Journal: Roger Charles

Journal 1

Thursday, 1 October is a day I'll always remember; that's when I received my invitation to the civic leadership programme launch event.

Following a gruelling interview, I was one of 30 people chosen to take part in this prestigious programme; I was so excited. For many years I had dreamt of being more involved in my community but didn't know where to begin. It was by chance that my wife saw the programme advertised on Lewisham Council's website and brought it to my attention so I have her to thank for this also.

With speeches from Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, members of the Operation Black Vote team and many more, the launch event was an inspiration. It reminded me of my good fortune and I felt privileged to have been given the opportunity - an opportunity I'm determined not to waste - to participate in civic life and make a difference to the BME community.

I remember leaving the event on an amazing high and keen to get started. In fact at the first opportunity, I attended an assembly meeting chaired by local councillors. My journey had begun!

I was very surprised by the turnout (it was standing room only for latecomers) and the passion of local residents. They not only wanted to know what was going on in their community but were also keen to be part of the solution where there were troubling issues. Councillors were in the thick of it, disseminating information and taking comments to feedback to the decision makers. I looked at the way they managed the meeting and a little voice inside my head said: "I could do this."

The second event I attended was a housing select committee meeting. This was more formal than the assembly meeting. The committee is responsible for fulfilling all the overview and scrutiny functions relating to housing which calls for a good understanding of the subject. This was evident during the meetings with Councilors putting forward good suggestions to, for example, improve policy and, when necessary, asking those brought before the committee, the tough questions to help reshape their thinking on an issue.

It was a rather long and intense meeting - 2hrs 30mins without a break - that made me appreciate the dedication and passion of those committee members.

So two events in and I'm starting to get a feel for life as a civic leader…long hours and hard work but immensely rewarding. Is it for me? You better believe it.