Newly trained Community Champion John has lived in Brent for 59 years and grew up in the part of Harlesden he still calls home. Although he spent 22 years in the Army, John always came back to Harlesden when on leave and settled back here when he retired. The house John grew up in was a Victorian terraced ‘two up, two down’, but in the late 1970s his mother was moved into a new estate of prefab flats that have since been replaced by modern houses and flats.
In the last four years John has become more involved with Fortunegate Community Housing, and in turn, Catalyst Housing Group. He is currently unemployed, and taking part in the residents’ forum and volunteering as a block representative keeps him active. He feels his biggest achievement is getting recycling bins for the estate.
John heard about the [intlink id="1038" type="post"]Community Champions[/intlink] project from a member of Catalyst staff and thought it sounded interesting, especially as an opportunity to build on other training he has done with Catalyst. He really enjoyed the training and thought guest trainer Jonathan Ellis was “excellent, the sort of trainer you look for”. The training helped John kick-start his community garden project (creating a green space which residents will maintain themselves) and gave him the confidence to get going with something that had been at the back of his mind for a while. He wants to see his project succeed and if it does and Catalyst replicates it elsewhere, John wants to continue to be involved, helping out in other neighbourhoods and showing what can be achieved.
“Anything that improves a grotty area has got to be an achievement. A patch of grass is a patch of grass. If you can have a nice patch of flowers…what I like is seeing big patches of flowers, and especially the smell, and the butterflies. It’s wonderful, it cheers your soul up. Why can’t we have a bit of that?”