01 July 2011
Pick up any paper and you'd think there wasn't anyone in the world willing to help someone in need - let alone go out of their way to do something extraordinary. But the organisers of the 2011 Inspire Awards know different. Rebecca Taylor brings us a taste of the nominations so far...
Run by Inspire magazine and the Evangelical Alliance, this year's Inspire Awards panel are looking for examples of the thousands of ways they know churches and individuals are bringing hope to many.
We've received a wide variety of nominations including detached street work with young people in Bolton, interactive lessons with schools in Bexley, and work with recovering addicts in Weston-Super-Mare. Other nominees include those working on issues of domestic violence, fundraising in the UK for gypsy communities overseas, drama and creative arts work with non-church communities and street pastor volunteers in York. Real people making a real difference. And we are looking for more outstanding entries that will inspire others to do the same.
Located in the south-east of the UK's second city Birmingham, Springfield has a rich mix of cultures, but it also has higher than average levels of deprivation. Inspired to help, a local church has been tackling the area's poverty and inequality head-on. Nominating the project for an award, Reverend Thomas Thomas said: "The Springfield Project has been working for over 10 years in a deprived, multi-ethnic, multi-faith area to deliver high quality services to local children, young people and families - it has enabled good community relations to flourish while also serving families in genuine need."
Partnering with the city's council to run a children's centre in 2008, St Christopher's Church in Springfield has been running services for the community since 1998 - initially through a Play and Stay group for mums.
With the area being in the top 20 per cent of the most deprived parts of Birmingham and having one of the highest infant mortality rates in the city, the church wanted to demonstrate God's love through a service to the community.
Soon after starting the Play and Stay group the church saw that families also needed support in other areas. Angie King, head of centre at the Springfield Project, says: "It became clear that families had other pressing needs such as nursery places for children to progress into, and support with issues, often associated with the effects of poverty. The project found funding, employed a manager and started to develop its services."
Providing those services to more than 1,000 children under five and their families, the work that St Christopher's has been doing in particular with the Pakistani Asian community has been widely recognised with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams opening the Springfield Centre in 2008.
If it were not for the Springfield Project, mum Um-Hamza believes her life, and that of her son, would be very different: "I want my son to have a fulfilled and innocent childhood, to be safe and secure. Life can be difficult in many ways for families but the Springfield Project offers a haven of security and of protection, and is helping us all to work towards a healthier and happier society. It should be thanked for what it does."
Asked about how she felt about the project being nominated, Angie said: "I feel excited and humbled. The Springfield Project is able to make a difference to the lives of young children and their families because of the support it receives: support from St Christopher's Church, our staff and volunteer team and parents who use our services. Being nominated for this award recognises the value of this contribution, people of different faiths and none, helping to transform our community and create a better future for our children."
Zac's Bar is a project run for young people in Farnworth, near Bolton. Set up in 1995 by the Sycamore Project and open six days a week, it provides vital services to more than 700 young people who may be in trouble and have nowhere else to turn. It also runs youth clubs, holiday clubs and after-school activities.
Mrs Daeth from Ludlow who nominated the project for an Inspire Award said: "Since they have been working there the police have found there is less crime in the area and it has made a real difference. The young people often stay on and become volunteers. It is such an important thing to have in an area like this."
With the area affected by alcohol, drugs and crime, a place to come and talk is vital for many. Stuart Barnes, who set up the project, says that because the young people know the staff they feel comfortable talking to them.
"The biggest issues for young people are lack of aspiration, hope and confidence and low self-esteem. It's these things that often work their way out through drugs and alcohol," he explains. "I think the reason that it works so well is that the young people know the youth workers and have confidence in them and aren't being referred to someone they don't know."
Zac's Bar is housed in a dilapidated wine bar in Farnworth, one of the poorest towns in the country. Establishing a non-alcoholic bar and learning workshops on life issues, the project runs activities for children with physical and learning disabilities and with the local Asian Muslim community.
Stuart adds: "There were a number of us involved in church-based youth work -trying to reach out to non-churched kids and finding that the church building was a barrier. The inspiration was to have somewhere on the high street run by Christians but for all young people - suitable for everyone."
"The inspiration was to have somewhere on the high street run by Christians but for all young people - suitable for everyone."
Stuart has seen the impact of the work. One girl came to the project and wouldn't take guidance and was continuously banned. After waiting for her friends to leave the centre, she would hurl abuse at the staff and go to the park to drink and do drugs. But then something changed.
"When it started getting colder she would come to the Bible study sessions as an excuse to stay out of the cold, but something had changed and she began to come along every week. She started going along to the local church youth group. A year later she decided to give her life to Christ. She has completely changed her life around and now is an active member of her church and volunteers with our special needs young people."
But times are not always easy and Stuart says that faith among him and his staff has really made sure the project has carried on. "There are also pretty tough times when there is no money to get paid or the young people are struggling. When I started out 12 years ago it was just me and an idea. Now we are working with more than 700 young people, have 12 staff, 50 volunteers and we are opening another centre with a third in the pipeline. It's only through faith that we have kept going. I was very surprised to be nominated. We don't go out for recognition but it's brilliant."
You can nominate in three categories:
- An individual Christian in the UK who is an inspiring role model
- A UK church making a dynamic impact on its local community
- A UK-based Christian-run project serving its local area
There'll be a wall plaque and prize for the winners in each section: £250 (for individuals), £250 of CPO resources (for churches) and £250 of training from the Evangelical Alliance (for projects) - plus a prestigious awards event in Westminster later in the year for the shortlisted entries.
How to enter
Make your nomination using the form on our Inspire Awards pages, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send them to Inspire Awards, Evangelical Alliance, 186 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BT
And remember - we're looking for outstanding entries that will prove an inspiration to others!
Stories of some of the entrants will be featured in idea and Inspire magazine over the coming months - as well as on our websites - before the entries are judged and shortlists drawn up. The winners will be announced at a presigiious awards event, hosted by MPs, in Westminster in November.