Joan is our community hero

2 April 2019 | Midlands

Pride of Birmingham Award winner Joan Campbell with Benjamin Zephaniah and Harry Kirton

Public spirited grandmother has devoted her whole life to helping others.

Joan Campbell is the epitome of community. She has devoted her whole life to helping others, from helping to tackle the scourge of gang warfare in Birmingham to supporting families in crisis.

The 55-year-old grandmother has brought families of warring gangs together and works tirelessly to help young people and families who have been victims of crime.

She says: "I am a big, black and bossy woman. I use my character to get people to listen to me and make a difference.”

Her phenomenal public spirit is why she we was honoured at last week’s star-studded Pride of Birmingham Awards which we partner. TSB is all about championing community spirit - something Joan has in spades.

Pride of Birmingham celebrates the city's unsung heroes, and Joan was awarded the TSB Community Partner Award, which honours people who help others, so the whole community can thrive.

Joan, who is currently battling lung cancer, is the director of Community Vision, the not-for-profit organisation she formed after leaving the probation service. It helps families in crisis or affected by crime. She runs it with her two daughters Simone and Tonia.

But her devotion to helping others stretches back even further. Eight years ago Joan and community worker Camille Ade-John got together in an effort to halt gang and gun crime in Birmingham. They set up a support group for parents who have lost children through gang violence or whose children are at risk of joining gangs in the city.

The Birmingham Family Forum brought together parents of young people in opposing gangs, including the notorious Johnson Crew and Burger Bar Boys.She also sits on the Birmingham Commission Against Gangs and Violence.

At Community Vision, she works with people to help them reach their full potential but the organisation’s main focus is their victim support service. It works with victims of serious crime, including murder, hate crime, domestic violence and gang violence.

She says: “I might get a call that there has been a homicide. We will then get in touch with the families involved and offer our services including counselling.”

For youngsters involved in gangs, she feels society needs less judgement, and more compassion.

“We work with young black men in this situation. These are youngsters who don’t feel like they have any value. We need to stop labelling them and show them they do have value.

“They have bought into a negative identity. It takes a lot of work to go back and unpick that and get them to understand they have a positive role to play in life."

One element of Community Vision's success is that they work with the whole family to reach troubled teens. “We work with the parents, and show them how their behaviour can impact on their children. With the young people, they might have been excluded from school. There is nothing to challenge their mindset, and they are often left to roam the streets where they getting into the clutches of the gangs.

“But every person involved in negative or challenging behaviour can change their ways if they have an adequate support system put in place.”

Brave Joan continues her work despite her serious health problems. While waiting to have her third cycle of chemotherapy last July, she suffered a massive stroke which left her partially paralysed and in a wheelchair.

But she refuses to step back from her work helping others. She says: “There is an African saying that it takes a village to bring up a child. I will always be a villager with a village mentality and believe that I have a role to play in the community. I just want to get on with it.”

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