At Near Neighbours we believe in supporting local people to come together in diverse communities to build relationships of trust. The belief is that communities will be best brought together when they have the chance to see each other as friends and as people with shared concerns for their neighbourhood.
We also believe that the people who know how to build these relationships best are the people who are in the neighbourhoods themselves.
To reflect this, one branch of our work is a small grants fund. Through this, communities can find the funding to run the projects that they believe will strengthen their neighbourhood and build these relationships of trust.
One example of this comes from the Forest Fields area in Nottingham.
We funded a group called Sisters in the Community who wanted to run a series of sessions for women. They wanted to run two different types of sessions; one that would focus on preparing and eating food together, and another session that was all about health and wellbeing treatments.
Malaika is one of these ‘sisters’ in the community and she told us that, although health and wellbeing treatments might seem like a strange grant application, it has actually made a big difference in the lives of the women that she has been working with in Nottingham. She commented that the women they have brought together wouldn’t have the time, the money, or the confidence to treat themselves to a session like this. These sessions have been the perfect way to build confidence and friendships.
As well as three treatment sessions, the Sisters in the Community have run monthly ‘Cook n Eat’ sessions where the women they are working with can share recipes and gain new skills. Each month the women had new themes to work with. The themes covered included, British, Algerian, Caribbean, Polish, and ‘back to basics’. And, of course, once the food has been cooked, the women get to eat together.
The final ‘Cook n Eat’ session that the Sisters in the Community ran was during Ramadan, so they decided that they would have an Iftar meal, instead. It is the pictures from the Iftar that you can see on this page.
Women from Asian, Caribbean, Russian, Polish, British, Roma, Latvian, African, and American backgrounds have been brought together through this project. They have entered into a welcoming and safe environment where they can relax and make new friends. Through this they have learnt new skills and new ways to take care of their wellbeing through both healthy eating and health treatments.
One of the women who took part in the project had been struggling with health problems which had done serious damage to her confidence. Thanks to making new friendships with this project she was able to lead one of the cooking classes on food from her own culture.
Malaika told us, “This project has improved my own confidence for doing community work, it has allowed me to develop loads of new friendships with amazing women, and we have touched loads of different communities with this projects. We even managed to make some new friends in the Roma Community here! It’s been a great success all round!”
It is projects like this that make the Near Neighbours small grants fund a success. We have now funded over 950 projects in England since 2011, investing over £3million in local neighbourhoods. Each of these have all been working to bring people together in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know each other better, build relationships of trust and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.
Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones
Date: 21 July 2015
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