Women of Distinction were honoured in a special award ceremony by mental health charity IRIE Mind. The ceremony took place at IRIE Mind headquarters at The Hub on Homerton Row in Hackney, East London on Thursday 12th October 2023 and saw 6 members from the London Area of 6C Seventh-day Adventist Churches honoured among the 26 women awarded on the day for services to the community in Hackney and the City of London.
Launched in October 2019, IRIE Mind is a mental health initiative run by and for the African-Caribbean community which works to champion black mental health, providing community based solutions in the Hackney area as well as within the City of London. IRIE stands for Inclusion, Respect, Integration and Empowerment. IRIE Mind Director, Nichola Lauder introduced each of the community leaders with the awards presented by Hackney Councillor Carole Williams who at the time of writing was Cabinet Member for Employment, Human Resources, Equalities and Windrush.
Beautine Wester received an award in acknowledgment of the services the E5 Baby Bank at the Clapton SDA Church provided to young families in need during the pandemic and beyond.
Brenda Nelson and Eileen Philip, members of Hackney SDA Church, shared a fascinating story. Not only had they gone to the same school together and later went on to have two sons but they also ended up being in the same hospital at the same time (though on different wards) during a time of mental ill health. But their story did not end there. After recovering from mental ill health, their paths would once again cross at the Hackney SDA Church where they would get baptized and then work together on a lifesaving service user programme created by Eileen called ABWA which means A Better Way Ahead which met the needs of others experiencing mental ill health. In 2002, Eileen received an invitation to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster by Oona King MP, for her contribution to Breaking the Cycles of Fear: A Review of the relationship between Mental Health Services and African and Caribbean communities by The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, with some of its key recommendations for change included in government policies.
Jacqueline Paton, a member of the Stoke Newington SDA Church and chef extraordinaire received an award for the community work she does for IRIE Mind. She also accepted an award on behalf of Eileen Lenton who created the Stoke Newington SDA Community Open Door Drop-In Centre, which meets the various needs of the community it serves there.
Hackney SDA Community Ministries Leader, Vilma Williams, received an award for her many years of dedication and service to the needs of the local Hackney and wider Central London community through the Hackney SDA Church Foodbank as well as a community outreach and feeding programme to the many homeless to be found within areas of Central London.
Councillor Carole Williams, who herself received an award for her many years of service within Hackney Council said: “I was truly honoured to join IRIE Mind’s ‘Saluting Our Sisters of Excellence Awards’ to celebrate the outstanding contributions of talented, compassionate, and dedicated women to our community. Their impact is immeasurable and I felt humbled to stand alongside such remarkable individuals. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all these unsung heroes who’ve devoted themselves to their work, often without recognition. Well done to all involved.”
IRIE Mind Director, Nichola Lauder, the recipient of an award last year from the British Union Conference Community Services Department (BUC) and the charity One Vision for services to the community, said in a joint statement with colleague, Collette Alleyne: “It was our ultimate privilege to ‘Salute Our Sisters,’ unsung heroines of the Hackney community as so often we miss what is before our very eyes and look across the pond to those who are in the limelight. Here’s to a Community of Dedicated and Talented Women of Distinction.”