Good Neighbourhood Awards Member Stories

Good Neighbour Awards 2019 – uniting a Belfast neighbourhood over good food, company and conversation!

Written by Patrick Grier

Earlier this year we launched our search to find the UK’s best neighbours who are going above and beyond to help their communities as part of our Good Neighbour Awards.

Out of hundreds of nominations, six well-deserved neighbours were crowned the winners of Nextdoor’s Good Neighbour Awards 2019.

Today we want to share with you the inspiring story of Joanne Boal, a Nextdoor Lead and founding member from Ravenhill in East Belfast.

We first came to know about Joanne and her amazing efforts in bringing her community together, last year when she took on the challenge of organising an inclusive Royal Wedding celebration for her entire street. With the help of Nextdoor, Joanne was able to invite all 76 households to join the event, which saw neighbours, young and old, come together to enjoy good food, conversation and company. The event was such a success, Jo held another street party this year as part of our friends at the Eden Projects’ annual Big Lunch.

On the day Joanne organised a human-sized chess board which saw adults teaching the local children how to play, a nature table which taught children the value of growing plants and vegetables, a giant Jenga and lots and lots of tables of delicious food. 

Food plays a huge part of the Big Lunch and Joanne loves getting local businesses involved to help cater for the day. As she’s originally from a farming community, she recognises the value of sitting down and sharing a plate of food with her neighbours. Residents who weren’t originally from Northern Ireland were able to bring a dish native to their country, acting as a great talking point for them to meet their new neighbours. 

It would be an understatement to say that Joanne is simply a ‘good neighbour’,’ she goes above and beyond for everyone in her community. When one of her neighbours was having a difficult time, Joanne encouraged her to get involved with the Big Lunch and it helped her neighbour to really come out of her shell. Since, they have become the best of friends and Joanne has been able to be there for her when she has a hard time and supports her when she feels lonely. 

Joanne Boal pictured with neighbours, June, Rose and her dog Fonzie at her home on Reid Street, Belfast

Joanne has also helped her fellow neighbour, Mark, who lives a few streets away, with his own Big Lunch event. Mark has a learning disability and Joanne was a huge source of support and comfort to him during the day to ensure the event ran smoothly.

Joanne always wants to give back, so much so that for her recent birthday, she asked her friends and family to not give her gifts but to provide a donation to the charity Cancer Focus and helped to raise almost £1000 towards the cause!

Niamh Scullion, who nominated Joanne, said: “Joanne is one of those people in your community that makes things happen. Although not originally from the area, Joanne has worked incredibly hard to integrate not just herself into the community, but other residents who are new to the area. By running the annual Big lunch event, Joanne got to know pretty much everyone on her street. She invited all 76 homes on her street and all came together to celebrate good food, conversation and company. 

We feel everyone needs someone like Joanne in their neighbourhood. Thanks to her hard work on bringing the community together, it’s now not uncommon for neighbours to leave their front doors open. Leading by example, Joanne encourages anyone who needs her help to simply pop over, whether it’s to borrow a cup of sugar or have a chat, Joanne has time for everyone.

Joanne is the second profile in our Good Neighbour Award series and we hope her story will inspire neighbours across the UK to use Nextdoor in new ways to bring people together and make a difference to people’s lives. Stay tuned to find out more about our remaining winners.

Joanne and 5 year old Kalyn pictured at her home in Reid Street, Belfast

From starting groups to finding spare chairs for your event, Nextdoor is the place to organise a Big Lunch with neighbours local to you. Find out more here.

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