We recently had new team members join as Near Neighbours Coordinators and we'd love to introduce you to them. 

First up, we have Samra Kanwal, our Greater Manchester Coordinator.

Samra says: "I am grateful to be given the opportunity to join Near Neighbours as a Coordinator for the Greater Manchester including Rochdale, Oldham and Bury area.

"Since a young age, I was always so involved with my local community, attending youth clubs and eventually completing the Duke of Edinburgh award which enabled me to reach out to the wider areas of Rochdale to gain some voluntary experience. My first volunteering project was to work with young participants with special needs over the summer holidays, it was more of a chance for us to take part in sports activities with them. Witnessing their happiness of having someone to call a ‘friend’ was overwhelming, from that moment on I knew it put me at ease knowing I have made someone happy so I went out to be an active volunteer in my community, contributing towards working with the homeless, refugees/asylum seekers and eventually running my own projects working with people of different ages/backgrounds.

"After graduating from university I went onto working as an IT Analyst in a bank but soon realised that sitting behind a desk on a 9-5 job wasn’t for me. I am a people’s person, I enjoy working with people knowing that we have worked as a team to achieve and contribute towards something good. I completed the Near Neighbours Catalyst leader’s award over 2 years ago, this opened up many doors for me, I was given the chance to attend many events which enabled me to network and get myself known. This has today supported me to become a Coordinator and I look forward to contributing towards community cohesion/interfaith work in Greater Manchester and representing Near Neighbours ethics and values."

Elizabeth Fewkes is the most recent addition to the team and is our new West London Coordinator. 

She says: "I'm delighted to join the Near Neighbours team as West London Coordinator.  I'm very excited about the work of Near Neighbours and look forward to helping be a part of seeing community members come together for better understanding of one another and to do something meaningful to impact their communities.  I believe strongly that the people living in their neighbourhoods are the best people placed to identify some of the challenges facing their community and indeed the solutions to help change the situation.  

"I've previously been working with asylum seekers & refugees in Bradford and before that my family lived for a time in Pakistan and have very much enjoyed the richness of living with other cultures and building relationships.  

"Moving forward I look forward to hearing the great stories of what is being done across the UK and indeed if you live in West London I look forward to hopefully connecting with you!"

Further north we have Kaneez Khan, our West Yorkshire Coordinator.

She says:"I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful communities who are passionate about working and living with each other in a peaceful and inclusive way. 

"I have previously worked as a family support worker for 5 years and for the past 15 years I have worked on a grass roots level trying to affect positive change in my own community. I live in a very challenging but wonderful area that comes with its own unique set of characteristics. 

"I have also worked at a strategic level as a Non Executive Director, Trustee on local boards, as well as a Governor and Chair of Governors at my children's schools. What drives me is making a positive change to women, children and young people particularly with the aim of achieving safer, cohesive and thriving communities. 

"I am really excited about my journey with Near Neighbours and am looking forward to supporting the West Yorkshire communities to achieve their dreams for their communities.

Back in East London, coordinator Ana Franca-Ferreira says: 

"I became involved in community organising through worshipping in the Brazilian Catholic Chaplaincy in east London. After my undergraduate degree, I completed an MA in Community Organising at Queen Mary University of London - and took part in CTC's summer internship. I then worked for London Citizens, bringing together diverse religious and civic groups in the borough of Southwark.

"I'm excited by the opportunity presented by Near Neighbours to continue to bring people together across difference, building friendship, solidarity and trust."

We're happy to have these four impressive women on our team and look forward to seeing how they help to grow Near Neighbours activities in their respective areas.