Community Leader Arif Voraiji
The first of a cohort of dynamic community leaders have been appointed as part of a new project to reduce harm and prevent violence in Leicestershire.
Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach, through the county’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN), has recruited 20 community stalwarts to pioneer his new PCC Community Leadership Programme.
The team of leaders will support the PCC’s work to reduce and prevent violence by building the capacity of communities and empowering local change.
The new recruits will now embark on an intensive, three-month training programme to develop their advocacy and leadership abilities through a series of interactive sessions delivered by Leicester-based leadership development experts, Jones Consulting.
Among them is Arif Voraiji who founded the Leicestershire charity Help the Homeless which has since helped thousands of vulnerable individuals and families - and advocated accommodation for 110 homeless people in the past two years alone.
Arif, 41, a former car salesman, started off distributing second-hand clothing to the homeless from his car boot in 2014.
His organisation, which achieved charitable status in 2018, grew from offering weekly hot meals and other provisions such as sleeping bags and toiletries to the homeless to working with landlords to provide accommodation and ongoing support.
“I’m very much a community person. The charity has been started from scratch as I want to leave a legacy in the world,” he explained.
“You cannot solve problems on your own. I’m very much a leader and having something like this that I’m qualified to do would be beneficial not only for my own personal aims and the charity’s but everyone’s.
“We do believe in second chances and we very much like to give a chance to people who are making the right noises and who are putting in an active effort to make that change.”
Another recruit is Paul Fagan, who manages the non-profit charity Marlene Reid Community Action based in Coalville which is already one of the PCC’s People Zones - an existing multi-agency partnership approach to build stronger, safer communities.
The charity operates a self-funded community hub providing a range of positive community activities and services through its centre including an older generation community transport service
Paul, 41, said: “I’m delighted with this opportunity and the doors it will open up to improve community services throughout Coalville.
“I’m ideally positioned in the role I’m doing now and it felt appropriate someone from this organisation should be part of the project. I already have a good idea of what the voice of the community is and understand what people are saying they want and need in the area.
“The youth voice is particularly strong and there is a lot of will to get some youth engagement off the ground and the PCC is aligned to that in terms of addressing antisocial behaviour. We will be looking to develop our services and our networking opportunities to get things started.
“As an area Coalville has its fair share of social issues, not on a city level but a much smaller scale. We’re a former mining town and employment is pretty good however the younger generation especially are under-supported and that is something I’m keen to reverse.”
Also joining the programme is Nice Nwokoro who has led a number of recreational and educational projects that bring together people from different ages and backgrounds to promote inclusion, cohesion and equality across Leicestershire’s diverse communities.
The 48-year-old father-of-three, who works in health and social care management, holds a variety of voluntary leadership responsibilities, serving as Vice Chair of the African Network Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and President of Nigerian Community Association NDI IGBO Leicestershire. His work has involved collaborating with other BME-focused groups including the African Caribbean Centre Dev Group (ACCDG) and The Race Equality Commission (TREC) to promote equality, increase opportunity, foster integration and encourage communities to work together to solve problems.
He said: “I'm a passionate and compassionate person, with natural appetite and aptitude for community service.
“From my undergraduate days I've actively engaged in community service and leadership; listening and always learning, especially about the dynamics of championing the interests and expectations of persons of my African heritage.”
Nice, who has lived in Leicestershire for the past 14 years, said he would bring valuable first-hand experience of working within Leicestershire’s diverse communities.
“I also look forward to presenting other hard-to-reach communities such as mine to the mainstream as well as representing a unique perspective on tackling safety and security challenges in a culturally diverse city and county as ours,” he said.
Grace Strong, Director of the VRN, said: “Building and harnessing the skills of our communities is key to improving safety in the long-term.
“We are delighted with the response to the PCC’s Community Leadership Programme so far and welcome the insight, experience and understanding our new recruits bring to our prevention work.
“The causes of violence are complex and community-led responses are critical in our collective efforts to prevent young people becoming involved. This programme is an integral part of our partnership work with communities and will support our shared ambition to do everything we can to support our young people to stay safe and thrive.”
The PCC’s Community Leadership Programme is part of a public health approach to violence which involves supporting people and working through their problems to prevent crisis and stop them turning to crime.
The project will eventually see the appointment of 40 Community Leaders across the LLR area over the next two years.
Lord Willy Bach, who sits on the VRN Board, said: “With the right support and amenities in place, people can overcome obstacles to improve their futures and this is what this programme is really about.
“At the centre of our communities are talented and driven individuals who have the power to unlock potential and we need their ideas and their skills to help people flourish. This is about helping communities to help themselves and I believe this is how we prevent violence in the long-term.”
The programme will launch this month with weekly meetings.
Deborah Jones, of Jones Consulting, said: “We are delighted to be able to support leaders across our city and county in this crucial work for our communities”.
Through the training, participants will be supported to develop their impact as community leaders, better identify and develop new projects which will have a positive impact on their communities, demonstrate confidence in decision-making and successfully develop long-term plans and strategies.
They will also have a greater understanding on how to write funding bids and evaluate the impact of their work.
Sallie Blair 07702 541401
Posted on Thursday 3rd December 2020