have worked in.

The work of Near Neighbours has so far been split into two phases of funding. The first phase started in 2011 and moved from then up until 2014. During that time we celebrated some fantastic milestones, collaborated with leaders and faith forums on a national and local level, and, most importantly, we brought together people in some of England’s most diverse communities.

We have had the privilege of continuing this work into our second phase, which we are now half way through.

It was this time last year that Near Neighbours 2 began. What this meant in practice is that we received another wave of funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government and also Church Urban Fund. We used this to expand our reach into even more of England’s most diverse communities.

We opened up hubs in West London, the Black Country, Nottingham, Leeds, Luton, and new areas of Greater Manchester, Birmingham, and West Yorkshire. With this we took on board new hub coordinators and bring the Near Neighbours train rolling into new neighbourhoods. Since we began supporting these new communities we’ve seen some remarkable changes.

In the time since the year began, we have funded a variety of amazing projects. One of which saw a Synagogue in our West London branch take in a Somali community, whose community centre was burnt down in an arson attack. The Rabbi of Synagogue spoke of how he saw the devastation wrought by the fire and asked if he could support this community as they celebrated Eid.

Other good news stories from our projects have included a Roma group in the Black Country who have become concerned about the amount of littering and fly-tipping that is prevalent in their community. They have gotten together with individuals from different backgrounds in the area to try and stamp out this issue.

Meanwhile, in Birmingham a social enterprise organisation in Nechells have been organising a walking club and fitness sessions for elderly people, of different faiths, in their community. This project has met on a weekly basis and has done a fantastic job of tackling the issue of isolation in their area.

As well as these fantastic local projects, we have had the opportunity to take on new central staff to help Near Neighbours expand and bring yet more people together. We’ve been able to celebrate our milestone 800th grant with a fantastic ceremony, attended by a group of distinguished and successful community leaders. And we took to the roads of Yorkshire for an inter-faith tour with Shaykh Fuad Nahdi and Bishops Toby Howarth and Jonathan Gibbs.

Throughout this time we have also worked with the Nehemiah Foundation to link the communities we work with to more community workers. We have continued fruitful partnerships with each of our national partners, including our friends at the Three Faiths Forum, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Council of Christians and Jews, and the Hindu Christian Forum. And, we have brought together, through our partners at Catalyst, a variety of young people from across England to receive world class leadership training. Our good friends at the Feast have also continued to work with us in bringing people together and we are delighted to have bared witness to their continued success.

The success of the communities that we are working in, and the joy it brings us to see people being brought together across England provides us with such hope for the coming year. We hope you will join us as we continue this unbelievable journey.

Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones

Date: 01 April 2015