A charity in Tower Hamlets’ is the latest winner of Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ award in recognition of its community work in the area.
City Gateway offers disadvantaged people an opportunity to improve their future through community events, drop-in youth clubs, apprenticeship schemes and a social enterprise hub.
The Big Society awards were set up by the Prime Minister in 2012 and are given to individuals and charities which work in their communities to empower them.
Congratulating the charity on the award, the Prime Minister said in a statement: “City Gateway has worked with a huge range of corporate partners and volunteers to help local women and young people gain the skills needed to progress into work.”
Eddie Stride, CEO of City Gateway, was proud of his charity’s achievement. “The achievement is incredibly inspiring,” he said. “The award recognises the outstanding achievements of our beneficiaries and the role that they play as positive examples in their communities and peer groups.”
“We are delighted that the Prime Minister has recognised the important work that we are doing with the local community in Tower Hamlets and beyond,” he continued.
Stride said that City Gateway was set up by local people, who saw the gap between the economic development of certain parts of Tower Hamlets and other areas within the community that were being left behind.
“Our mission is to bring hope to Tower Hamlets and our aim is to build the capacity of local communities and local people to find their own solutions to the challenges that face them,” he said.
Stride also said that he wanted to “engage even more young people and women on our programmes” and that he wanted beneficiaries to become “community role models” to inspire those around them.
Over the past year City Gateway has organised year-long accredited training courses for over 300 young people, with almost 200 of them obtaining apprenticeships. It has cleared the path for around 700 women to undergo training and prepare themselves for the job market.
At the same time, the charity trains volunteers in the 16-24 age group in peer leadership and mentoring skills to support ‘at-risk’ young people.
Laila Islam has benefited substantially from the charity’s work. A mother-of-five, she knew very little English when she arrived in London.
Islam used to be scared to go out without her husband or even ride a bus on her own due to her inability to speak English.
She said that she was able to use the charity’s free crèche facilities – freeing her time to attend language classes and improving her knowledge of English as a result. In 2011 Islam was named ‘European Social Fund Adult Learner of the Year’.
“I had a dream to learn English so that one day I could be interviewed for a j’ob,” said Islam. “My friends told me about their experiences of being interviewed for jobs and I would wish that one day it would be me.”
“When I came to City Gateway I was able to attend classes and, thanks to the free crèche, I found many friends. I improved myself,” she said.
“I wanted to apply myself to volunteering or work. I thought ‘if I’m able to improve my English and gain some administrative skills I can look for work’,” she recalled.
She now works as a midday meal supervisor in a school, largely due to the help she received from the charity.
“The apprenticeship and work experience has really helped me to gain courage in my life” she said.
“Now I inspire other people by telling them my story.”