Ian, Leeds

Ian Charles is 77 and is from Chapeltown in Leeds. He’s been volunteering in his local community for over 40 years and is even the proud holder of an MBE for his community work - a real volunteering champion!

Ian came to the UK in 1954 after having been a teacher in Trinidad where he worked as a land surveyor for thirty years for the local coal board.

Ian’s background in teaching led to an interest in working with young people. Noticing that there was no where specific for the West Indian community to go, together with some more people from the community, Ian set about creating a centre for the young people to study. They gave up their free time on Saturday morning and soon the centre became a real place for the West Indian community in Chapeltown to call their own. It took over five years to set up and opened in 1982.

Now the West Indian Centre is a modern venue that holds a whole host of activities – from a luncheon club and celebrations for special occasions to NHS check ups and running different cultural services, the centre is a place for every person in the local community to call their own.

Ian says,

“I want to seethe West Indian centre continue as a place where the local people want to come to mix with other people from the community – we are now looking for funding to extend it and make it more modern so even more people come and access all the important local things that we do here.”

Not only managing the day to day running of the centre but Ian also voluntarily coordinates the famous Leeds West Indian Carnival, in fact he was one of the people that set it up 42 years ago.

On what he gets out of volunteering, Ian says,

“Seeing the West Indian Carnival develop into an incredibly famous festival that attracts over 100,000 visitors each year makes me so proud and happy. It’s wonderful to know that I have helped bring the spirit of the West Indies to the UK where British people from across the country can join in our amazing culture. The centre means that I am really involved in my all the goings on in my local community and providing a place for it all to happen means everyone else is too – community spirit is so important.”