Nicolette Nixon, Tina Clark and Gulizar Erbil named winners of 2019 I Love Hackney Mayor's Civic Awards
PUBLISHED: 20:00 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:53 23 May 2019
Three unsung heroes of the Hackney community were honoured tonight at the I Love Hackney Mayor's Civic Awards.
The fourth annual ceremony held at the town hall saw three women recognised for their outstanding, often unnoticed work helping others in the borough.
Gulizar Erbil, a community pillar integrating Kurdish and Turkish residents, Nicolette Nixon, a youth club manager ensuring teenagers fulfil their potential, and Tina Clark, a charity worker standing up for women and the elderly, made up this year's worthy winners.
The awards are part of the I Love Hackney civic pride campaign, which started in 2006 after a Channel 4 programme named Hackney the worst place to live in the country.
To mark its 10th birthday, the Hackney civic awards were set up in 2016.
Last year, the awards were scooped by Ngozi Headley-Fulani from Sistah Space, community worker Barbara Layne and Salmah Kansara of Ihsan Childcare Centre.
Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville led this year's judging panel, all of whom have a keen eye for community endeavour - Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel, Colette Allen of youth charity Hackney Quest and Homerton A&E worker (and Operation Ouch TV star) Dr Ronx.
"We had an amazing list of nominations, reflecting Hackney's diversity and, as always, this year's winners make a outstanding contribution to the borough and inspired us all as judges, making our deliberations on who should win even harder.
"All those nominated do what they do because they want to help people and improve their communities, never with the thought of personal recognition.
"This is exactly why these awards exist because they should be recognised and celebrated.
"It's humbling when you hear how surprised, happy and often emotional they are when they find out they've been nominated. It's that spirit which is why they are so deserving of this award."
Hackney Quest director Colette Allen said: "All of the nominees are award-winners in my eyes.
"I've worked in the Hackney community for 18 years - it's so important these people are recognised as they commit their lives to helping others and they would carry on doing it no matter what.
"They're the unsung heroes of the borough - they really are."
Nicolette Nixon is a proper community activist.
Not only did she create the Gascoyne and Morningside Youth Club for the estates' kids, but she has been chair of the Morningside Tenants and Residents' Association for 20 years, ensuring it got a new community hall when the huge estate was redeveloped. She does everything from setting up an advice centre for tenants struggling with rent to lobbying for environmental improvements - not forgetting the work she does organising the Christmas party every year.
And not only has she given the youngsters somewhere safe to be - she has helped them go on to get degrees, become actors and embark on careers in music. She even helped them set up a pioneering market stall in Well Street where they could sell candles and bath products, recruiting local traders to teach them the art of business.
And that's all on top of her career working in family law in the City. So why does she do it?
"I'm a busy body that's why! I was a bit embarrassed when I found out I'd won.
"It's not just me - it's a team effort. I got a strange email with no name saying: 'Congratulations, you've won an award.' I didn't even know I'd been nominated!"
But on a serious note, Nicolette concedes it's vital for estates to have people like her.
"We know what's best for us," she said. "Others maybe think they know better but we need to make it clear we are not silly and stupid and we do know what's right for us."
Her win has also gone down well with the kids.
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"They love all that," she said. "They are quite proud. It's good to get the club publicity and if it helps it get some extra funding it will be worth it."
Tina Clark is the definition of an unsung hero.
The work that she does taking care of young and old at the Hackney community centre in Pembury is one that she's done quietly and efficiently across the borough for the last 19 years.
She said: "If I see someone struggling then I just want to help."
She particularly enjoys spending time with elderly people and loves the wisdom they share with her.
Tina wasn't even aware she'd been nominated for the Mayor's Civic Awards and only found out when the council called to tell her she had won.
She was nominated by Abdi Hassan, who runs the Coffee Afrique cafe in the community centre. She said: "Abdi didn't even tell me about it, I wasn't forewarned. It's probably a good thing because I would've said no."
Since Tina's so humble and uncomfortable talking about herself, the Gazette asked Abdi what he thought.
"Tina is an incredible human who is beyond selfless," he said.
"I have watched her help, guide and support many, many people.
"Tina supported a colleague who died last year and doesn't realise her impact.
"She's never sick, always smiling and a salt of the Earth character."
Whether it's a mother who needs help with her child's school or an elderly person who needs a friend at their hospital appointment, Gulizar Yaldiz is there to lend her support with a huge smile.
She has been volunteering her time to Hackney's Kurdish community and Turkish people of Alevi faith for years.
It's a key role in the Kurdish community, in which many elders are suffering from social isolation because of the language barrier.
She once brought a group of women who had depression into the community centre for a therapeutic cooking class, and often invites the elders to eat and socialise together as well.
She has been described as an "innovative, sensitive" counsellor with expertise when it comes to public services.
She works to make life better for the community who can often find it hard to access mainstream services.
She is seen as something of a godsend for so many people in the community who need help.