The newest member of the our team is Sotez Chowdhury, who has just been appointed Co-ordinator of Near Neighbours (Eastern London). In this next phase of Near Neighbours in our area, there will be a particular focus on “micro-organising” – that is, building sustainable long-term local alliances. Sotez is well qualified for this work. He’s an experienced community organiser and has worked with churches, mosques and other faith institutions as well as teaching at Queen Mary University. Here he tells us about his experiences and his hopes for his new role at CTC…
“I’ve spent the last six year working for Citizens UK – aiming to unify communities by building relationships with people from all walks of life, training community leaders and building civil society alliances to campaign for the common good. Times are tough here in east London and elsewhere – there are plenty of challenges that face us. However, I have been inspired by the potential of individuals and groups to make an impact – and that’s where Near Neighbours comes in, allowing people to fulfil their potential, innovate and make change.
This new role excites me as I have first-hand experience of Near Neighbours projects and I have seen the impact from small grants and the inspiration of Near Neighbours. The E14 Project (a programme specific to the E14 postcode) is a community building and storytelling programme which I worked on. The project was created to tackle the deep historical divisions in the area. Participants in the programme were carefully selected to represent the many different ethnicities, languages, occupations, religious beliefs etc. The project developed citizens into community leaders who build cohesion, lead campaigns and social actions which unify the community, and produced a book containing the stories of local people and their achievements. This book helped strengthen the sense of local community.
East London is my home – I have a deep-rooted understanding and knowledge of different faiths and cultures that co-exist in the East End. I have grown up here, studied, worked, volunteered, community organised, lectured and even have found myself as a tour guide for the past three years. I am an active member of the community and participate in various social, political and campaigning organisations. I am passionate about building relationships.
I have a real desire to develop young people’s self-esteem and confidence through coaching and youth work, helping them grow into positive members of the community and tackle poverty by ensuring they are ready for their futures. As a Muslim with an interest in religious and nonreligious identities and how they affect individuals and the community, this role is perfect because it can harness my relationship building skills and storytelling.”