Category: Near Neighbours

Near Neighbours 2 – all you need to know.

Near Neighbours is back and includes more areas than before in the West Midlands. We have some new areas as well as our 13 wards and there is a new programme running in the Black Country.

Near Neighbours is a Government – funded programme which runs until March 2016.  It aims to bring people together; to meet, build friendship and work together to improve their neighbourhood.

Where does Near Neighbours work?
Near Neighbours funding is available in parts of London, Leicester, Birmingham and parts of Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, Leeds and Manchester, Nottingham and Luton.  Within Birmingham we cover most of Aston, Bordesley Green, Edgbaston, Hodge Hill, Ladywood, Lozells and East Handsworth, Moseley and Kings Heath, Stirchley, Handsworth Wood, Hamstead, Hall Green, Acocks Green, Billesley and Perry Barr.

What sort of projects get funding?
In phase one Near Neighbours in Birmingham gave away nearly £500,000 to 140 projects.  Activities supported by Near Neighbours range from volunteer-led job clubs to community meals, or from sporting events to debt counselling.  The fund will priorities applications from small faith-based groups with a turnover of less than £150,000 a year who are developing a new activity with people of different faiths.

How to apply?
All the information you need is on our website.  Your Near Neighbours development worker is on hand to help you with your application.  Jessica Foster can be contacted at jess@nearneighbours.com or by phone on 0121 675 1155.  Near Neighbours is part of Thrive Together Birmingham  and  is based at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, 10 Court Road, Sparkhill, B11 4LX.  Please phone if you would like to make an appointment.

Learning About Love

In May 2014 the local organisation, Connect Justice, released a groundbreaking report called Learning About Love: Developing Interfaith Approaches to Promoting Healthy Relationships.  The Near Neighbour’s funded study carried out by Dr. Laura Zahra McDonald and Zubeda Limbada explored what healthy and unhealthy relationships mean in the context of faith, culture, gender and identity for Christian, Muslim and Sikh participants. Six young males, six young females and a mixed group of six parents were consulted in three-hour workshops in three separate sessions to enable honest views and dialogue to be shared. Each of the three groups had equal representation from the three faith groups. The cultural and ethnic heritage of the participants – reflective of Birmingham as a diverse city – included Somali, Black African, white British, African Caribbean, white American, Pakistani, and Indian.

Rather than focusing on the extremes, the researchers wanted to understand how might we better understand the challenges facing all of us, whether young women, young men, parents, family members or as wider community members? Are there different challenges governed by our diversities, including gender, faith, culture or age? How can we resist the tide, and learn about love? For this study, the question posed was ‘How might we as a society better promote healthy relationships’ which reflected the need for a positive, pro-active response.

You can read a copy of the report here.

END HUNGER FAST

On Ash Wednesday a group of staff from the FNC joined faith leaders, food bank representatives and community groups to commission the Hunger Hut in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral.

The Hunger Hut is a focus for End Hunger Fast in Birmingham and will be staffed by volunteers to enable it to open six days a week. Do call in if you are passing  and find out more about the campaign at www.endhungerfast.co.uk.

Following the launch of the Hunger Hut the Bishop of Birmingham wrote the following article for the Birmingham Post:-  the full text is below. It is quite long but definitely worth reading.

Bishop David Urquhart writes:

At a recent gathering of faith leaders a Government Minister joked that a collective of Bishops might be called a ‘correspondence.’ The letter we wrote with other Christian leaders on February 20th about welfare reforms and poverty seems to have struck a chord in the nation and in the fortnight that has followed its publication, poverty has barely been out of the headlines.

Following the focus on food poverty and food banks, the spotlight turned to families as the Government re-launched their draft Child Poverty Strategy.  However its call for better measurements and data was met with a plea for more substantial action to support the poorest people in our nation and break the cycle of deprivation. I believe this is a good opportunity to refresh our Birmingham Child Poverty Strategy.

But while it is easy to agree the poverty needs to end and action needs to be taken the question that is not so easily answered is ‘What do we do?’  The Church has begun to answer that question with its campaign End Hunger Fast which I launched in Birmingham yesterday.

During the next 40 days, the season of Lent, Christians across the country will be fasting and praying as is our tradition. This year there is an added focus of food poverty and  following the example of Jesus we will be finding ways of reaching out to those in need. One practical action we have committed ourselves to is to try and raise enough money to ensure the local charity SIFA Fireside can provide breakfast to the people sleeping rough in our city.  We will also be creating prayer spaces with a hunger focus and visiting food banks and shelters to talk to people there and gather stories of hunger which will be presented to parliament just before Easter.

We hope these stories will help us understand the patterns of poverty in this city region and reveal simple steps that could be taken to help people live without the stark choices of heat or eat, payday loans or no bus-pass to get to work. We expect to hear about low paid work, zero contract hours which mean people do not know if they will be paid from week to week, benefit sanctions and the destitution faced by immigrants who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ and cannot access the usual support networks. We will of course hear stories of bad health, debt, addiction and relationship break-up and among all the stories we will hear of great sacrifice, bravery, determination and fortitude as well as despair, frustration and anger.

Despite the complexity of the issues I think there are steps that the seventh richest nation in the world can take to help redistribute some of our resources and ensure we care for the most marginalised in our communities.
An obvious start would be a higher minimum wage, or the living wage, which has been adopted by many organisations and helps to ensure people do not have to take on several jobs to make ends meet or supplement their income with benefits and food-parcels. In 2013 the living wage for people outside London was calculated to be £7.65 per hour – the national minimum wage is £6.31. According to the Living Wage Foundation, it implementation is not only good for employees but for employers too. 80% of employers believed that the living wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%. (http://www.livingwage.org.uk/what-are-benefits)

Alongside a living wage it seems essential that child-care is accessible and affordable so parents can afford to work in the confidence that their children are being well looked after.  We need tailored support to help people overcome barriers to work whether they are educational issues, health-related problems or any other obstacles.

Of course these solutions need to work alongside growing a creative economy that provides as many well-resourced jobs as possible for those who need them including a flourishing social enterprise sector and a commitment to making work accessible, meaningful and rewarding. We have some wonderful examples of social enterprises helping people into work including Devenish Girl bakery in Weoley Castle, Gear Up in Hodge Hill and Urban Cycles in Ward End.

These are inspiring examples of enterprise putting people first – bringing jobs, training and hope to young people but there is much more like this that could be done by people working together with a commitment to shared benefit from business. Partnerships between the public sector and private sector, voluntary groups and faiths communities are going to play an essential role as we realise we share responsibility for the welfare of our city. But equally essential are new kinds of partnerships that are formed when individuals meet each other across divides of wealth, faith or ethnicity and see their shared humanity and responsibility to each other. The Near Neighbours programme in Birmingham has helped us to develop some of these relationships over the last three years, giving away nearly £500,000 to enable faith and community groups to start small projects to bring people together and work to change their communities. I was delighted to be at the recent announcement that the Government is allocating a further £3 million to this programme.

Equally I have heard of food bank volunteers who are changed by the stories they hear and are moved to lobby MPs or press for change in other ways.  I am also excited by other movements such as Places of Welcome which offer hospitality and refreshments in a way which narrows the gap between guest and host and encourages all to participate and contribute. If you’re interested in these ideas I recommend The Stop by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis which tells how a simple food bank in Canada has developed, by encouraging participation rather than dependency,  into an internationally respected Community Food Centre with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse and farmers’ markets. It centres on the idea of cooking and eating together to encourage healthy eating and mutual interdependency.
In the Christian tradition, our worship centres around a shared meal, instituted by Jesus Christ, which we call Holy Communion where young and old, rich and poor people of all ethnicities and abilities put aside their differences to share a foretaste of the banquet we believe is prepared in heaven. Meals have been very important in the bridging work of Near Neighbours and I believe they represent our shared humanity, our mutuality, our ability to share and our ability to provide for one another. So when the fast of Lent is over I look forward to the occasional feast, perhaps at a Place of Welcome, where all are included and no-one leaves hungry, where all are heard, seen and recognised as a human being who may have needs, failings and shortcomings but who brings their own unique experience, worth and gifts – carrying in them the image of God.

 

The Winners Are Announced

The winners of the Near Neighbours Photography exhibition were announced and awarded their prizes on Saturday 16th November 2013. At a lively and fun evening at Birmingham Cathedral hosted by Nikki Tapper from BBC  RadioWM, the winners were awarded their prizes by The Right Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham. The audience was entertained with drumming from the Christian and Muslim women’s drumming group which had been supported by Near Neighbours.

 

The Winners were:

In the Faith Category 1st Prize Paul Hillcox with ‘Autumn Light’ 2nd Prize Andrew Brazier with ‘In faith we Ying and Yang on land and sky’ 3rd Prize Kirat Singh with ‘Interfaith Friends’

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Friendship Category 1st Mary Simones-Jones with ‘Margaret and her friend’ 2nd Amrick Singh Ubhi with ‘It is an honour and a pleasure to meet you’ 3rd Leina Zaigirdar with ‘Heartfusion’

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Community Category 1st, 2nd & 3rd were won by Ines Elsa Dalal with ‘Muslim Family and a Sikh family collide’ ‘St Paul’s Community Trust 10th  Anniversary Open Day’ ‘Olympic torch relay aftermath’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The overall winner was Paul Hillcox with ‘Faith Reflected’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the entries can be viewed on the Near Neighbours Flickr site

Competion Winners on Display

The Near Neighbours in Birmingham photo competition was opened with a  private viewing for invited guests to St. Philip’s Cathedral. The 60 guests all spoke very highly of the photos which are being displayed in the Cathedral alongside the Faithful Friends Exhibition. The evening included speeches by The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and Mohammed Ali the well known Graffiti artist.

The competition winners will be on display in the Cathedral until the 23rd November and all the entries are available for the public to see when they visit.

The competition invited amateur photographers from Birmingham to submit pictures on the themes of:
Faith
Friendship
Community

There was a winner, runner up and third place in each category plus a selection of ‘Judges’ Favourites’ which did win prizes but which were highly commended by the judging panel.

There was also an overall winner drawn from all the pictures. This was won by Paul Hillcox for a wonderful close up study of an eye with a church window reflected in it. Paul said of his picture:
“The image was an inspired moment after our church service during the summer . I was trying out a new lens and just wanted to try something a little different and was attracted by the light from our church windows reflected in my wife’s eye. My wife, Veronica, has a very deep faith and I was quite moved by the image when I viewed it on my laptop. I have never tried this type of photo before and I am delighted that others find the same deeper meaning in the photograph.”

You can view all of the entries on the Near Neighbours Flickr Site

Catalyst Team Synergy Video

In early 2013 the Catalyst group were split into three teams and each was challenged to run a Near Neighbours event. Each event was different effective and exciting. One group ran an art event, another trained local leaders in how to apply for Near Neighbours funding and the third, Team Synergy, ran a morning for children from two primary schools, one Catholic and one Sikh. They produced the following video which captures the fun and significance of the morning for the pupils.

 

FAITHFUL PHOTOGRAPHERS NEEDED

Near Neighbours is calling for photographers with a faithful focus to train their lenses on the friendships that have been built across the city between people from different religious traditions.

We are looking for pictures that capture one of three themes:
Friendship
Faith
Community

A selection of the photographs will be displayed in St Philip’s Cathedral from 16-24th  November which coincides with Interfaith Week. The winning entrants will be awarded Adobe software packages to help them develop their images and create more professional pictures.

Judges viewing the pictures will include:
The Dean of Birmingham, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle
Internationally renowned graffiti artist, Mohammed Ali
Professional photographer at Outroslide Photography, Dharmendra Patel
The Bishop’s Director of Interfaith Relations, Dr Andrew Smith.

Birmingham’s Near Neighbours Co-ordinator, Jessica Foster said: “We have funded some 130 projects in the city which aim to turn neighbours into friends and build lasting relationships between people of different faiths.

“We would love to see images of all sorts of relationships and activities that show how people in Birmingham work together, play together, eat together, share together and laugh together, building stronger communities and growing in understanding.”

Photographs should be submitted to Jess@nearneighbours.com and will be displayed on the Near Neighbours Brum Flickr site. A selection will be displayed in Birmingham Cathedral from 14th  til the 23rd November 2013. The competition is open to any amateur photographer based in the West Midlands.

Follow the competition at #nnbrumpics

Learning to Lead in the Big City

‘Tomorrow members of the public are coming for a guided tour of London, your task between now and then is to research, plan and then lead a tour for them’.

How would you feel if that was said to you? well that was just one of the challenges the Catalyst group faced on their residential trip to London. They had less than 24 hours to plan a trip in a city few of them new well for people they had never met. It demanded that they drew on all the leadership training they had received through the Catalyst programme so far, and was a real challenge.

The four day trip also included a visit to the House of Lords to discuss being a faith leader in the public and political sphere. They were guided by the Rt Revd Bishop David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and one of the Lords Spiritual who sits in the House of Lords. He gave a fascinating tour of the house explaining its workings and history and chaired a discussion for them to grapple with how to be a leader of faith in a society where faith isn’t always taken seriously or considered relevant to political or moral debate.

Having the chance to spend time together, socialise and eat together brought the group much closer and led to some really deep and profound conversations on topics such as women in leadership, salvation and gay marriage. Our evening reflections included the opportunity to reflect on pieces of art from different faith traditions, on the final day we visited Tate Modern and looked at art inspired both by a spirituality and by no faith or spirituality at all.

It was a fantastic time which drew us together as a group, challenged us all and developed leadership skills amongst this key group of emerging leaders in Birmingham.

Oh, and how were the guided tours? Brilliant.

Faithful Fundraising – a full house for a fab course.

Birmingham had a chance to experience Near Neighbours with a Leicester flavour when John McCallum visited the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre to give us a fantastic introduction to fundraising for faith-based organisations.

John is the Near Neighbours Co-ordinator based at the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester who brings with him many years of funding experience.

More than 20 participants from faith communities around the city came to Sparkhill for the course on the 6th March and travelled with John, at some speed, through the hows and whys and whats of fundraising.

Through the day people learnt together how to find funders, how to apply, how to manage the fundraising process and how to use a grant wisely. There was a also a chance to hear from and question a ‘live’ trustee of two local grant-making bodies.

Initial feedback from the day was really positive. People were impressed by the quality of the materials, the subject matter covered and John’s breadth of experience and knowlege. So thank you Leciester for coming to Brum – hope we can return the favour sometime!

 

Getting Crafty at the Old Printworks

Sophie Handy writes about Community Craft Worskshops at the Old Printworks in Balsall Heath:

“We are two weeks into the programme and have started to learn batik and felt making. The first week we had twelve women. The women who came were from a mixture of existing groups including the Friends of Clifton (a parents group who meet once a term for fundraising activities at Clifton Primary School), members of the congregation from the Wesleyan Holiness Church, members of the Saheli women’s project, associates through St Paul’s Church and Community Development Trust and a couple of women who have attended independently due to their own personal interests in crafts. The second session in felt making- we had sixteen participants with five new members joining us (two through Clifton Primary School, two with a particular interest in felt and one who had just heard about the project through a friend- all of these new members are keen to join the whole programme).

Batik Workshop- 6th February

This was the first workshop- led by Layla Tutt.  Layla is an exceptionally enthusiastic young lady who has seven years experience of teaching and developing her love for batik. We chose Layla as to start as we know her passion is infectious and she is exceptionally skilled in making people feel welcome and relaxed. We had an introductory welcome which allowed everyone to share their personal interests and start to get to know each other.

Batik is a beautiful art form which as you will see from the photos everyone was able to create and complete a fantastically colourful piece. Apart from one lady who remembered doing batik many years ago at school, no one else had tried batik before. Layla explained the history of batik and gave the group a great insight into the many countries and cultures which use this technique to create textiles for clothing, home furnishings and tourist memorabilia. Layla explained how she has developed her skills in this area, creating her first pieces to sell at local crafts markets and now how she has developed a career from her craft- alongside her passions for playing the guitar- of which she also gave us all a rendition during the lunch break! Layla then led a demonstration explaining the materials, tools and techniques of batik and the different methods of application.

The women who have joined this group are from a variety of different places and although they are all from the local area, most had not met before. During the workshop there was a gentle hum of conversation and supporting banter towards one another commenting on each other’s work, inquiring how they had created that effect, their colour selections as well as some general more personal questions of interest, including HRT advice!
Due to the shared interest and interactions with the batik, everyone had a common ground and mutual reason for being there. This is why I love arts and crafts for community projects. There is no right or wrong way of doing things, everyone’s interpretation is different and everyone can learn and share something.
The lunch break was lovely and encouraged the women to move around and talk to people other than those they had been working by. I made sweet potato and carrot soup and we had fresh home-made bread from our in-house baker, who following its success has now struck us a deal for the whole programme. Some of the women from the group took a loaf home with them that day and have placed their orders for more.

At the end of the session everyone left saying how much they had enjoyed the batik session, how great Layla is and that they were looking forward to the next session. We talked about having an exhibition at the end of the project which everyone was really enthusiastic about. The group left their batik creations behind to start the first display of the groups work.

 

 

 

Felt Making- 13th February
This workshop was led by Ildiko Nagy. Ildi was at the group last week so she had already started to get to know some of the group. Ildi gave an introduction to the materials and her personal interests and developments in the craft- including passing round some wool from her grandfathers sheep back home in Hungary. She then gave a demonstration into needle felting techniques. As with the batik workshop, the group were given the choice to either create a template as a guide for their designs or start directly with an idea, pattern or image from their imagination. This worked really well, as some people are more confident than others with their own creativity and enjoy this direct experimental approach, while others are much more comfortable with the method of explicitly visualising their idea and planning prior to embarking on their final design.

There were a few new members to the group this week and it was really nice to hear people welcoming each other and saying how much they had enjoyed the session last week. Some of the women were discussing forthcoming workshops and which ones they were most looking forward to. We also discussed as a group the possibility of starting a craft business utilising everyone’s skills base and making things to sell- a few of the women were very keen on this idea as a way of sustainably carrying on doing the things they love.

Everyone has their own agenda for joining the workshops, while some are keen to learn or develop a particular craft technique, what is becoming apparent is that everyone seems to have an inherent creativity that they are enjoying being able to explore and share. Being in this setting is encouraging everyone to try new things, express themselves and realise how like minded we all are!

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