On the occasion of #BlackHistoryMonth 2020, we share the inspirational and motivational stories of our local heroes. This provides us with a fantastic opportunity to recognise their effort and contribution, and celebrate how they are making a difference in the community.
David works in the Westminster Integrated Gangs & Exploitation Unit. For the past many years, he has been relentlessly working to support the young people of Westminster to prevent them from being recruited into gangs or exploited in any criminal activities and showing them diversionary paths as a way out of that life. Even in the lockdown, in addition to virtual 1:1 session, he has developed bespoke interventions for the local youth who are looking for some positive guidance, support and direction. He introduced the idea of “Ride-Outs”, which is a form of detached van-based outreach to engage with groups of young people in a safe and secure way!
His passion is also reflective in his acting prowess, where his onscreen work provides a positive role-modelling experience for a lot of vulnerable young people out there. His ability to genuinely connect empathies with a person and put himself in different situations is what makes him relatable and reliable- the qualities he brings into his work every single day!
- Muskaan Khurana
David is a Flexible Gangs Worker in the Westminster Integrated Gangs and Exploitation Unit. Working on the front line with young people and families involved in gangs and violence, engaging very hard to reach young people. David has been with Westminster since 2012 bringing passion and creativity to his role as he ceaselessly develops new ways of engaging with young people.
Paying close attention to the individual needs, David has supported many vulnerable and complex young people. David leads on organising trips for the unit and his creativity and knowledge ensures the work is always fresh and relevant.
During COVID David has developed ‘ride outs’ as a really effective way of seeing more young people face-face in a safe fashion in these unusual times.
- Matthew Watson
Grace Osinnowo is a Finance Manager who has worked in Westminster City Council’s Corporate Finance Team for 5 years. Despite her demanding role, Grace always makes time for others!
Grace has recently taken up volunteer work with OneWestminster supporting vulnerable residents in our borough. Currently, Grace makes well-being calls to two clients making sure their medical and food needs are met as well as checking on their general well-being. I’d love Grace to be recognised for the wonderful work she does both inside and outside the office!
- Monique McKay
Esther is a City of Westminster Market Inspector who has been coming into work every day, throughout the pandemic, to ensure the health and safety of others in local markets, restaurants and shops.
This Black History Month and every month we would like to recognise and celebrate Esther for her role in keeping the Church Street community safe at a very challenging time.
- Kate Oboussier
Pam Fortune works in the Parenting, Programmes and Youth Participation Team at Westminster City Council.
I have the pleasure of working very closely with Pam facilitating the ‘Freedom Programme’ to women that have experienced or are still experiencing domestic abuse in the borough of Westminster. Pam always goes that extra mile in her work and is always on hand with a warm smile and outrageous laugh to keep everyone feeling cheerful, often in very stressful situations.
This Black History Month and every month we would like to recognise and celebrate Pam for the role she plays in making our community a better, brighter and safer place to live
- Sharon Bryan
Andrew Mederick is responsible for all the youth and community work at The Fourth Feathers Youth and Community Centre in Westminster. He is Westminster born and bred; he was born in Paddington and grew up in the Marylebone’s Lisson Green Estate. He started in youth work as a volunteer at age of 21, spent 15 years at North Paddington Youth Club and has worked at the Feathers since 2002.
The Youth Club offers children, young people and vulnerable adults 8 to 25years an extensive range of activities from football, dance, music studio to arts & crafts, ICT, healthy cooking, gardening, archery, non-contact boxing, fencing and skate park. A range of accreditation (& credits towards GCSE), training courses, traineeships, volunteering, placements and reparation opportunities are also on offer. It has over 500 members, from diversity backgrounds the majority live in the local area. Andrew and his team provide invaluable support to young people in the borough and he should definitely be recognised as one of Westminster’s local hero.
- Deborah Brown
I would like to Nominate Andrew Merick and all the team - Stephanie, Lynn, Sly, Janice, Tina, Fabio, Rasha, Jennah, Casey, Mohammed, Alexandra, Bradley, Alex and Keith at 4 Feathers Youth Club.
Andrew and the team provide opportunities for local children and young people to develop in a positive way that engages them through informal education, sporting, community outreach work, cultural events and recreational activities. Whilst the schools have been closed Andrew and his team have been working extra time around the clock to support parents and children in Westminster and in addition to this Andrew and the team have been making food parcels and delivering them to local residents who have been in desperate need. The team have put the community first in this time of need and have been an asset and enormous support to our Westminster residents.
- Sharon Blake
Trish John, lives and works in Church Street, Westminster. She has an amazing way of connecting with residents and the community.
She welcomes anyone visiting the Church Street Regeneration Office with the brightest smile and goes out of her way to help those in need. This was particularly evident during the pandemic when Trish volunteered to do grocery shopping and collect prescriptions for vulnerable residents.
This Black History Month and every month we would like to applaud Trish, for serving Westminster residents with a glad heart and grace.
- Stella Hales
Elizabeth Charles is a Facilities Coordinator who helps manage Westminster Community Halls across the borough. Liz has been working throughout the pandemic with our contractors and health safety to ensure our community halls had their risk assessments completed and were COVID-19 secure before reopening along with the rest of the team.
Since we have reopened few weeks ago Liz has been working closely with our community groups to ensure they are following the government guidelines. She is regularly monitoring groups and is guiding them though their bookings to ensure everything runs smoothly, and safely. This Black History Month and every month we would like to recognise Elizabeth for the integral role she plays in our local community and the assistance she provides to our customers on daily basis.
- Shaban Cevani
Natalie Hardie is incredibly supportive to many young people and families who have been excluded from mainstream education in Westminster.
Natalie works relentlessly to ensure that excluded young people are given as much support as possible in getting back into mainstream education by identifying their individual needs and addressing these needs creatively and efficiently within the small window of time that they are within her care.
Natalie also challenges the status quo where mainstream schools have been over-zealous in pushing young people into the Pupil Referral Unit environment, this approach has saved many young people from a negative trajectory and has increased their sense of self-worth.
Natalie has been a huge support to the families and communities within Westminster in times of sadness where young people have lost their lives to gang and serious youth violence. Her presence and heartfelt support have been massively appreciated by these families and communities.
As a professional who works within Westminster under the ending gangs and serious youth violence agenda, I can say from experience that Natalie Hardie is the difference that makes the difference in improving the lives and prospects of many young people and families who have been heading towards the margins of the community.
- David Savizon
Shelleen McCoy is a senior practitioner (social worker) in the Looked After and Leaving Care Service and for over 13 years has been working calmly and diligently to keep the children and young people of Westminster safe. We celebrate Shelleen for her ongoing work but for going that extra mile, during this COVID-19 pandemic, to prioritise the needs and demands of vulnerable Westminster children and young people, ensuring their wellbeing and safety but balancing these needs and rights against personal risk to herself and others.
- Uzoma Abalunam
Uzoma (Uzo) has been a Deputy Service Manager in Westminster Looked After Children and Leaving Care Service for a number of years. She has a warm radiant smile with “lipstick to match”. Uzo is a thoughtful, caring and dedicated leader. She is a tower of strength providing guidance and support to both service users and team members. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Uzo has gone the extra mile to keep team grounded (with her humour) and focused on delivering the best service possible to Westminster Looked After Children and care leavers.
- Marva Bryant
Sylvester is a City of Westminster/Bouyges staff member based at Westminster Adult Education Service in Lisson Grove. He has been working as a Janitor for three and a half years and always puts his heart into his work. He is an extremely hard worker and a good team leader and nothing is too much trouble for him. He greets staff and learners alike with kind words and a smile. He has stepped up to the post Covid-19 challenge: 'Better Cleaning - Stay Safe', taking it all in his stride.
Sylvester is also a great entrepreneur, producing and marketing jerk seasoning to his own recipe - a tasty treat that staff members have had the privilege to sample. This Black History Month and every month, we would like to recognise and celebrate Sylvester for the role he plays in making our teaching and learning environment a safe and pleasant place to study and work.
- Edeh Arinola
Laid (Oladipo Tokosi) who is our AAT (Associate in Arts in Teaching) Teacher. During lockdown he worked with over 80 learners to get them learning on a specialist platform to continue with their learning and got them all engaged.
In addition during July/August still at the end of lockdown he planned a series of examinations to ensure that they could successful complete their qualifications and be successful with finding work.
Such dedication to the role.
- Alison Muggridge
Maysie has responded fantastically during the lockdown period with our learners with High Needs and SEND which comprises of approximately 110 learners.
She managed to keep in touch regularly with all families and provide regular work packs and information for those needing paper based resources to continue their learning. In addition classes went on line and many were learning in the digital space which they had not done before for example our dance classes.
The learners quickly adapted to this new way of learning and engagement was maximised. Maysie coordinated the team to ensure learning continued, for these, our most vulnerable learners, the significance of which cannot be underestimated. For those that moved away with their family Maysie still stayed in touch to keep them abreast of our plans for September 2020. Her commitment to the role is second to none and this was rewarded in the end of year leader of the year award. Amongst all this Maysie still had her own teenage family at home studying to support and ensure that they also kept up with their studies! What a star.
- Alison Muggridge
Manni is a Flexible Gangs Worker working on the front line with young people and families involved in gangs and violence, engaging very hard to reach young people. Manni has been with the team since its inception in 2011 and prior to this was the sole person working with gangs in Westminster. Manni has worked tirelessly with young people families and communities to reduce risks. Manni brings enormous knowledge and a wealth of experience to the work and manages complex high risk situations of violence on a regular basis to make Westminster safer. He is an incredibly skilled group and family worker and always maintains a positive attitude that is appreciated by all he works with.
- Matthew Watson
Joseph is the Senior Flexible Gangs worker, working on the front line with young people and families involved in gangs and violence, engaging very hard to reach young people. Joseph has worked in the Unit since its inception in 2011. Prior to this Joseph worked in early help and has been with Westminster for over a decade.
Joseph has built strong relationships of trust with young people and professionals through his dedicated work and his personal knowledge and experience of gangs in Westminster, supporting the furthering of our understanding of this complex area.
- Matthew Watson
I would like to nominate Maurice Harris, a social worker in our Looked After Children and Leaving Care Service at Westminster City Council.
Maurice, a qualified social worker, has been a steady, calm and consistent support both to the children and young people under his care and to the colleagues he works with.
- Jonathan Turner
Richard is a City of Westminster Relationship Officer - Physical Activity in Community Services, supporting the activation of Westminster communities through unprecedented times, providing activity in safe spaces for all to be active and look after their health and wellbeing. Richard has been playing this important role for Westminster since 1994.
This Black History Month and every month we would like to recognise and celebrate Richard for the role he plays in making our community a better, brighter and happier place to live.
- Coreen Brown
Marva is a huge personality in children’s services at Westminster City Council, and I can always rely on her to tell me how things really are and she is a great advocate for staff. I really appreciate her honesty and use her feedback to improve my own practices.
- Sarah Newman
Naomi Ebanks is a passionate, dedicated social worker in child protection who recently went above and beyond to ensure a young person at risk of CSE was protected and things are going much better for them now.
We want to celebrate Naomi’s great work and enthusiasm in her 1st year as a social worker and also recognise Naomi’s contribution in that she helped the service reflect on issues of race and diversity by sharing her thoughts and a poem she wrote, inspired by the black lives matters movement.
- Alexander Taylor
Kim is an amazing professional that works over and above her role to support frontline staff. Kim has ensured Westminster City Council’s Frampton Street offices have been fit for staff and the community to safely continue to offer a frontline social care service to the children and families we serve, particularly at Lisson Grove area. This Black History Month and every month we would like to recognise and celebrate Kim’s contribution. Thank you Kim.
- Nasheen Singh
Nuno is a City Inspector working in the north of the borough. He has been ever present on the frontline during the height of the pandemic, never wavering throughout to ensure continuity of the public service during that difficult time.
Nuno consistently helps his team, residents and commercial traders alike. He is passionate about the work he delivers in Queens Park which is well documented with dog owners, ward councillors, residents and the Police.
We would like to recognise and celebrate Nuno for the role he played during the pandemic for both, his team and the local community. A great asset to Westminster!
- Kasia Pawelec
I would like to nominate Robert Cardoso.
Robert has worked for Westminster Children Services as Personal Advisor in the Leaving Care for many years. Throughout this time he has been committed and dedicated to Council and to the service users.
During the current Covid-19 pandemic. Robert’s unique creative, clam and supportive manner has helped in his drive to deliver an excellent service to Westminster Care Leavers. This has made them feel cared for, safe and valued.
- Marva Bryant
Samantha-Michelle is a Senior Financial Capability Officer on the Westminster Employment Service. She has been supporting our residents to maximise their incomes and become less reliant on benefits. We are really pleased with the feedback we receive from our service users and her recent participation in Church Street young people’s summer workshop series ‘Prep 4 Your Future’.
This Black History Month and every month we would also like to recognise and celebrate Samantha-Michelle for the role she plays in making our community financially capable.
- Kathryn Aluko
Tim and Linden have worked for Westminster’s Children’s Services for over 20 years, supporting children and young people with disabilities to engage in a variety of activities and social opportunities.
They have shown exceptional commitment, especially during recent times, often putting our children and young people’s needs ahead of their own personal endeavours. We would like to thank them for their continued dedication and support. Our team would be a little lost without them!
- Kayleigh Lloyd
Aramide is a Team Leader who has made an exceptional contribution to special educational needs and disabled young People for over 7 years. She goes above and beyond to create a safe, welcoming and inspiring environment, not only for our children and families, but her colleagues, too.
We celebrate your commitment this Black History Month, as well as every day. You bring a sense of warmth, calmness and joy to us all.
- Kayleigh Lloyd
Lyann is a social worker in Westminster’s Disabled Children’s Team. Lyann makes a positive difference to the lives of our most vulnerable children and their families in Westminster each and every day. No task or request is either too big or too small for Lyann who puts every effort to make sure everyone gets the help and support they need.
Lyann takes the time to listen to children and young people and makes sure their voice is heard when often others do not hear them. Parents and carers value the commitment and dedication that she shows to each of them and they know she cares and they see it as not just her doing her job! When they find themselves at times of challenge and difficulty Lyann is there beside them to support and to guide. Lyann does this all with great humour, warmth and with great skill.
Lyann is a colleague who sees you as a friend always offering to help.
- John Kelly
I wanted to share the story of an inspirational lady who has changed my sons life within a few months.
Debra Eden joined my sons school as his LSA to support him after some challenging times. He is autistic and he struggles to make relationships and build trust with new people but Debra Eden has had such a positive impact on him both to his learning and his mental health.
I honestly cannot thank her enough, she also strives to help other children in the school and the community who have special needs and goes above and beyond to ensure they all have access to communication tools.
- Lisa Lynch
I want to nominate Kathryn Aluko who is the Help Team Leader on the Westminster Employment Service.
Kathryn is dedicated, passionate and extremely hard working individual who seeks excellence in everything she does. Kathryn is a remarkable leader and inspires others to go above and beyond and always willing to supports those around her, putting them first.
The Help project which supports residents who are in temporary accommodation to employment and training opportunities is in safe hands!
- Sheba Khan