Regional Partnership to Capacity Build the BME Voluntary Sector in the East of England Region
Recognising the Contribution of BME Individuals to the Voluntary Sector
One of the two main aims of this project is to recognise, value and acknowledge the contribution BME individuals make to the VCS.
Our partners across the Region have hand-picked a number of key individuals in their area who have made an invaluable contribution to community cohesion in their County, read the following profiles to find out more about our 'BME Community Champions'...
Hertfordshire Community Champions
A “strong sense of the need to contribute to the community” reflects Yasmin’s core values and has been a significant feature of her life.
She is passionate about the community in which she lives. For example, when, as part of her undergraduate degree, a placement opportunity came up, Yasmin chose to spend the time at a local probation service office, (a decision questioned by her tutor), but which was invaluable. Consequently, the time spent with the probation service led Yasmin to find out more about the criminal justice system and, particularly, the role played by Magistrates. In 1990, after being encouraged by a serving Magistrate, Yasmin applied to the Bench and her application was accepted.
Yasmin says, “The good thing about being a Magistrate is that you do not need legal qualifications as there are legal advisers at hand to provide guidance on all aspects of the law. More important are people’s life experiences, being part of a local community and having an interest in what goes on within their communities.”
“In my view, a critical part of being a volunteer is to be confident in yourself and your ability to contribute and make a difference. Quite often, what many people need is simple encouragement and a bit of help to enable them to recognise their abilities and realise their potential.”
As well as being a Magistrate, Yasmin is also a school governor and a member of Hertfordshire Police Authority.
Yasmin Batliwala-a community and volunteers’ champion!
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Stella Jose Ihenacho
Stella was born in Nigeria in 1944. Owing to a shortage of psychiatric nurses in the UK, Stella was, at the age of 21, recruited from Nigeria to come to the UK and train in the profession.
To broaden her expertise and, in response to changes in the health system, Stella went on to train as a general nurse, a mid-wife and, in 1984, took a degree in health management systems. Stella worked in the health service, first in the Midlands and, for twenty years before retirement, in London. Shortly before retirement in 1998, Stella decided to move from London to Hertfordshire, attracted by the prospects of lush country-side and a garden, whilst still being close to members of her family.
Even in retirement, Stella believed she still had something to offer to her community. When she saw a leaflet in a local library asking for people to help distribute books to house-bound people, she seized the opportunity because: “some of the house-bound people who benefit from the library service were once actively involved in serving their communities and this is my chance to give something back for their benefit.” Incidentally, although Stella is also a trustee of a local charity and, every year, diligently propagates plants to sell as part of the group’s fundraising activities, she never considered these as voluntary activities, not to mention her previous role as a school governor. Stella plans to sign up as a volunteer community car-scheme driver.
Stella Jose Ihenacho-a community and volunteers’ champion!
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Regwas born in Guyana in 1919 . He joined the RAF in Guyana as a result of a recruitment campaign in that country. Joining the RAF meant frequent travels throughout the West Indies which broadened Reg’s outlook on life and, at the same time, made him witness many changes.
Reg came to England in 1943 and, after leaving the RAF, he worked as an engineer across the country, eventually settling in Welwyn Garden City, approximately 40 years ago. Despite a busy work and family life, Reg always found time to be involved in what was happening around him. His travels, life-experiences and the opportunity to observe people’s different attitudes motivated him to ‘do something’ when he believed he could change things for the better.
“There was no point saying things were not right and then not doing anything about them." During his very active life, Reg has been a (founder) member of Welwyn One World, Welwyn Hatfield Ethnic Minority Group, Hertfordshire Black Carers Forum, the Commonwealth Veterans’ Association and an Independent Custody Visitor for Hertfordshire Police Authority, to name but a few. Neither age nor poor health have dampened Reg’s enthusiasm or urge to play his part to change things for the better: “Never say never, change can always happen" is Reg’s clarion call!
Reg Wills-Eversley - a community and volunteers’ champion!
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Mohammed Alam was born in Bangladesh in 1966. After completeing his studies, including a Masters Degree in Business Management from the University of Dhaka, he worked in a number of Asian countries, primarily as a chartered accountant. Mohammed moved from Bangladesh to the UK in 1995.
Although he was highly qualified and had been previously successful in his career, Mohammed faced significant difficulties getting a job in the UK. These frustrations did not deter him but, instead, spurred him to become a volunteer with Age Concern and the Citizen Advice Bureau. Mohammed was determined to use his skills and expertise to help other people facing barriers. A further period of studies in the UK and a job with a private sector organisation convinced Mohammed that his best chance of making a positive contribution to his community and the people around him was by being involved full time in community development. He therefore joined North Hertfordshire Minority Ethnic Forum as a part-time community development officer, about the same time the Forum was considering closing down due to lack of funding! Mohammed made it his mission to secure the future of the Forum, working around the clock on a voluntary basis to raise the resources needed to keep the Forum open.
Mohammed’s efforts were rewarded when the Forum was awarded a Lottery grant. Soon after, the Forum entered into a tripartite agreement with the local district council and a housing association. This led to the establishment of a purpose-built community resource centre for use by the local minority ethnic citizens. Mohammed’s dedication, commitment and sacrifice for the benefit of his local community laid the foundations which have helped make the Forum an inspiring example of what can be achieved. The Forum is now one of the most successful and leading Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) organisation in the county, currently running thirteen different projects for the benefits of the diverse people of North Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas.
Mohammed Alam, a community and volunteers’ champion!
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Nisa moved from Cape Town, South Africa to Stevenage about two years ago. She decided the best way to get involved in the local community was to do some voluntary work.
“In South Africa, I worked as a volunteer presenter for a community radio station as well as a teaching assistant at the local Mosque, helping young children with their religious studies. When I came to England, I was keen to help out in the local community as I knew this would help me settle in and make me happy. Being a volunteer is a way of giving something back and if you can help just one other person that can make a real difference.”
Nisa volunteers as an administrator at the Lister Hospital. She is also a volunteer mentor, through Hertfordshire County Council, for a young teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. “Volunteering has enabled me to share my skills to benefit others. It has also helped me create a network of friends, which can sometimes be difficult when you have moved to a new country. Being a volunteer gives you so many life skills and I feel that my voluntary work has really given me the edge when applying for jobs. Employers really value candidates who have undertaken voluntary work.
It is a fantastic stepping stone into the working environment, especially for those fresh out of school, college or university and are looking for their first job. Helping others has opened so many doors for me, given me confidence and experience of the real world. Being a volunteer is not only a great way to help others, but it also brings benefits to those who volunteer. It’s a way to have fun, meet new people and learn new skills. It is something that anyone can do, no matter how busy they are in their lives. I have managed to fit my voluntary work around my paid job and looking after my family and get so much enjoyment out of it!”
Nisa Farooq—a community and volunteers’ champion!
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Kingsley Morgan founded the Shaolin Kickboxing Club in 2004, mainly out of frustrations with the traditional martial arts, which, in their rigid and repetitive training techniques, were turning students off. Using his dynamic and challenging approach, Kingsley has helped countless students to achieve performance improvements they never dreamed possible.
The club provides students of all ages with the opportunity and support to achieve physical fitness, health, well-being and personal focus, while fostering a spirit of community and teamwork. Despite having a full time job, Kingsley still finds time to run coaching sessions on most weekday evenings and at weekends. In addition, he organises a major competition every year as well as running the administrative functions of the club.
Kingsley’s achievements and dedication over the years is evident from the progress made by his pupils. Individuals who were lazy and overweight have become lean, committed and determined. People who, previously, were on the wrong side of the law and jobless are now free of their bad influences and have set themselves career ambitions. Others who were aggressive and picked fights whenever they could are now contained and considerate. Finally, individuals who were scared to walk down the street alone now have the confidence and self-assurance of pupils of Kingsley Morgan!
Kingsley’s commitments and contributions as a coach have been recognised by Herts Sports Partnership who awarded him the ‘Male Coach of the Year Award’ at their 2007 ‘Service to Sport’ awards. Kingsley continues to inspire people to improve and take part in kick-boxing, using demonstrations at road-shows to promote the sport.
To find out more check out Kingsley's website at: http://http://www.shaolinboxing.co.uk/
Kingsley Morgan—a community and volunteers’ champion!
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Asad Farooq, 18 years old, is a volunteer at Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Having started, initially as a receptionist, Asad enjoyed his time with the CAB so much so that he is now being trained to become an advisor.
“After just a few weeks at the CAB, I became fascinated by the various problems that people needed help with and became really interested in learning how to help these people by understanding how to offer the correct advice and support. I am now being trained on a variety of subject areas and policies so I can volunteer as an advisor. I am currently volunteering for one day a week but would like to increase this as I am enjoying it so much.”
“Since volunteering, my confidence has really grown and I no longer feel reluctant to speak to different people. I also feel that I have more peace of mind now as I have learnt the value of focusing on the positive things in life rather than the negative. I would definitely recommend volunteering to other people. I am well supported in my role, I am learning so much and hope that my voluntary experience will be a valuable asset to my CV when applying for jobs.”
Asad Farooq—a community and volunteers’ champion!
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