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Croydon's unsung heroes honoured at Community Civic Awards


CROYDON'S unsung heroes have been recognised at an annual awards ceremony that celebrates outstanding volunteers in the community.

There were more than 150 nominations from the public for the third Croydon Community Civic Awards, which honours individuals and organisations that have gone the extra mile for others.

The 24 finalists who attended a ceremony at the Croydon Hilton Hotel on September 25 were judged by representatives of the voluntary sector and local business community.

The lifetime achievement award this year went to Jyotsna Patel, a 70-year-old Ugandan who arrived in the UK in 1972 and has been an active volunteer ever since.

For over 40 years, Jyotsna has helped people learn English, promoted healthy eating through her love of cooking, as well as organised a range of events to bring the young and old together.

"It's nice to be so appreciated – especially when you don't expect it to happen," said Jyotsna, who is now chair of the UK Asian Women's Organisation.

"I believe that working for people is in my blood," said Jyotsna. "Where my services are needed I will always give them.

"It makes me so happy to be busy the whole year helping and enjoying being with people," she said.

As well as the lifetime achievement award, accolades were given in the following categories: employees of the year, carer of the year, young volunteer of the year, civic life, personal achievement, voluntary group of the year, fundraiser of the year and volunteer of the year.

The Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, said: "Thousands of people volunteer in Croydon every year, and they enhance the community in which we live and work."

Judges examined each entry and scored achievements against criteria designed to identify those people who had gone further than others and made a real difference to their community.


Barratt Homes 

Barratt has shown community spirit from senior management to shop floor over the past year in the helpit has given to Croydon Food Store. Last Christmas, Barratt provided a guarded storage unit for Croydon Food Store at a time when it had nowhere to keep donations. "When the Croydon Food Store got in contact with us we were pleased to offer our services as we're looking to support as many local charities as we can," said Lee Greenwood, project manager at Barratt. "The girls at the Croydon Food Store work so hard and do such good work. "The little we have done is nothing compared to them and it was motivating for us to see that."

Su Kamat 

Su Kamat, of The Vale, Coulsdon, is a full-time unpaid, informal carer for four people who seems to just keep going. She cares for her husband, who recently had open heart surgery, and her elderly blind mother but still finds the time to volunteer at Age UK, Mind and Cancer Research UK. "It is really special to look after people in this community," said Su. "Charity has always been in my life since my childhood. My mother really inspired me to do it and I think of it as a challenge. We take so much from society and I feel like it's my time to give something back."

Brendan O'Donnell

Eighteen-year-old Brendan O'Donnell, from Thornton Heath was encouraged by his children's home to volunteer at a food bank and he has had a hands-on approach there from the beginning. At Christmas, Brendan went out into Croydon looking for people who might be alone and living on the streets. Brendan had brought three willing friends with him and he encouraged them to sit and talk with homeless people. "We are proud of Brendan," said his nominator Fatima Koroma. "We applaud his efforts to overcome childhood adversity and his acceptance of opportunities available to him to make a positive contribution to the community."

Sahara Quli 

Sahara Quli, from Tanfield Road, Croydon, initiated a successful project to give long-term unemployed ethnic minority women the skills they need to enter the workplace. The project, called Mum's the Chef, has taken on 80 women over the last 18 months and helped them to gain their NVQ Level 1 in Food Preparation and Cooking. "It's very gratifying to be acknowledged but I don't see it as my award," said Sahara. "It's definitely our award. Mum's the Chef is a simple answer to a complicated problem. The idea came from focusing on what the women can do rather than on what they can't. We're like a family here and that's such a great feeling."

Annie McDonald 

Annie McDonald, from Surrey, has been volunteering at the sickle cell centre in Croydon two days a week since it opened 15 years ago. As someone living with sickle cell herself, Annie has made significant contributions through her willingness to talk about her condition and by sharing her experiences. When she is not at the sickle cell centre Annie visits patients in hospital to give emotional support and helps the nurses to improve patient experiences. Her nominator, Alice Allison said: "She is indeed a champion in the truest sense of the word."

Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre 

The Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre's telephone helpline is run by 40 dedicated volunteers who, together with their coordinator, provide up to 20 hours of support for rape and sexual abuse survivors every day. Volunteers for the helpline remain empathic and professional in what is a tough and emotionally demanding role. Yvonne Traynor, CEO of the centre said: "We are so honoured to have been selected by the Mayor of Croydon for this award and to bring the seriousness of Rape and Childhood Sexual Abuse into mainstream consciousness. We hope that by highlighting our existence here in Croydon it will encourage more women who have suffered from these heinous crimes to break the silence surrounding sexual violence."

Sally Bruce 

Sally Bruce, from The Windings, Croydon, has been a major link between organisations caring for homeless people in the borough this year. She has volunteered weekly at the Salvation Army Drop-in on Mondays for 6 hours, then at Nightwatch on Sundays for 3 hours. Sally has volunteered with Nightwatch since 1997. As well as this she also takes part in the Croydon Churches Winter Shelter system and volunteers for one night a week with the Waggy Tails Club, which helps children with learning disabilities by introducing them to the care of pet dogs.

Sara Greenidge 

Sara Greenidge, from Croydon, is a mother of two in the second year of study of a Level 3 Travel and Tourism course at Croydon College. Sara manages to juggle the demands of parenting with her studies yet still finds time to be a volunteer. She was presented with the Platinum award for completing 153 hours in her volunteering roles, particularly for her fundraising for Cancer Research UK.

Croydon's unsung heroes honoured at Community Civic Awards

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