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Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell on Big Society tour

Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir, Neasden

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Andrew Stunell has kicked off a tour
of local communities with visits to Black and Minority Ethnic projects.

Network of Faith

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell visited the largest Hindu temple in the
western hemisphere to see how it benefits the local community.

The hub that is the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir, based in Neasden, North
West London, is well used by the community and visited by people of all faiths.

The temple is a focal point for activities and support services, not only for
Hindus but for the wider community and local businesses; recent community open
days aimed to extend the temple’s networks into the surrounding area. Schools
visit to learn about Hindu culture, traditions and heritage.

Mr Stunell’s visit started with a Hindu ceremony of tying a band of strings
– called nada chhadi – around his wrist; applying a vermilion mark, called
chandlo, to his forehead; and placing a garland around his neck.

The minister was also shown an exhibition highlighting the temple’s community
involvement, which includes empowering young people, working with community
leaders, encouraging volunteering and looking after the elderly.

Role Models Graduate

“Everyone, no matter what their background, should have the opportunity
to rise as far as their talents will take them.” Communities Minister Andrew
Stunell addressed the graduates of a scheme that helps people of all ethnic
backgrounds achieve their potential.

First Steps and Black on Board programmes, both supported by Communities and
Local Government, offer training and support for people from ethnic minorities
starting up social enterprises or looking to achieve places on management boards
in the housing, education and health sectors.

The knowledge and skills that participants acquire enable them to get involved
in improving their local area and play a more active part in the Big Society.

Mr Stunell praised the scheme and outlined the Government’s commitment to equalities
and to building an ‘opportunity society’, in which barriers to social mobility
are pulled down.

The coalition agreement sets out a commitment to improve levels of enterprise
in ethnic minority communities and offer internships to under­represented
minorities in every Whitehall department.

“This government wants to unlock the potential that’s out there and enable
people to succeed and to make a difference in their neighbourhoods.”

Andrew Stunell said:

“All today’s graduates are in their own way role models and will be powerful
examples for young people from all ethnic communities and circumstances, as
they encourage the next generation to aim high and demonstrate what can be achieved
through talent, determination and commitment. I congratulate all today’s graduates
and wish them every continued success.” He concluded.

The graduation recognised the achievements of 40 individuals, predominantly
from minority ethnic backgrounds, who completed the training programmes.

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