HARROW celebrated its hard working volunteers last week as hundreds packed out a community centre to pay tribute to nearly 150 of Harrow's Heroes.
In the past few months the Observer, a partner of the Harrow Heroes awards, has been highlighting the work of many of the nominees - in the lead-up to the awards ceremony at the Kadwa Patidar Centre on Wednesday last week.
The 134 volunteers put forward for the seven categories were handed certificates for their efforts and one nominee in each section was selected by a panel as a winner and handed a cheque to give to their selected charity.
Seventeen-year-old Hilda Piyogu Kwafo-Akoto scooped the young volunteer of the year award and overall volunteer prize, while community volunteer of the year and sports volunteer of the year went to Bladev Sharma and Sally Baldwin respectively.
International volunteer of the year went to John Pennels, Ron Dickens picked up the award for environmental volunteer of the year, Sonoo Malkani took part-nership volunteer of the year and Sylvia James went home with the trustee/committee member of the year.
A host of dignitaries from St Luke's Hospice, the Edgware and Stanmore Rotary Club, Harrow Council and the Harrow Volunteer Centre were on hand to present the awards as the collective partners of the scheme.
Councillor Jean Lammiman, responsible for community and cultural services, said: "The awards are a way of celebrating and thanking all the volunteers for their hard work and support."
In reference to demonstrations outside Harrow Central mosque last month, mayor Councillor Eric Silver added: "People have tried to come in to the borough and split this community - but they will never succeed.
"We live together and work together and initiatives like this show the spirit we have in Harrow will remain very strong."
International volunteer of the year
SINCE his daughter and son-in-law left Harrow to help the mentally ill in Nigeria, John has been instrumental in helping with the charity Amaudo and is now the chairman of the trustees.
The charity supports their rehabilitation through medication and teaching of basic skills and John has helped with a number of fundraising activities and visits their base in Abia State regularly to work with staff.
He pipped his son Matthew to the International Volunteer of the Year award after his work with same charity and after the ceremony he joked: "It was strange to be in the same category as him but he isn't speaking to me any more.
"In all seriousness though it was a great event that really showcased the hard work and dedication of so many in Harrow.
"I would imagine that everyone there, like me, doesn't see the work they do as charity, it is just something I enjoy doing and something that I like to see the outcome of.
"I remember the first time I went out to Nigeria, I came back and a colleague said to me, 'welcome back to the real world'.
It is something that has stuck with me ever since and I think then it really h it home how important it is to help.
Partnership volunteer of the year
* Sonoo Malkani
HAVING already scooped the Mayor's Service to the Community Award earlier this year Sonoo has been actively volunteering for a whole host of organisations for more than 35 years.
She was recognised for her work as the chairwoman of Harrow Police and Community Consultative Group, the Rayners Lane Safer Neighbourhood Panel and Harrow PCT's Health and Race Forum as well as being an active member of the UK Thalassaemia Society.
She said: "This scheme is an extremely valuable thing to have in Harrow and should be encouraged in other boroughs.
"The more people do to improve the places they live in the the more protective they become about it and the more it becomes important to give something back.
"I have always felt as though doing something for the community is like putting something back in to the kitty that we withdraw from every day.
"I'm very grateful to this country and like so many other people who put in hard work it is just my way of saying thank you.
"Anybody that suggests community spirit need look no further than events like this that showcase the community work of so many."
Young/overall volunteer of the year
*Hilda Piyogu Kwafo-Akoto
SINCE the age of 15, Hilda, who is now studying for her A-levels at Heathfield School for Girls in Pinner, has been using her spare time to volunteer at Harrow Community Link-Up.
The charity supports and encourages friendship between people with learning disabilities and others within the Harrow community.
She has used school holidays to volunteer with various administrative duties as well as various activities.
She has helped with dance and cookery lessons and for much of the year she has been running a drama project called Mind the Gap with pupils at special needs school Shaftesbury.
After picking up both awards she said: "I found out about it all when someone came to my local church to talk about voluntary work.
"I was more than happy to help out and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
"Obviously, like most people, I haven't been doing it hoping to get some recognition but it was really nice to know that the work is appreciated.
"I think everyone here has done their bit for the community and it is a great way to celebrate their efforts."
Environmental volunteer of the year
FROM the early 1990s Ron has held a host of voluntary roles in societies and organisations involved in allotments and horticulture.
His hard work has encouraged many to have a go at growing their own fruit and vegetables.
He has been general secretary of Newton Park Horticultural Society (NPHS) for nearly 20 years and also took on board the then role of allotment advisor to the council.
He was a founder member of Harrow in Leaf (HiL), where, to date, he has contributed immensely to their aims and achievements.
Ron is keen to encourage people and groups to work together, and when he saw the Federation of Middlesex Horticultural and Allotment Societies (FMHAS) struggling through poor administration, Ron stepped in as their membership secretary.
He was put forward for the award by John Salter, who said: "Back in the 1990s allotments were very much a neglected aspect of the community and a number of sites were in danger of being lost forever. Ron alone presented the case which saved Pinner Village allotments.
"But with threats to other sites he realised that he needed to motivate and unite people on those sites to champion their cause.
"Within HiL Ron has contributed as a team member and taken the lead in a number of their activities and he helped them obtain a £100,000 grant for allotment improvements across the borough.
"All of his work has been down to his dogged persistence and he has always been prepared to innovate and work for our benefit."
Community volunteer of the year
FOR the past five years Baldev has been chairman of Harrow Anti-Racist Alliance, but he also holds the following positions: vice-chairman of Hate Crime Forum and Harrow Health and Race Forum, treasurer of Harrow Police and Community Consultative Group and secretary of CARRAMEA.
He is also an active member of arts4REAL Performing Arts group, the Community Consultative Management Group, Harrow Strategic Partnership, Black History Month Forum and the Under One Sky committee as well as a host of other influential groups in the borough.
He has dedicated much of his time to countless groups and said after he was handed the awards: "I have been involved in many things for more than 15 years now and I guess it all started because, simply, I wanted to help serve the community.
"But I don't feel as though this award is for me but it is symbolic of all the work put in by all volunteers playing their part in Harrow.
"Harrow is very lucky to have a whole host of people who are dedicated to doing their bit for the community and this night is a great way to celebrate that work."
Sports volunteer of the year
SALLY Baldwin was handed the Sports Volunteer of the Year award for her long standing work at the Survive and Save voluntary sports organisation, run from Harrow Leisure Centre.
She is the driving force behind the programme which offers training to local lifeguards and swimming teachers.
Her work has led to the club becoming the first in London to receive the National Swim 21 accreditation and resulted in it being nominated for the best sports organisation in the capital.
Speaking at the ceremony she said: "It is fantastic to see such a great mix of ages and cultures coming together to celebrate voluntary work.
"There are people here who are really at the heart of the community and I think their hard work is what Harrow is about.
"I probably dedicate around six hours a week to the club, not including the stuff behind the scenes, but I do it because I enjoy it, I don't really see it as voluntary at all."
Trustee/committee member of the year
SYLVIA is currently chairwoman of Home Start Harrow and has supported the organisation on the management committee for 28 years.
Despite having a busy professional life as a teacher at Norbury School until her retirement eight years ago, Sylvia has been instrumental in the charity's progression and has been a part of the team since its inception in 1981.
Speaking after she was handed the award for trustee/committee member of the year she said: "I am absolutely flabbergasted.
"I have been doing this for so long and it is because I enjoy it and like helping people out.
"I think the evening was a great success and it's fantastic to see so many people being recognised for their hard work.