Hackney celebrates its heroes with Civic Awards
Hackney thanked its unsung heroes in a ceremony which took place in the Town Hall on 24 May. Mayor Philip Glanville presented the Mayor’s Civic Awards to three well deserving winners; Janette Collins, Bobby Kasanga and Felicia Ogunleye.
Hackney is the great place it is today thanks to the hard work of those who go the extra mile for their community. These awards help celebrate Hackney’s civic heroes, and not only give a much deserved recognition for their efforts, but will hopefully inspire more people to get involved and make a lasting difference to the Hackney community.
The awards aims to recognise and celebrate some of the fantastic people within the borough and take pride in the amazing things people in Hackney achieve every day.
Janette Collins founded youth project The Crib, with her friend Karlene Fontilio in 1999 and has been running it ever since, reaching young people, between the ages of 10 and 21, across postcodes and backgrounds. Janette's own experiences of growing up in Hackney, having a baby at 14 and falling in with a gang, spurred her on to set up The Crib, which to date has helped countless young people. The youth project helps young people find work, stay in education and promotes awareness of gun and knife violence. It has a dedicated alumni base that includes lectures, DJs and writers, who often go back to help inspire the young people who use The Crib today. Janette, known as ‘Mamma Hackney’ to young people across the borough, said: “Youth work is a real labour of love. Most of all I want to teach young people compassion, and show them how they can be part of social change and be the difference in their communities. Young people are our future, giving them a positive space to grow into themselves, such as in The Crib, means a positive future for us all.”
After being involved with gangs and spending nearly eight years in prison, Bobby Kasanga turned his life and his mind around when he formed Hackney Wick FC, including residents at all levels of the club, from players, to co-operative club owners. Bobby works night shifts to concentrate on the club in the daytime and invest as much time as he can. He makes sure every club player volunteers in the community for at least two hours a week, and uses the club to support a diverse array of actives to support social change, from playing Stonewall FC during LGBT+ history month, to using ethically sourced footballs and half-time oranges for Fairtrade Fortnight. Bobby is also keen on equality, through work with Hackney Women’s Institute, Hakcney Wick FC set up a woman’s team and hopes to use the club to help increase women’s participation in sport. Founded in 2015, Hackney Wick FC has already manged to engage with over 1200 local people and has raised over £16,000 to provide free and affordable access to grassroots football. Bobby Kasanga said: “I started Hackney Wick Football Club to give back to the community and afford young talented players the opportunity to play football at decent level meaning steering away from a life of crime. It was also to give Hackney its very own semi-professional football club which I now have in the space of short years which I hope will unify the many diverse cultures under the banner of our borough our club. I also wanted the players to understand the importance of volunteering in their communities which is why we are always supporting local causes.”
Felicia started volunteering in Nigeria in 1998 and she hasn’t stopped since. She started volunteering for the British Red Cross in 2000 and now helps fundraise for the charity. Felicia also volunteers at her local church and for the past 14 years has provided food for homeless people through the church as well as providing support for other vulnerable people in the community. Felicia also volunteers for the Hackney befriending service, she goes above and beyond her call of duty as a befriender. Though Felicia suffers with mobility issues she never lets that stop her volunteering, calling on over 20 people a week. Felicia is always happy to help and her infectious smile is known to light up a room. She said: “Though I am 73 in August I will not stop volunteering, I love it, I am still doing it, it is in my blood. I love helping people. Befriending people makes me happy, I love talking to people and it helps me in my life even too, my disability has never been a barrier to volunteering, in fact volunteering helps me, it helps me move and it makes me happy too. I would say to anyone if you have 1 or 2 hours a week to spare, become a befriender, volunteer it’s really worth it.”