The Council’s highest possible honorary award has been bestowed on Community Links’ co-founder and Life President Kevin Jenkins, and Val Fone who has worked with Community Links since 1980.
At Newham Council’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), held last week at Old Town Hall Stratford, Kevin and Val were two of 11 local recipients bestowed with honours in recognition of their contribution to Newham.
Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: “We offer them sparingly, but when we do, they are awarded to remarkable people. Each recipient has made a significant contribution to Newham life past and present. All are ambassadors, helping to improve how we are perceived locally, nationally and internationally.”
Since the formation of the London Borough of Newham in 1965, only 17 Freedoms have been conferred (one to our own Frances Clarke) and only four people have been conferred with the title of Honorary Alderman. Kevin Jenkins, who received an OBE in 1996 was awarded both Honorary Freedom and the title of Alderman during the special event on Thursday for his contribution and work with local people of Newham over the past 30 years.
In recognition of Kevin’s distinguished service to the Borough of Newham, the council outlined his achievements, which are as follows:
Few people can have given more to Newham than Kevin Jenkin OBE. He has served local people with tireless devotion through 28 years as a Newham councillor and through his work at Canning Town care charity Community Links.
Kevin co-founded Community Links in 1977 and became Life President on stepping down from a full-time position last year. He has provided opportunities for thousands, particularly the most excluded, enabling them to build trust and confidence and overcome challenges they faced.
Kevin’s work is shared as best practice across the country and is based on a belief that investing in children and young people should be at the heart of any drive to regenerate an area and build cohesion and inclusion in a community. This includes projects that divert young people away from crime and offer support to reduce repeat offending. Kevin has also brought new money into Newham, securing external funding for 12 community facilities.
In 1996 Kevin was awarded an OBE for his work at Community Links. In 2008 he won the Beacon Prize, known as the Nobel Prize of the charity world. Kevin also has supported innumerable emerging community organisations to develop themselves, including Newham Consortium for Youth, Newham Drugs Advice Service and the Newham Bereavement Centre. He has also worked tirelessly with Brampton School, the Rainbow Community Centre, the Greatfield Residents Association and the Dying Well group.
Val Fone, director of Action & Rights for Disabled People in Newham was awarded Honorary Freedom by Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales. Action & Rights for Disabled People began life as a Community Links project in 1980 and has been based at Community Links’ building as an independent organisation ever since. One of our rooms at 105 is named after Val’s late husband Doug to recognise the importance of their work and of Val and Doug’s contribution to Community Links.
Val’s achievements which have been recognised by Newham council are outlined below:
Valerie Fone has worked for disabled people’s rights for almost 40 years as a community worker, a carer and as a local councillor. She was elected to Newham Council in 1994 and 1998 in Greatfield ward.
Val, initially with late husband Doug, set up and led the Action and Rights of Disabled People in Newham organisation, a cross impairment disabled people’s organisation that promotes equality. It also helps co-ordinate the Newham Transport Action Group.
Val exemplifies the charity’s aim of ensuring that disabled people are not prejudiced based on their impairment. It also ensures their full equality in Newham’s mainstream activities.
Val and Doug, who lived with multiple sclerosis, were pivotal in campaigning for equal access for disabled people including access to East Ham Town Hall and to council meetings. As a council we believe that every Newham resident has an equal right to play a full part in our community. That we take this for granted today is due in no small measure to Val’s brave and, at the time, ground-breaking work.
Val continues to work tirelessly to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against in any setting: public, private or voluntary, or in any context be it employment, leisure or services. She has never, in her various roles, sought special treatment for disabled people, instead she has worked to ensure that disabled people experience full equality in everything that our borough has to offer.
Val has truly devoted her life to others and has been instrumental in patiently and doggedly shifting attitudes towards disabled people in Newham and in systematically addressing the practical barriers that would otherwise restrict opportunity and limit participation in the life of our borough.
Download a copy of the commemorative publication from the London Borough of Newham