‘I barely knew what had happened to me’: Hoxton volunteer honoured for decades of charity work

Lisa Oguntoyinbo receives her British Citizen's Award from TV presenter Michael Underwood. Picture:

Lisa Oguntoyinbo receives her British Citizen's Award from TV presenter Michael Underwood. Picture: BCA - Credit: Archant

The list of charity initiatives Lisa Oguntoyinbo, who this month was honoured with a prestigious British Citizen’s Award for volunteering, has been involved with is a lengthy one.

For two decades Lisa, 46, has dedicated herself to making the lives of people in Hoxton better – whether that be through helping to found the Crib youth centre, running dance classes, or her current work with the homeless theatre charity Cardboard Citizens.

However, remarkably, Lisa has done this, and more, despite suffering a stroke in 2000, which has led to a lifelong battle with Dystonia - a neurological disease that causes her intense muscle and limb pain.

Lisa told the Gazette her illness gave her strength: “When I had the stroke I barely knew what had happened to me, and it was so hard. But my passions - my volunteering and my kids - they played a huge part in the healing process.

“I gave myself three months off, but that was it. ”

Lisa’s motivations were initially to represent people like her, young black women, and to improve her housing. She told the Gazette: “I’m proud of how I helped to bring my estate [Harman] up. It didn’t make sense to me, you’d have such lovely homes inside, but getting there wasn’t nice – I once had someone using drugs knock and ask for some kitchen foil...”

Looking back, Lisa looks fondly on her early successes, but feels everything she’s learned makes her a stronger volunteer today.

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She said: “I’m hugely proud of the Crib, there was just no provision for girls in Hoxton before it, and we even helped push the Lion Boy’s Club into running girls’ activities. I was able to help break down barriers between the kids.”

In 2012 Lisa graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama with a degree in education with the performing arts. On the back of that, she got involved with Cardboard Citizens, where she teaches maths and is an ambassador.

Lisa picked up her volunteering award this month at a Palace of Westminster ceremony, and was moved by the work of other honorees.

“It was inspiring,” she said. “People there, and my daughter, all told me to speak about my work and the award, so we can maybe inspire others. I’m excited to be able to use the letters BCA after my name!”