First Stephen Pittam awards given

The first winners of the Stephen Pittam Social Justice Award have been announced

From l: David Bass (chair of Quaker Service), Avila kilmurray Community Foundation for NI, local Friend Felicity McCartney, Grace Cassidy and Justine Kouame. | Photo: Photo courtesy of The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

The first winners of the Stephen Pittam Social Justice Award have been announced in Northern Ireland.  Justine Kouame of the Northern Ireland Community for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) and Grace Cassidy of the Belfast Mental Health Rights Group (BMHRG) were given the award for breaking new ground in providing a voice for largely unrecognised, marginalised groups.

The award is named after Stephen Pittam, a former secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT). It was set up by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI) in recognition of the important contribution made by JRCT in Northern Ireland.

At the award ceremony, which was held in Belfast on 14 November, Stephen Pittam spoke about how he first came to Belfast as a work camper on a children’s play scheme in the mid 1970s. He later returned for two years to be a community worker in West Belfast at the height of the civil conflict.

His work was largely funded by the Religious Society of Friends. As a staff member and later secretary of the JRCT Stephen Pittam continued to support people working for change.

Felicity McCartney, a Friend and retired member of the CFNI, praised the JRCT for its support for ‘progressive work for reconciliation and equality’ and its leading role during the civil conflict.

She said: ‘They often supported unpopular causes and innovative projects which were later taken up by other funders. This was a very important contribution at a time when morale was low and social problems seemed insurmountable.’

The award, CFNI state, also ‘celebrates Stephen’s personal contribution over many years’ and his willingness to promote ‘peacebuilding and reconciliation with local communities here over some of the most difficult times in our history.’

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