Civic Award for Near Neighbours Coordinator

Femi Olasoko honoured with Civic Award for her Near Neighbours Peterborough work

Congratulations are in order for Near Neighbours Peterborough Coordinator, Femi Olasoko. On 27th January 2021 Peterborough City Council announced that she was to be awarded a Community Involvement Civic Award.

Femi began her work two years ago, when the Near Neighbours Hub was set up in Peterborough. The Hub is a collaboration between the Church Urban Funds’ Near Neighbours Scheme and Peterborough Cathedral. It works among and between different faiths and communities, celebrating the uniqueness of each but building understanding and friendships between them.

Canon Sarah Brown, the Cathedral’s Canon Missioner who manages the Hub in Peterborough, said:

“This award is very well deserved. Femi has built real relationships, not just within volunteering circles but also within small ethnic and faith communities who might otherwise have little voice.

“Femi has brought communities together; I am really proud to work with her and I learn from her every time we speak. Her Christian faith is her motivation and inspires her love for this community of all faiths and none.”

Femi, who has been working in various community roles in the city for over 10 years, described the Award as “a very pleasant surprise indeed”. She explains more about the work that Near Neighbours is engaged in:

“Our two main objectives are social interaction and social action, bringing people together in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, in order to get to know each other better and build relationships of trust, collaborating on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.”

The small grants scheme run by Near Neighbours has supported over 20 community and faith groups, and sponsored cultural, landmark and interfaith events and programmes. Examples include: ‘St Francis meets Sultan’, a celebration of two faiths organised by Churches Together in Central Peterborough with the Inter Faith Forum; the Youth Interfaith Leadership training, CATALYST; supporting the Holocaust Commemoration Concert organised by Peterborough Liberal Jewish Community and All Souls Church; and the printing of the widely circulated Youth Inter Faith Research Report by Peterborough Racial Equality Council, For the City’s Sake’.

“Just before the first lockdown in March we ran our first International Women’s Day celebration with women of different faith, no faith, ethnicity and sexual orientation celebrating together,” says Femi. “Many attendees have said the event became one of their reference points for ‘what life was like before lockdown’.

“I would like to say a big thank you to all the individuals and organisations that have supported and worked with us in the past two years, thank you all.”

The Civic Awards, which will go to 25 individuals and organisations in various categories, will be formally presented by the City Council once pandemic restrictions allow this to happen safely. 

Anyone interested in supporting the work of Near Neighbours Peterborough, or finding out more, is invited to attend an event, spread the word about the small grant scheme (there is a Covid Relief Fund of £4000 available to community and faith groups), or get in touch via nearneighbours@peterborough-cathedral.org.uk.

You can also find out more on the website www.near-neighbours.org.uk/about or via social media https://www.facebook.com/NNPETERBOROUGH/  and https://twitter.com/NNPeterborough/.