Jenny Steele and Kouame Kouakou - 'Rising stars'


Here at OBV, one of the aims is to help people gain knowledge and get engaged in the political process as well as take an active role in their communities.

One of OBV's initiatives, the Lewisham Civic Leadership programme is designed to nurture the next generation of leaders in the south London borough.

Run in partnership with Lewisham Council to address the deficit of BME individuals in key areas of public life, the aspiring civic leaders gain an insight into how they can make an impact, influence the decision making process and become 'warriors for social change'.

Many of those who took part in the programme have gone on to make a contribution to their communities and some are even being recognised for their achievements.

Earlier this week, Jenni Steele was recognised at the London Peace Awards hosted by London's Mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall. Steele, who took part in the Lewisham Civic Leadership programme in 2009/10 received her nomination for her community engagement work.

The Peace Awards forms part of the Annual London Week of Peace, which takes place between 18-25 September and is open to Londoners of all ages who have made a significant contribution to safety in the capital, whose achievements are recognised across 10 award categories.

In the wake of the London riots and community unrest, the Peace Alliance remains committed to showcasing the positive work of Londoners throughout the year whose contributions have increased community safety and developed civic responsibility in their local communities.

Steele also serves on the Safer Neighbourhood Panel, a committee that works with community officers to make their area safer. Earlier this year, she was honoured at the Make a Difference Awards, which recognises the contribution of people in Lewisham, winning the Supporting Others Award.

Another OBV alumni from the current Lewisham Civic Leadership programme is Kouame Kouakou.

The 46-year-old has been nominated for an Our Heroes Award by the South London Press as part of a campaign to recognise the achievements of South Londoners.

Kouakou was born in the French-speaking Ivory Coast and moved to England in 2000. He found it difficult with his limited grasp of English to understand of the way of life in the country.

Kouakou set up the Faressa Organisation in New Cross, to help French speaking African migrants improve their English and integrate into society. In the past eight years, the organisation has helped more than 2,000 people improve their language skills.

Kouakou has also organised cultural events to help members learn more about life in England. He also has a show on Voice of Africa Radio, discussing issues affecting African Londoners and is Vice Chair of his local tenants and residents association. The winners of the 'Our Heroes Award' will be announced on November 15th at a Gala Ceremony in London.

Francine Fernandes, Head of Shadowing Schemes for Operation Black Vote said,

Having worked with Jenni and Kouame it is no surprise to me that they have been nominated for these fantastic awards. They are both community trailblazers, tirelessly using their skills for the betterment of their community

Staff Reporter

Banner picture: Francine Fernandes with Kouame Kouakou