It started life in a small corner shop in Beeston 17 years ago.
But it has grown to become a beacon of positivity in an inner-city community that is finally healing from past traumas.
The Hamara Centre in Tempest Road is more than just a community centre. As business development manager Habib Khan explains: “The word Hamara says it all. It means ‘ours’ in Urdu.
“It’s about our community, our problems in the community, and our successes in the community. Hamara is really important in the community. It is a hub in south Leeds. It’s not just a building, it’s a building with a life.”
From its humble beginnings, with a simple aim of producing a meeting point for local South Asian elders, Hamara has grown into a genuine unifying force across racial, religious and generational divides.
The centre runs a variety of projects which are vital in building bridges and encouraging community cohesion.
Successes have included mentoring projects aimed at NEETs - young people not in education, employment or training - and another working with former street gang members.
Healthy living schemes, older people’s groups, women’s projects, sports initiatives and a new community cafe are among other successes.
The team recently held their third annual community awards, winning major corporate backing from names like Tesco and Land Securities, evidence of the respect Hamara’s work has garnered outside of its target geographical area.
Last year was particularly exciting for Hamara, and for the community, when the Olympic torch came past the centre, and when a massive jubilee street party also lifted spirits.
Habib started working at Hamara four years ago.
His job includes sourcing new funding streams, something he admits is “challenging” in the current economic climate, even for a successful and established organisation. He said: “Hamara started in a corner shop, from a single seed that was planted by three community members. The staff never forgets that. They say ‘look where we started’ and look how far we have come. But Hamara is not at its peak yet. We will continue dealing with community issues, and celebrating community successes.”
So what is the secret to making a community centre work?
“I can’t speak for others but our main success is because we don’t think just for ‘tomorrow’,” says Habib. “We want to set a legacy for the Leeds community.”
PC Gary Blezard, a police community engagement officer who holds regular Thursday drop-in sessions at Hamara, said: “It’s when the police can come face to face with the community. Hamara is there for the community, and the community have got to use it.
“And they do.”