So what does a Near Neighbours project actually look like? Well, no two projects are the same, but we can safely say that they’re all making fantastic progress in bringing together people of different backgrounds who may never otherwise have met. If you’d like to find out more, or make an application for funding, click the ‘about’ button above. Here’s a list of the projects being supported so far:
The Pembroke Settlement/St Christopher’s Church
Located at the end of East Street (Walworth Road) this church has a long, proud history of engagement with the local community and is supported by Pembroke College, Cambridge. The church has just been awarded a Near Neighbours grant to link its predominantly Nigerian congregation with the White and Latin local community and to engage with the local Mosque. This is a very exciting project taking place over six months or more. The grant will partly fund a worker who’ll also be accommodated in the ‘settlement house’ on site. Using our expanding networks we’ve found an excellent young man with NGO and community development experience who is exploring the possibility of being that worker.
South Bank University
Until the arrival of Revd Howard Woolsey a few months ago, chaplaincy provision at South Bank was limited, despite it being one of the most diverse universities in the country. Howard has just received a Near Neighbours grant to assist a group of students from varied backgrounds in the ‘Conversations of the Soul’ project (emerging from St Ethelburga’s interfaith centre). This will enable deep relationships to form between the students and Howard will build on this to form a University Faith Forum.
David Idowu Choir
When Grace Idowu’s son was murdered in 2008 she began a remarkable journey. She has since met David’s murderer and forgiven him. She’s now made it her life’s mission to bring young people in her community together to prevent future attacks. The choir is being partially funded by a grant from the Near Neighbours programme. It’s been set up to provide local communities with the resources they need to bring together teenagers of different faiths and none, as well as those of different ethnic backgrounds. The choir is now singing in a number of prestigious locations in South London.
St Paul’s Shadwell
This lively Anglican church has received assistance from Near Neighbours to build a community vegetable garden. With the help of volunteers from the church and people of other faiths from the community, this is an opportunity to build lasting relationships. The church is working closely with the Darul Ummah Jamme Mosque. The project has been awarded £4,000 to publicise the garden. The grant will also help to buy seeds, plants, tools, gloves and compost. The genius of this project is that the food grown is going to be donated to Tower Hamlets Foodbank (another project supported by the Contextual Theology Centre, where Near Neighbours is based).
Curbs – Energize4Girlz Project
Energize4Girlz will run holiday activities for local girls 8 – 15 yrs of different faiths. The church wants to enable the girls to develop deep relationships with each other. Curbs is a Christian based charity located at St Mary’s Cable Street, a church in the heart of a very multi-cultural community. The holiday clubs will take place in school holidays. There is a theme for each club – in Summer 2012 the girls will look identity and will enjoy poetry and cultural trips, while in October 2012 they will be exploring ideas of citizenship, race and faith in their local community.
Clapton Park Community Gardening
On Clapton Marsh estate a gardening project brought people of different faiths together to change a neglected and derelict area blighted by antisocial behaviour into a community garden. The project is being supported by All Souls Church Clapton which has now been awarded £5,000 by Near Neighbours to develop in the coming year. Volunteers have already established flower beds but needed a place to store tools as well as funds to buy more equipment and plants. The church will also use the grant to draw in more local families – each will have a small plot and friendly rivalry will be encouraged over who can grow the best veg. The local youth club and older people’s club will also enjoy the new garden.
Waltham Forest Faith Forum
Waltham Forest Faith Forum was keen to gather people from different backgrounds to learn about Near Neighbours. A small grant of £260 enabled the crowd to gather in a great venue where the Eastern London Near Neighbours Coordinator explained the programme and answered questions. This was vital for several groups considering making further grant applications to Near Neighbours. As a result of the meeting three were submitted and others are now thinking about an application.
Trinity Community Garden Project
This Leytonstone group will work with young people marginalised from society through offending, homelessness or unemployment. Young people of different faiths will work together to establish a garden around the Trinity Community Centre. There will be a strong training element to this project with young people receiving tuition in landscaping and growing plants.
Women Beyond Borders
Based in Forest Gate, this organisation is a Refugee and Migrant Project supporting women of different faiths. A grant of £500 will provide a Christmas party for the children of these women who come from many different backgrounds. The group is so organic and ground-level that it didn’t have a bank account to receive the grant. This is a perfect example of the sort of project Near Neighbours wants to support – this group is free of the usual organisational structures associated with many bigger community groups, but is doing great work.
Young people in Stratford
A diverse group of young people put together a grant application to enable them to explore how the media portrays religion and faith. They also want to find out what triggers religious stereotypes through group discussions. They will create performance pieces which will consolidate their learning – these will be recorded and made available to other groups. The young people will be encouraged by education and theatre specialists.
DIVA Women’s Group
This group of women in Bethnal Green began meeting together for Zumba dance classes. At the beginning they were all Muslim women, but the group was determined to reach out to others in their area. They advertised the classes and began to draw in others. They’ve since organised parties for the women’s children and Eid and Christmas events for the women themselves. The Near Neighbours grant they’ve been given has enabled them to deepen their relationships and community outreach. The money has helped to pay for workshops on issues of concern to the members of the group, while outings for the children are also planned to get a new generation growing up together.
This small voluntary theatre company will bring together a group of local young people of different faiths and ethnicities and work with them on a show to be performed at Limehouse Town Hall. Beginning in January 2012 the young people will take part in drama workshops and stage a selection of ‘scenes from world theatre’. They’ll also work together building props and staging. It’s hoped this will lead to lasting friendships.
Belief In Bow
A series of three free world music concerts is to be held at St Barnabus church. Local people of diverse faiths are putting on the concerts which will include the opportunity to share food. A Musicologist from a top London University will introduce the concerts to increase the understanding of music within each of the three faiths involved. The aim is that the audience will be comprised of people drawn from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities and beyond.