Eleanor receives her MBE

Eleanor receives her MBE

 Thu, December 14, 2017

On Monday, 11th December, our CEO, Eleanor was awarded an MBE at the Mayoral Chamber in Camden Town Hall - hosted by the Mayor of Camden Cllr. Richard Cotton. Mr Kenneth Olisa, Her Majesty's representative, presented the award to a delighted Eleanor and her citation was read by HRH Lord Lieutenant of Camden, Sir Ian Johnson.

Here is a bit of background information on the amazing work Eleanor has done over the last 30+ years: 

Eleanor Botwright (nee Garvey), of Irish nationality, married with two very young children and on a low income as a part-time catering worker, was extremely concerned at the lack of affordable (free) children’s services and activities in her local area. All that was available to the local children and families was a worn out playground in her local park called Little Wormwood Scrubs in Shepherds Bush in the mid-1970’s.

After talking with many local parents, Eleanor took it upon herself to change this and began to rally round friends and local businesses to raise money to buy a shed to be placed in the local park, which she then filled with donated toys and equipment to open a one- o’clock-club for local parents and toddlers. Another outcome was that children played with toys their parents may not have been able to afford. The one-o’clock-club built community cohesion, as local people took pride in it and used it regularly; this, in turn, helped to reduce loneliness and isolation and increased local people’s social connections. Due to its success, money was raised to build a permanent club in the park, to the delight of local residents and children. Eleanor also helped organise many street parties and social trips with many local residents and became a real community connector during the mid to late 1970’s.

This first community project built the foundations in Eleanor’s confidence and passion in becoming a steadfast leader in social cohesion and developing local community spaces & facilities for those most deprived in areas where she lived and worked.

In 1985 Eleanor applied for a new job role in Camden to start a new community association in the heart of Camden Town, an area known to the local community as Castlehaven. A group of radical local residents sought funding through Camden Council to register the local charity and employ an experienced community development manager to create a new space for their community to gather and grow. This was the beginning of the award-winning and well-loved Castlehaven Community Association.

In the past 30 years, the Castlehaven Community Association has been a passion of Eleanor’s and she has raised a tremendous amount of funding to build its community buildings, parks and provide employment to a number of local people. Through this Castlehaven has continued to hold free or affordable activities for all ages from cradle to the grave. Through the years these have helped improve thousands of local families, babies, children, youth, adults, disabled and older people’s lives.

 By working closely with numerous local and national charities, government think tanks, local councillors, the police, local and national funders and businesses, Eleanor has built strong relationships and partnerships in improving Castlehaven’s reputation for providing innovative, inspiring and popular services for the local community to thrive from. She has fought numerous planning applications, attended thousands of strategic meetings, lobbied, petitioned and marched for local campaigns and made hard decisions when funding cuts hit a couple of much loved Castlehaven services.

 Her determination in fundraising for Castlehaven has also helped them to support those in most need by offering free monthly solicitors advice sessions, local councillors’ surgeries, distribution of Food Bank vouchers, hate crime CLASP LGBT support, Iraqi Elders Refugee Support Group, ESOL classes, Youth Disability Projects, Soup Clubs, CAF advice and IAG for young people. Castlehaven continues to improve employment of local people, by providing training for young people to get jobs, perform on stage, record their own music and learn how to be what they want to be in the future. Through partnership projects, Castlehaven has also been able to provide over 60 international interns a chance to volunteer for a short period of time within all the projects meeting local people of all ages and abilities, which has proved a real success.

In the last couple of years Castlehaven, like thousands of charities, are finding new ways to raise funding to survive these times of austerity. Ever forward-thinking Eleanor had her fingers on the pulse and along with the trustees wrote a sustainability business plan, so that Castlehaven will be self-financing in the next five years; using current assets, building up lasting CSR partnerships and starting social enterprise businesses in the local area. Employing local unemployed people providing them with needed training and opportunities. Castlehaven has one successful social enterprise currently running with an estimated £100K income in its first year, by using their full-size floodlit Astroturf pitch for private bookings at peak times, another inspiring fundraising idea by Eleanor.

Through Eleanor’s connections in the local community and the voluntary sector, she has been able to reach out to local businesses to help Castlehaven’s future with amazing success. Through innovative projects and events, Castlehaven has become a leading charity working with Corporate Social Responsibility Business partners. In 2013 Castlehaven’s CSR partnership with ZenithOptimedia (local advertising company) won two awards, the first was the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award for Social Inclusion. And the second was the Camden Business Award for Best CSR and Charity Partnership. Winning both these awards raised Castlehaven’s profile and since then they have worked with numerous businesses and companies by offering them opportunities to reach out and help those less fortunate than themselves through community events – tea parties, sports days, teddy bear picnics, gardening, tea and technology sessions and employment skills for young people.

Eleanor has raised millions of pounds (approximately 17 million throughout her 38-year career and volunteering) for Castlehaven and other local/national charities/projects who’ve gained from her expertise, training and guidance.  This is an amazing achievement, which should be acknowledged and awarded. Eleanor’s sheer determination and commitment in ‘doing the right thing’ since the early 1970’s for her local community has made her an inspirational, innovative and respected leader within the voluntary sector and campaigning for a better way of life for local urban communities to live together cohesively.

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