‘An inspiration and a visionary working on the fringes of society’: Jean John dies aged 75

Jean John. Picture: Ian Rathbone

Jean John. Picture: Ian Rathbone - Credit: Ian Rathbone

Clapton community activist Jean John has passed away aged 75.

Jean was born in the Caribbean and settled in London in 1964.

She became well known in the community for setting up a caring service called Wayside Community Centre for people with mental health problems - first in Clapton Park Methodist Church, then later in a house in Dunlace Road and then in shops in Chatsworth Road.

The shop at 24 Chatsworth Road became a community hub and was the birthplace of the Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association, thanks to its large meeting room at the back which was used for public meetings and as small church room.

Patron of the Wayside Charity, Cllr Ian Rathbone, said Jean was inspirational in tackling the problems of poverty and of justice.

"Jean helped people from my church to get better, to feel loved and needed and accepted," he said.

"She helped to show how much we are called to love others and set an example of how to become fully involved in the life of the local community.

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"Mental health issues were not understood then as they are now, and she realised that people from the old Hackney Hospital and then Homerton, needed care in the community - somewhere to go for a hot meal and to hang out."

He added: "She was an inspiration and a visionary working on the fringes of society with very little funding for many years, and drew others into the work, some of whom have been working faithfully alongside her for all those years."

Jean was also a Methodist local preacher for nearly 30 years.

Her home in Powerscroft Road became a storage place for goods for the Chatsworth Road charity shop.

The shop not only raised funds for the charity's work, but Jean collected clothing, educational books and medical supplies to send out in containers to poorer parts of the world.

In recent years she expanded the work and took out a lease on a shop at 69 Lower Clapton Road which also became a community hub and community training centre.

She wrote a short book about her religious experiences and her time in Clapton called 'When God Intervenes' which was published by Anchor House in 2009.

Seven years ago when her home was given a makeover by a team of volunteers for the Channel 4 television show, You Deserve This House - which is dedicated to people who give up so much of their time for others that they haven't any left to put into their own homes - Jean told the Gazette: "There are always needy people in the community, when you see the social services are closing down.

"I don't worry too much about what a I haven't got but while i know I'm making somebody's life worthwhile it gives me such great satisfaction that I forget my own needs."

Jean is survived by her three sons, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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