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Honouring Our Pride of Community

Today we were delighted to attend the Pride of Britain reception at the State Rooms of Speaker’s House, by kind permission of Mr Speaker, The Rt Hon John Bercow MP. The reception was hosted by Carol Vorderman, and was held to celebrate the fantastic work that each of the TSB finalists have achieved within their communities.

MP’s and celebrities joined in the celebrations alongside journalists and members of the finalist’s families in the unique setting of Speaker’s House. Each finalist was presented with a certificate to honour their achievements by our Daily Mirror Editor and founder of the Pride of Britain Peter Willis, Peter Pester - Chief Executive Officer of TSB Bank and our Pride of Britain host Carol Vorderman.

It was wonderful to hear the incredible stories of how much can be achieved if you work together as a community to help each other. Here are the finalists:

Janette Collins

Janette is a youth worker who is fondly known as Auntie Janette. This amazing woman has devoted her life tohelping young people in her community, steering them away from drugs, gangs and crime.

Janette, who is in her 50s, had suffered racism when she and her parents became the first black family living on their estate in East London. She went off the rails, became involved with a gang and had the first of her two children at 14.

After turning her own life around, she became a youth worker and founded the CRIB project in 1999.

The project in Hackney helps young people find work and education and promotes awareness of gun and knife violence. Schemes include workshops, mentoring and school visits, with 10 former gang members employed to reach out to 200 at-risk young people.

The project works with the borough’s Integrated Gangs Unit, which comprises police and other agencies. Since it was set up there has been a 62 per cent reduction in gun crime.

Young people Janette has mentored include Abraham, who she saved from gangs after he was stabbed as a teenager, and Emeka Egbuono, who attended the CRIB before going on to work with troubled young people. In 1999 the project set up London-wide youth talent show Boroughs United.

Alun Goode, of the IGU, said: “The solution to gang violence is down to the community and Janette is out there all the time trying to stop this happening. Janette is one the few who provide support for these gang and ex-gang members.”

Billy Muir

Pensioner Billy has been dubbed the hardest working man in Britain for his mammoth task of keeping a remote Orkney community afloat by holding down 20 jobs, including working as a firefighter, shepherd, lighthouse keeper and airport worker!

Billy is heralded as a hero on the remote island of North Ronaldsay – the northernmost of Orkney’s islands.

The 67-year-old, who has lived there all his life, holds down 20 jobs to keep life on the island going for its 50 residents.

Billy is the airport baggage handler, electrician, builder, rubbish collector and he has his own flock of rare breed sheep. He also runs the island gift shop, is employed as the local tour guide and chairs the community council. He is also a retained firefighter, tasked with tackling any fires at homes, farms and businesses, including the airport.

For decades, North Ronaldsay Island’s lighthouse - the tallest lighthouse in the British Isles - has also been maintained and cared for by Billy. He has been a part- time lighthouse keeper for 42 years after giving up the full-time post in 1974.

As chair of the North Ronaldsay Trust, he also helped raise £1.2million to renovate and rebuild the lighthouse

He said: “I love this island and all the people on it. My family has been here for generations. My dad was a blacksmith and so was his father before him. The Muirs have always worked hard to keep North Ronaldsay going.

“It is a wonderful community and we all work hard to preserve it. We are more than an island, we are one big family.

Icolyn Smith

Icolyn is an Inspirational pensioner who has run the Oxford Community Soup kitchen for 26 years, providing food, clothes and comfort to those in need.

The 86-year-old, known as ‘Ma Smith’, came from a poor background in rural Jamaica before moving to Britain in 1960.

She was inspired to help others after seeing a young man searching through rubbish bins for something to eat. She set up her kitchen at the Asian Culture Centre in Oxford in 1990. It opens twice a week, offering a three-course meal to between 40 and 50 people as well as essential supplies for the homeless such as sleeping bags and shoes.

The mother-of- five faced a constant struggle to keep it open, but it survived and in 2013 became a charity, the Icolyn Smith Foundation. Most of her funding comes through donations from individuals, churches and local businesses.

It is estimated around 45,000 meals have been prepared and dished out at the kitchen since Icolyn opened her doors 26 years ago.

Her son Gary says: “When she came to England, she was always feeding people who were hungry. We have grown up with her being like that. We’ve had people who were ready to commit suicide come here and it’s changed their lives.”

Betty Weir & Jean Reader

Betty and Jean are two mums who have helped to transform the lives of elderly residents on a barren housing estate after moving in 40 years ago.

When they moved to the new estate in Irvine on the west coast of Scotland there were no amenities other than a small house converted into a Spar shop.

Betty’s mum also moved to the estate, and found there were few facilities for elderly people. Betty, now 73, and Jean, now 78, turned unused shop premises into a centre for the elderly after lobbying the council and holding jumble sales, raffles and other fundraising activities.

The best friends founded Broomlands & Bourtreehill Age Concern, which grew every year and expanded into an empty unit next door. Thanks to their tireless work, the centre now has a choir, lunch club, keep fit classes and bingo as well as its own minibus.

Around 200 pensioners use the lunch club in the course of a week, many of whom are disabled, and a similar number have meals delivered to their homes.

Betty said: “Over our 41-year journey we’ve had some fantastic times with highs and lows, but we have always been determined to keep the service going because we see on a daily basis the difference it makes to so many older folk.”

Barry and Margaret Mizen

Barry and Margaret’s son Jimmy was murdered in an unprovoked attack in 2008 just one day after his 16thbirthday. Following his murder the Mizen family and their local community have been determined to focus on two outcomes; they will not be beaten by his death and that something good will come from it. This led to the foundation of The Jimmy Mizen Foundation.

Speaking about what drives them on in their work Barry says "There has to be a reason for the violence in some young people, for the criminal behaviour – and that's what we must work on. I think we offer a voice of reason, of pragmatism. For us something has gone wrong when these kids are killing each other. We have to accept we are never going to solve everything, but if we work together we can make it a whole lot better. That's what drives us."

Garth Collier

Garth’s lifelong commitment to his home town has seen him run the rugby club and post office and stand as a councillor and a primary school governor!

Garth lives in Abertillery - a former coal mining town situated within the administrative county borough of Blaenau Gwent and geographically within the former counties of Gwent and previously Monmouthshire in south Wales. The town is located within the Ebbw Fach valley surrounded by beautiful scenery of wooded hills and wild open moorland with lakes. Small towns like Abertillery thrive when they have community-spirited residents like Garth who has spent his life making his hometown into a thriving hub of activity.

The People’s Kitchen

Spurred on by an article in the Evening Chronicle about the death of a homeless man, Alison Kay (then in her 70s) decided to set up an organisation to support those in need. Within a year, Alison had 40 helpers and they inaugurated the first People’s Kitchen next to the railway arches by Dean Street offering food, clothes, a warm fire and welcome to anyone who came in peace.

The work was made possible through the generous support of volunteers and sponsors recruited by Alison and over thirty years later the tradition continues even though the organisation has grown significantly. For her work, Alison received an Honorary Degree from Newcastle University in 1997.

Alison Kay died in 2001 aged 91, but inspired by her example, The Peoples’ Kitchen remains true to its principles over thirty years later providing “friendship and food” to anyone who needs their support.

The organisation provides 40,000 hot meals a year, from their own premises at the Alison Centre in central Newcastle and from a mobile kitchen which takes to the streets 3 times a week. Hot food, clean clothes and warm bedding are a lifeline to their most vulnerable visitors, many of whom suffer mental illness, physical disability, or drug and alcohol misuse or are rough sleepers.

Their kitchen is fuelled through the help and support of others and they rely heavily on food donations.

They also grow their own produce at their allotment on Nun’s Moor in Newcastle. Both volunteers and Friends work together on site to produce a sustainable and nutritional supplement to their food donations.

Mohammed Zafran

Following the death of his brother-in-law Mohammed Zafran from Small Heath has gone on to set up numerous educational and sporting projects to help young people and Asian women in deprived areas of Birmingham. Mohammed, who is known as Zaf, has already been awarded a British Empire Medal, after being nominated by former Prime Minister David Cameron for setting up All 4 Youth And Community and other initiatives. The father-of-two was spurned into action after his brother-in-law Sarfraz Khan, 23, was fatally stabbed in Larches Green Park, Sparkbrook, in March 2010.

Zaf has also won a Pride of Birmingham Award and a National Diversity Award and in 2015 he won the FA Respect Award which was presented with the Sir Bobby Moore trophy at the FA Community Shield match between Arsenal and Chelsea. Zaf was recognised by the FA for his coaching programmes which have helped more than 13,500 youngsters from the Bordesley Green, Ward End, Saltley and Alum Rock areas of the city.

In addition to the football coaching, Zaf has helped to set up a women’s academy which is helping to empower Asian women through practical courses and in conjunction with the council, and will soon be reaching out to young people who are not in education or training.

An FA spokesman said: “It’s long been recognised that football has the power to change lives and few people have made better use of this than Mohammed Zafran. Following the murder of his brother, Zaf decided to respond to this tragic event by engaging with local young people, many of who were involved in gangs, and setting up football and cricket sessions to offer them a positive way to engage with the local community.

“He has turned a calamity into inspiration and the biggest tool he has had is his smile.”

Philip Dodd - Moss Side Community Allotment, Manchester

Philip set up the Moss Side Community Allotment in 2011 along with by a group of keen residents to encourage families to come together to grow fruit and vegetables. Moss Side is an inner-city area which has been plagued by crime and gang warfare but the oasis is part of a regeneration being led by residents.

Initial take up was low but after some time was invested in the allotment, a community group began to emerge. The group began to grow quickly and soon more plots were given to them.

The group work on over half of the plots on the allotment growing organic produce, which is distributed between the diggers and the local community. The group also has chickens who not only produce eggs for the group to sell but are also a great attraction! A children’s area has been developed along with a wildlife area complete with pond.

The group have secured awards for funding and backing from the Adactus Housing Association, Manchester City Council and Great Places Housing which has been used for the construction of their community hub. The hub has been built entirely by Moss Side Community Group members, utilising a range of skills within the community. The hub hosts meetings, skills sharing events and workshops and has become a real focal point of the community.

The allotment group engages with residents in and around Moss Side, with some travelling from further afield because of the innovative, friendly and sustainable surroundings of the allotment and the group.

Moss Side Community Allotment group are regulars at the Moss Side Market where they sell produce from the allotment with the money received being put straight back into the allotment. Last year they were delighted to win the Pride of Manchester ‘Blossoming Communities’ Award.

The group are a real example of a true community project. People are proud to be associated with the allotment and it has become more than a growing project whereby the emphasis is on getting involved, doing what you can and most importantly, enjoying what you do!

Denham Elvin

Denham spent seven years living in a homeless hostel before his fortunes took a turn for the better through his passion for cycling.

He has since set up three centres in Southampton’s impoverished estates, creating safe places where children can channel their energy into cycling.

Denham runs DC Cycles on Empress Road and has opened his door to young and troubled people, offering them apprenticeships in the store.

“The biggest reward is seeing the projects completed with the kids growing in self-belief and interacting with each other and with adults,” said Denham.

“Some have gone from what many people would consider as a lost cause to working in bike shops and even cycling at a national level.

"I feel lucky to do what I do.”

Denham spent his wedding day at a cycling competition he helped organise, and his honeymoon on a cycling trip but his wife and 6 week old son joined him at the ceremony today so we hope he’s been forgiven!


Find out more about The Crib Project

Find out more about the North Ronaldsay Trust here

Find out more about the Icolyn Smith Foundation here

Find out more about the Jimmy Mizen Foundation here

Find out more about The People’s Kitchen here

Find out more about All 4 Youth and Community here

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