Words: Jo Fiddes
Last summer, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves launched the West Leeds Local Hero award, to recognise the valuable work individuals and groups do in our community.
Whilst volunteer groups and organisations have been around for a while, the pandemic shone a new light on the work they do in our communities, supporting the elderly and the vulnerable in the worst of times.
Relaunching the awards, Ms Reeves said:
“My Leeds West Local Hero Awards are up and running once more, and will be awarded weekly until the end of August. When I launched this initiative to recognise our unsung heroes last year, I received so many emails about the work and impact individuals and groups make to our community.
“It has been genuinely inspirational to read about so many people that just get on with making other people’s lives better, with no thought of reward or recognition for themselves.
“That’s why I’m looking for more heroes I can give a shout out too over the summer. Good news stories can sometimes seem to be in short supply, but it is a testament to the people of West Leeds that you don’t have to look too far to find so many brilliant examples of community spirit.”
Winners last year were chosen from a wide spectrum, but all had been nominated for the support they gave to others during the pandemic. They included Philip and Angela McConnell, the driving force behind the Bramley Care Bears, who went on to receive British Empire Medals (BEM) for their community work, both during and prior to the Coronavirus lockdown.
Whilst the Leeds West Local Hero Awards aren’t quite as prestigious as the Queen’s Birthday Honours, they are still a great shout-out for local community volunteers.
If you would like to nominate an individual or group that has gone above and beyond in any way, please e-mail Rachel.email@example.com.
You’ll need to include brief details of your nominee, along with your phone number in case more details are needed. Happy nominating!
I would like to recognise the Passenger Assistants on School minibuses who take vulnerable children with learning and behaviour difficulties to school and have done throughout the covid crisis (even during the 2020 half-term and summer holidays). Social Distancing wasn’t always possible because the children are unable to understand covid restrictions. Minibuses are too small to allow for social distancing (in the second/third lockdowns passenger numbers on each minibus were up to 10 children and three adult staff per minibus).
Our Minibuses had children from different year groups and different classes all sat close together up to 4 hours each day. Bubbles were something we heard about on the news but didn’t experience on the minibuses (I’m a Driver. Driver experiences are different because we drive and have little contact with passengers until we stop at School). Passenger Assistants are in direct contact with passengers often cleaning a child after sickness or changing a child into clean clothing. Or cleaning themselves of spit, sick or other.
Contact between child and passenger assistant isn’t always gentle or welcome either. Some Passenger Assistants have required medical attention for injuries they recieve. Passenger Assistants are almost all mature ladies with good hearts and a sense of duty. Many PA’s were very frightened during the first lockdown and rightly so. Frightened of getting Covid or passing it to their loved ones but they continued to be on the front-line for the children because it was the right thing to do and they were unable to work from home.
Without Passenger Assistants many of our key-workers and struggling families who rely on free transport to get their children to specialist schools wouldn’t have been able to work. I know we have other heroes we should be thankful to like, – Refuse-Collectors, Firemen, Delivery Drivers, shop-workers, Teachers and Teaching-Assistants etc who all put themselves at risk in those early months. We could never forget what they did to keep us going but I’m putting Passenger Assistants forward because I witnessed their fear and anxiety daily. But it didn’t stop them knuckling down and doing the job to the best of their ability.