By Lottie Kilraine
A newly-appointed MBE has dedicated her honour to her family who arrived in Britain from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation.
Monica Barnes, chairwoman of the Resident Strategy Group at housing association Optivo, which has properties in South London, was named in the New Year’s Honours for her work in the social housing sector.
Monica, who works entirely unpaid, has spent more than a decade leading one of the most successful tenant involvement approaches in the sector and ‘gone well beyond the call of duty, consistently demonstrating an exceptional selflessness and dedication’.
She said: “This is a lovely honour, but it’s also dedicated to my family and friends, both past and present.
“I’m from Jamaica and lost my own mother aged seven. I was brought up by my father and my aunt – my mother’s sister.
“My aunt had an opportunity to come to the UK in 1954 as part of the Windrush generation and took me with her. Housing was a major issue at the time.
“My own personal experiences and being an involved resident at Optivo have helped me fully appreciate the importance of good housing for people’s emotional, social and physical wellbeing.
“As an involved resident, you don’t give up hours of your time to be recognised – you do it because you want to make a difference.
“We’ve all worked hard to improve services over many years, so it’s a real joy to see our work recognised like this.”
Monica spent her career as a youth worker, setting up the Tulse Hill Youth Forum and projects to tackle youth crime in some of South London’s most deprived communities.
Pictured top: Monica Barnes, MBE, chairwoman of the Resident Strategy Group at Optivo, and Optivo chief executive Paul Hackett, who also made the honours list and has been awarded the CBE
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