Mayor’s Civic Awards: Hackney community heroes honoured for amazing work

The I Love Hackney Civic Award winners 2018: L-R Barbara Layne, Ngozi Headley-Fulani and Salma Kansa

The I Love Hackney Civic Award winners 2018: L-R Barbara Layne, Ngozi Headley-Fulani and Salma Kansara. Pictures: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Three remarkable women in Hackney have been honoured at the third annual I Love Hackney Mayor’s Civic Awards.

Phil Glanville speaks at the annual cycling conference. Picture: Gary Manhine/Hackney Council

Phil Glanville speaks at the annual cycling conference. Picture: Gary Manhine/Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

The founder of an organisation that helps African women who suffer from domestic abuse, a volunteer who helps the elderly in the borough, and a single mother who helps to build parents’ confidence have been recognised at the third annual celebration, which was held last night (Wed) at the town hall.

Ngozi Headley-Fulani who runs Sistah Space, community worker Barbara Layne and Salmah Kansara who works at Ihsan Childcare Centre were all recognised for their incredible efforts in the communities at the ceremony.

The awards are part of the I Love Hackney civic pride, which was launched in 2006 after a Channel 4 television show proclaimed Hackney was the worst place to live in the whole of the country.

To celebrate the campaign’s tenth anniversary, the I Love Hackney Mayor’s Civic Awards were set up in 2016.

It aims to celebrate and reward the exceptional people in the borough.

Last year the awards went to youth worker and founder of The Crib, Janette Collins, Hackney Wick FC founder Bobby Kasanga and befriending service volunteer Felicia Ogunleye.

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Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said the awards were a great way to shine a light on the excellent community work being done in the borough, and hoped it would encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

He said: “It’s really important to celebrate the borough’s community champions, who go above and beyond to make Hackney the great place that it is today.

“The Civic Awards not only help us to recognise the achievements and efforts of these extraordinary residents but will also hopefully inspire more people to get involved with volunteering and community action to help make a lasting difference to Hackney as a borough.”

Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel, Colette Allen of youth charity Hackney Quest and Homerton A&E worker Dr Ronx helped Mr Glanville to choose the three winners, as they had done last year.

Ramzy said: “I love judging the civic awards.

“It’s a rare chance to focus purely on how brilliant so much of Hackney really is, and how selfless and amazing our neighbours can be.

“News is often quite a bleak industry but the Gazette is here to celebrate and champion the good things in our borough, not just to report on the bad things, which is why this is such an important day in our calendar.

“My only gripe is that I’m sure there are thousands more unsung heroes out there who weren’t nominated, so I really hope we hear about some of them next year.”

Dr Ronx, who was also nominated for a Celebrating Hackney Women Award, added: “As a person who lives and works in Hackney. I was absolutely honoured to have been invited to be asked to be part of the committee judging the nominations.

“This year the nominations were strong. People really took time and effort with their recommendations.

“The process of picking winners involves, each panel member reading through each of the nominations in our own time many weeks in advance of meeting.

“We can rank them or pick our top 5. We each have our own criteria. My criteria involved picking people who have organised or set up community groups addressing under resources needs, groups or individuals who volunteer their time to Hackney.

“I was also looking for people who despite personal hardship and adversity continue to strive to help our people in Hackney and unsung hero’s who may have never received recognition for their work.

“Lastly I really wanted to make sure that by shinning the spot light on these Hackney heroes, we would signpost more people in the community to their presence and work.

“That way folk would access their services and perhaps it would then encourage people to offer their time to volunteer, raise money or even donate funds, goods or services.

“Our community is fantastic, I love Hackney and am dedicated to amplifying the voices of the unsung hero’s who work hard to provide services for people who need it.”

Ngozi Headley-Fulani, Sistah Space

Ngozi, 57, used to work at Hackney council as a marriage registrar, but after having seen multiple women suffer from domestic abuse, she decided to set up Sistah Space, a community-based initiative that aims to support African heritage women, in 2015.

She especially hopes that this award will be a tribute to Valerie Forde and her daughter, who were murdered by Valerie’s ex-partner in 2014.

“Women in African heritage communities usually suffer in silence,” she said, “if you go to the police, it’s considered a dishonour.”

This repercussion still stems from the 60s, when African heritage people were seen as “unwelcome visitors”.

Ngozi said: “I am trying to build a relationship between the police and the community.”

To do so, Ngozi has quit her job at Hackney council and is now fulltime invested in her cause. Although Sistah Space receives donated products from Lush and Marks & Spencer, everything they do is out of the communities own pockets.

“There are days we can’t afford to pay electricity,” she said, “but where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Barbara Layne

Ever since Barbara moved to the UK in the 1960s, she has continuously helped the community.

After she had to quit her job as a community nurse due to an accident, Barbara gave whatever time she had to give to a variety of voluntary work.

“I was not going to let these injuries set me back,” she said, so after a woman at St, Paul’s Church gave her a job in the office, the volunteer work just escalated from there.

“I enjoy every minute,” she said: “my volunteering is something I intend to do as long as I can.”

Her work ranges from setting up care homes for people with learning disabilities to encouraging elderly people to go to the Olympics in 2012.

Barbara hopes winning this award will raise awareness for nurses.

“At some point in your life, you have to go to the hospital, so at what point is the government going to realise that we need more nurses?” she said.

She also wants to encourage people to not just sit back: “You have to be there to push the issue you stand for.”

Salmah Kansara, Ihsan Children’s Centre

“When I came to England, there was a lot of confusion,” Syeda Rubab, 29, who nominated Salmah, said: “but now I can clearly see where I can go by respecting others and respecting myself.”

Syeda, mother-of-three, was unable to speak English when she arrived from Pakistan, but after heading down to the North London Muslim Community Centre in Stoke Newington for help, she found Salmah, 38.

As a service development manager at Ihsan Children’s Centre, Salmah mainly tries to build parents’ confidence and ensure that they are job ready.

“If the parents are happy, then the children are going to be happy,” Salmah told the Gazette.

Ihsan Children’s Centre’s advice service is extremely popular and they do try and take services out to the community, which is why this award is so important to Salmah.

“All services are facing cuts,” she said.

“So just building partnerships and making sure everyone knows what everyone is doing would be a great step forward.”