What makes it happen: Leila’s journey to becoming a director of Banister House Solar


Banister 04

What a journey this has been. A journey that I had no idea would encompass so much and

that would go on for so long. A journey that started from the first moment I saw the poster

17 months ago about solar panel installation on the roof of Banister House Estate, to the

recent party with many of the investors celebrating the commissioning of the solar panels.

As more investors began to arrive I looked around at the beautiful tables that Ann (Director

of BHS) and Wilhelmena (fellow investor) had prepared and smiled at the artistry it displayed.

I looked around and felt a sudden upswelling of pride at what we had achieved. A group of

people from different backgrounds and walks of life had worked hard to get to this point,

and I felt privileged to be a part of it all.


As Agamemnon Otero (CEO of Repowering London) began to summarise our journey the

investors in the audience nodded with approval and smiled at his enthusiasm. For the first

time I walked up in front of the investors and made a speech without my notes and little

preparation. Caught up in the moment of excitement I spoke from the heart about what the

project has meant to me. I reiterated the importance of community organisations creating a

platform for local people to involve themselves in decisions that affect their community. I

spoke about the importance of providing paid training and work experience for local young

people, which would enhance their skills and add to their CV.

IMG_8614 (1)

Asked on the day if it had been difficult balancing the demands of being a volunteer with my

busy work and home life. I had to honestly say yes. It has been hard but worth every minute.

‘I wouldn’t have given so much of my time if it wasn’t something that I believed in’.

Another investor enquired about what I’d like to spend the community fund on. I told him

about the need for a youth club on the estate for local children to attend and participate in

various activities. With the distractions and dangers of local gangs, a safe environment for

children is sorely needed. I could almost see his mind working to envision what I had spoken


Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 13.16.32

A number of people spoke that day, but the two that stood out for me the most was my son

Jalil and Meg Hillier (MP for South Hackney). I’ve seen my son change from a troubled boy

to a mature young man over the past year and a half. Watching him recount his experiences

and what he’d gained from the internship programme showed me how far he’d come.

When I recently asked him and my daughter Aisha about how they felt about the project

coming to an end, both responded by saying they were a little sad. They’d both participated

in various activities and workshops under the mentorship of Agamemnon, and both felt

they’d learned a lot from the experience. Both expressed an interest in wanting to be

involved in other local projects, something I echoed during my speech. I know that this

project will be a benefit to our estate and want others to benefit from this kind of

community building too.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 13.05.18

It was great to have the support of Meg Hillier who genuinely seemed to support Banister

House Solar and understand the impact such projects can have in local communities. I really

hope that this pilot can be rolled out across the borough. People need to feel that they are a

part of determining their own future and can have a say in what happens in their

surroundings. Young people need to see that they matter and have a voice. This has been a

step forward in helping communities to come together and get involved in making decisions

about their own area. I look forward to working on the next project.


On a final note, for those of you who were at the commissioning party, you may have

realised that Agamemnon had more to say when he introduced me and spoke briefly about

my journey. When I first started attending meetings, I was in the process of attempting to

leave an unhappy marriage. I had little confidence and self-worth and have since undergone

a tremendous journey that has allowed me to grow not only in my understanding and skills.

But also in terms of myself as a person. Being part of this project has been a positive focus

outside of my family and work, and has given me confidence, self-worth and purpose. I’ve

been able to transfer these into my everyday life, enabling me to take positive steps forward

with regards to my family, personal development and career.


So when we talk about building communities, this also includes building the self-worth of

individuals like me, who can now look forward to a brighter future.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.