London, UK: A charity which brings people of different faiths together to make friends and change their communities has given more than £400,000 to small community groups and faith organisations in just over 18 months.
The Near Neighbours fund began distributing small grants in Birmingham in September 2011 and since then has made 120 awards to fund new projects that help build friendships in the city and encourage social action among people from different faiths.
Projects include a women’s drumming project, leadership training for young people, support for older people living at home, lunch clubs, playschemes, community clean-ups and storytelling.
Grants awarded span thirteen wards in the city and awards have been made to the Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian communities. On average, each project is thought to bring over 100 new people together with potential for building deeper, trusting friendships that in turn strengthen communities and neighbourhoods.
The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt. Revd David Urquhart, said: “This project is vital in a city like Birmingham where we enjoy a super-diverse population and benefit from the richness of many cultures, faiths and ethnicities sharing the same spaces.
“Bringing local people together to build friendships will change individual lives and the lives of communities for ever as misunderstandings are confronted and prejudices broken down.
“Small amounts of money are making a big difference across the city and I hope the work of Near Neighbours, and initiatives that encourage us to share our lives and resources, continue to flourish.”
Near Neighbours is funded by the Government Department for Communities and Local Government and administered through the Church Urban Fund, the Church of England’s arm to tackle inequality. It will continue to distribute grants until October 2013. Anyone interested in applying for Near Neighbours funding should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.near-neighbours.org.uk.