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Meet Reverend James: HARCA’S very own Ambassador


We sat down and chatted to self-confessed "social media freak" Reverend James who works at Christ Apostolic Church in Chrisp Street Market. As well as being a resident, he served the HARCA Board for 10 years (until 2016) and has since become an Ambassador.

Reverend James is also involved in other external boards such as the National Housing Federation’s Tenant Advisory Panel, Chair of the Mile End Ward Panel, and Chair to the Burdett Estate Board. He is passionate about urging residents to get involved with their local community.

Can you tell us about your background and why you joined the board?

I used to live in Fitzgerald House and got involved with the Board because there were issues in my property. I decided to visit the office and caught the attention of several people including the Neighbourhood Director at the time. She was with Steve Stride (HARCA’s CEO) and they both came into my flat and said they understood what I was going through and advised me to go to the Lansbury South Estate Board. When I came to the meeting, they were speaking about a range of things so I decided that in the next meeting I would join. At the second or third meeting I was made Chair of the Services Committee. Fintan Tynan (HARCA’s Resident Empowerment Manager) informed me that I should join another committee so from the Services Committee I joined the main Board, and then became its Vice Chair.

I am interested in the community. Some people look at me and think when will I ever be tired? But I can’t because it is innate! I have a real passion for the community and want to keep improving and changing things.

What can you tell us about the role of a Poplar HARCA Board member?

I have been all over the country and find that other housing associations undermine their residents. HARCA is different and offers training which brings Board members together. I remember there was a lady who explained that getting an NVQ in Governance was her first qualification. On the Board, residents have the ability to ask questions and find out more about how the organisation is run as it is the role of members to bring the organisation to account.

What do you most look forward to when you attend meetings?

I look forward to seeing new things and listening to other people’s views because it changes my perception of things. When I go to board meetings I get myself prepared to ask questions as people ask me questions on the street. I look forward to Away days as it is very informal, relaxed and free event.

What did you enjoy most about being a Board member?

I loved the support that I got from the cleaners to Steve himself as you can do everything and anything. This is why I am friendly with everyone and they all know me. I am so proud of Poplar HARCA. It is a very good organisation and I’m not just saying that!

How important do you feel is it to be a member of the Board?

It’s very important! Sometimes I hear how we are struggling to find members but we should never be as it is very rewarding to be a Board member. When I look at things like Spotlight it makes me very happy. I started off so small and now feel like I’ve been given endless opportunities because of HARCA. I encourage Board members to be proactive to recruit members themselves which is something I did. I spoke to people so that they would become interested in being on the Board.

What can residents look forward to as Board members?

To be respected. There are also training opportunities available for Board members to strengthen and learn new skills as I was given executive coaching, mentoring, finance and asbestos training. It is key that Board members should feel empowered to serve their purpose.

What is an Ambassador, how did you become one and what do you enjoy most about the role?

It was at my final Board meeting that I was made an Ambassador which means I represent Poplar HARCA in any way. This is what happens when residents get involved as you never know the potential you have until someone sees it.

I really enjoy seeing others acknowledge Poplar HARCA. I have seen others say they want to work for HARCA which makes me feel happier, satisfied and fulfilled. It makes me want to remain as Ambassador!

"I am interested in the community. Some people look at me and think when will I ever be tired? But I can’t because it is innate! I have a real passion for the community and want to keep improving and changing things."