Charity makes itself Visible to community

A CHARITY in West Hampstead is celebrating after becoming only the third organisation to win a prestigious national award

A CHARITY in West Hampstead is celebrating after becoming only the third organisation to win a prestigious national award.

David Howell, director of the West Hampstead Community Association in Mill Lane, picked up the Visible Communities award at a recent ceremony.

The prize is for groups that are run in a professional and efficient manner.

Mr Howell said: "We're the third out of a potential 4,500 community associations nationwide, as well as 8,500 village halls and countless other community organisations, to satisfy all the criteria and receive the award - and it was hard.

"The award is designed to give grading assurance to local authorities, the public and organisations that we're delivering services in an appropriate and lawful way, so you must show evidence of your policies on equal opportunities, health and safety, contracts of employment and disciplinary procedures etc.

"The award is vital so that funders can see you're fulfilling your responsibilities in a proper manner."

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The centre is at the heart of the community in West Hampstead and runs a series of events and programmes such as the annual Jester Festival on Fortune Green.

It also has a charity shop and internet café on Mill Lane.

And for Mr Howell the work can certainly be varied. "I sometimes have to clean the toilet myself. I've just spent three days sanding down the wood floor and re-varnishing it. And then on another day I'll be in the Prime Minister's office representing the voluntary sector. We also run Bricks, which is a Bosnian and Kosovan refugee society, and host hundreds of classes such as IT and accounting training."

The Community Matters Becoming Visible scheme was launched in 2006 to provide a quality assurance standard in the community sector.

Chief executive David Tyler said: "It's basically a performance measurement.

"It's very difficult to achieve mainly because community centres are multi-purpose, so they're involved in lots of different things.

"West Hampstead is certainly well-renowned in the community association sector - after all, it's one of only four associations in the country that has so far achieved the Visible award.

"I think Dave's leadership there has been exceptional and I've got a lot of respect for WHCA.

"He has really helped them to be useful in a changing community because West Hampstead is an increasingly affluent area of London and to be able to stimulate community activity in a changing local demographic is tremendously difficult.