G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards - Meet the winner - Charlaine Nkum

At the inaugural G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards on 11 May 2022, Optivo resident Charlaine Nkum walked away with the Resident Hero Award. We caught up with Charlaine a few days after the ceremony to see how she was feeling.

Congratulations on your award. How did it feel to hear your name read out as the winner?

“First of all, I was so infatuated with seeing Dr Shola, I almost forgot about award! Hearing my name read out as the winner was so surreal. I recalled the things that I've been doing, and I remember turning to a colleague and saying, ‘are they talking about me?’ Tears were coming and I tried to hold it back. It was a really moving moment as it's the first time I've won anything. When you're doing community work, you don't think about winning an award, so it's overwhelming and really nice to be recognised for the work you do.”

What do you think housing providers can do to support residents like you working in their communities?

“I think it's about having presence and being accessible. Joining forces with residents is crucial. You may have lots of residents on benefits, so providing webinars and workshops on financial inclusion is good, and so are fun days and resources that make a difference. The work I've done is to bring Black, Asian and minority ethnic people back together again, restoring unity like it was back in the day. Housing associations have a role in aiding this work too. The challenges in communities and Covid has made things disjointed. I started the community fun days to bring people back together and to restore that love.”

When nominating you, Optivo colleagues said that you are known for your determination to support and empower others. Where does your motivation to do this come from?

“When you've gone through certain obstacles in life, it makes you stronger. I always try and be that person who wasn't there for me when I needed them. This can be by providing knowledge to get over a hurdle, or offering accessible support that wasn't there when I needed. That’s the motivation that I have, to do the work that I do. Time is not money, if I can give you my time, I will always give it. My gran was a motivator, she was always someone who said to help people.”

What do you think are the most critical things G15 member organisations can be doing to include and support minority ethnic residents?

“I think it’s equal opportunities. There are so many things that can be done to deliver inclusive leadership. When we are talking about progressing Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people in the workplace and providing training, we need to be mindful that minority ethnic people aren't incompetent - they don't always need training, they need opportunity. Inclusive recruitment, mentoring, so many different things can be done. The most important thing is that people have opportunities to flourish and to show the skills that may have been hidden. We need more events like the awards to empower Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people, particularly in housing, and it's so important and great to include residents as part of these awards.”

These were the first G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards, so what would be your message to anyone thinking of nominating a colleague for next year's awards?

“I would say maybe look at someone who appears selfless and puts others before themselves. Those who show a willingness to empower someone next to them. Those are key things that I'd look out for in someone to nominate.”

Finally, where is your award being displayed now?

“It's on the mantel piece in the living room, you come in and you can see it straightaway.”