Near Neighbours is launched!

Monday 14 November 2011

Eric Pickles officially launches £5m Near Neighbours programme

Eric Pickles MP at the launch of Near Neighbours

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, today formally launched the Near Neighbours programme at a special event at St John’s Church, Bethnal Green. The event was attended by national faith representatives including the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev. Richard Chartres, as well as the Bishops of Southwark and Chelmsford.

Near Neighbours is a three-year initiative that aims to bring people together in diverse communities, helping them to build relationships and collaborate to improve the local community they live in. Near Neighbours was created by Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council following the award of £5m by the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Church of England in February.

Rt Revd Dr Richard Chartres, The Bishop of London

Near Neighbours is focused on four areas of the country including Eastern London (specifically in the boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest) where there are many deprived multi-faith neighbourhoods. The programme is co-ordinated by the Contextual Theology Centre working in partnership with the Christian Muslim Forum, the Council of Christians and Jews and the Hindu Christian Forum.

In addition to developing work already underway at the centres, the Near Neighbours Fund awards small grants of up to £5,000 to projects that enable people of different faiths (or none) to work together to the benefit of the community. The national fund has received 35 grant applications since it opened in September (11 in Eastern London), and has approved over £98,000 of funding for 26 different projects in the four areas (£28,000 so far in Eastern London). Examples include a women’s group organising Zumba dance classes and other cross-cultural social activities in Bethnal Green and a community youth choir that unites young people in a highly diverse area of Southwark. (Here the choir sing and listen to their extraordinary story here: http://nearneighbours.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/the-david-idowu-choir/)

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

“The work we are celebrating today is the next chapter in the same centuries-old, proud and unbroken tradition of people of faith giving back to local communities. They enrich their neighbourhoods and improve the lives of those around them through practical action.

“Too often communities that live side by side don’t get together as often as they could to discuss and tackle the issues and challenges that matter to them most. This can lead to isolation and misunderstandings which are not healthy for local communities, when by and large, irrespective of background or faith most people want the same thing, for their neighbourhoods to be better places to live.

“Faith groups play a vital role in our neighbourhoods. We want to give them help to do what they do best. That’s why we are funding Near Neighbours as an investment in the future; supporting grass roots groups and projects to allow communities to get on transforming their neighbourhoods for the better.”

Eric Pickles meets Fulma Begum and others from the DIVA group in Bethnal Green

Baroness Eaton, chair of the Near Neighbours charity, said:

“Near Neighbours is able to make a real impact in local communities because it works directly with people who know and understand their specific issues. The applications that we have received so far are extremely encouraging and show us the depth of care that people of all faiths and backgrounds have for their communities.”

Ramesh Pattni, Faith Advisory Board member for Near Neighbours and Co-Chair of the Hindu Christian Forum echoes the praise:

‘‘Near Neighbours’ resonates with the Hindu ethos of ‘Universal Family’ of Man at many different levels. At the interpersonal level, one relates to the other, in this Universal Family, with friendship, trust and respect. Our faith can provide a significant context for these qualities to develop. These strands give strength and resilience to our personal, communal and social engagement. With this vision we have hope and confidence that the programme will result in positive outcomes of greater understanding and appropriate local change’.

If you want to listen to a recording of the whole event, simply click below:

Contact details: Revd Tim Clapton at the Contextual Theology Centre: 020 7780 1600

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