Ruth Burgess, Near Neighbours Black Country Coordinator, tells us how the Black Country Near Neighbours Celebration event went on Wednesday 26 April.

On Wednesday 26 April, around 40 people came together to celebrate the work of Near Neighbours in the Black Country. A range of projects from around the area were asked to share the work they had done funded by Near Neighbours.

The event kicked up off with Michelle, Jenny and Hafsah from the “Smethwick Faith Guiding Course”. Run by Michelle the course brought together people of different faiths in Sandwell to take part in the 8 week accredited course that trains people to become tour guides at their own faith building.

Hafsah and Jenny shared enthusiastically how the course had taught them not only useful information about giving tours but also gave them a deeper understanding of other faiths. They have become great friends spending time together at an interfaith craft groups in Smethwick.

This theme of friendship and understanding continued throughout the day with projects sharing how Near Neighbours had helped them to build closer relationships with the other faith and community groups around them.

Viorica from the “Reaching For Change” project supporting Roma children in Lye shared how through partnership with their local Church they were able to run a regular homework club. The club provides vital support to Roma children who are struggling with learning a new language and keeping up with school work.

At the event, information was also shared on The Great Get Together, which is taking place in June in memory of MP Jo Cox. Organisations and faith groups were encouraged to think about what they could do to bring people together in their community.

Bishop of Lichfield and trustee of Near Neighbours Michael Ipgrave closed the event with his own reflections on the importance of interfaith work. The Bishop was involved in setting up Near Neighbours back in 2011 and he spoke of how pleased he was to see it so successful.

Bishop Michael specifically commented on the importance of going to meet people where they are, and of drawing on people’s own skills and resources to effect change, drawing on the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible who helped his neighbour in need.