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Toynbee staff receive Freedom of the City of London

Published: 4 Feb 2014


On Friday 31st January, Sharon Millington, Portsoken Centre Manager and Shirira Khatun, Community Health Engagement Coordinator and Wellbeing Centre Coordinator at Toynbee Hall were awarded Freedom of the City of London in recognition of their work with city residents on the Portsoken estate. We caught up with Shiria to find out more...

Shiria has been working in the City with residents from the Portsoken estate for over 2 years. Working with hard to reach residents - mainly women who lack English skills - she has done an amazing job in reaching out to them and building up community engagement. As a result, these women are now participating in diverse activities and volunteering.

Deputy Councilman Henry Llewellyn Michael Jones, who nominated Shiria for this honour, said: “Her role is very crucial. Shiria has contributed immensely with regards to improving the health of the residents of Portsoken, through engaging with them and facilitating activities that residents want to do, as well as signposting them on to available services. Shiria’s hard work and commitment to the residents of the City has resulted in us awarding her the Freedom of the City, which she deserves.”

Shiria said: “I am honoured to have received this prestigious award which dates back over nearly 800 years. I was told by the Registrar that people like Florence Knightingale, Dame Judy Dench, Sir Michael Cane and many other important figures have received this award. Now for my name to be amongst those figures is an honour in itself.

“I want to be able to inspire women and young people and encouraging them to believe that through hard work and sheer dedication, one can achieve one’s dreams. I started helping people from the age of 11. When we first moved to the Burdett Estate in Poplar, I remember neighbours would come and ask if I could help fill out forms and act as an interpreter for them at doctor’s appointments. I soon realised how much I enjoyed helping people and later on made community work my profession.”

“Last but not least I want to thank the people I work with at Toynbee Hall and the City for this award and my husband for being my rock and supporter for the last 20 years.”

First recorded in 1237, the Freedom of the City of London is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today. Originally, it enabled its recipients to carry out their trade within the City of London, as well as granting privileges such as herding cattle over London Bridge across the River Thames or the right to a silk rope if hanged. In modern times, the honour is considered a recognition of valuable contributions made by people to public life in London.

Find out more about the Freedom of the City of London