PEOPLE came out in force to celebrate the work of volunteers at the first ever Harrow's Heroes Awards, sponsored by the Observer and Edgware and Stanmore Rotary Club in association with Harrow Council.

The event, which took place on May 7 at the Harrow Arts Centre, in Uxbridge Road, Hatch End, was hosted by Asad Ahmad, a BBC London News presenter,and featured a speech from Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, shadow minister for community cohesion.

The audience was also treated to performances from the Harrow Youth Choir and the Harrow African-Caribbean Association (HACAS), before the winners were announced. Reporter ELAINE OKYERE talks to the winners of the seven categories to find out what makes them so special.

International Volunteer 2008 and overall winner of Harrow Hero of the year:Gopaldas Popat

* A VOLUNTEER who is affectionately known as the 'carrier bag man' was named winner of the international volunteer award and overall volunteer of the year because of his work in the community.

Gopaldas Popat , of Headstone Lane, Harrow, is a patron of the Asian Foundation for Help.

He said: "When I came here from Uganda I started this charity in 1984 and decided to do something to help society. I have been doing charity work for over 25 years and I feel so pleased that I received this award."

The 85-year-old is often seen walking the streets of Harrow and Wembley with a plastic bag containing leaflets and information on charitable causes to make people more aware of issues around the world.

Mr Popat does many things, from visiting patients in Northwick Park Hospital and distributing fruit, to raising funds for international causes in India, Africa and Asia.

The Asian Foundation for Help has donated 60 ambulances to India in the last 20 years and Mr Popat also travels to India every year at his own expense to check the funds are being put to good use.

The charity has also raised more than £2million pounds for international projects and UK based charities including Mencap, Northwick Park Hospital and Brent Indian Association.

The award was presented by Jack Lyons, chairman of Edgware and Stanmore Rotary Club. In one of her last engagements as Mayor, Councillor

Jean Lammiman presented the overall volunteer award.

Young Volunteer 2008: Dev Joshi

AFTER his grandfather had a heart bypass operation, a Harrow schoolboy decided that he wanted to give some-thing back to the hospital that had cared for him.

Dev Joshi, from Stanmore, won the award for his work as a volunteer with the Northwick Park Hospital League of Friends.

He said: "I heard I had won when I returned from a school meeting at 10.30pm. I was over the moon, but I have to thank Derek and Jean Jones who run the service as I wouldn't be volunteering if it weren't for them."

The 18-year-old helps out at the hospital every Saturday, by visiting patients and providing a trolley service selling newspapers, magazines and snacks.

He said: "It makes people's lives easier. There is also a shop, but I mainly go round with the trolley. It's great to meet people and talk to them and it also gets me out of bed on a Saturday morning."

The student is currently studying for his AS levels at Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, in Butterfly Lane, Elstree, and hopes to become a doctor.

Mr Joshi chose to donate his prize money to the Northwick Park Hospital League of Friends. The award was presented by Harrow Police's Borough Commander Richard Walton.

School Governor 2008: Janice Main

THE first thought that went through Janice Main's mind when they announced she was the winner of the school governor volunteer of the year was disbelief.

Mrs Main, from Edgware, said: "I am totally gobsmacked. As they said on the evening you get much more than you give from volunteering - I get so much support from the people I work with."

Mrs Main, who is a minister of religion for the Salvation Army, was nominated by two staff at Stag Lane Middle School, where she has been a governor for more than six years, and was chair of governors for four of those years.

The 65-year-old provides support for the school and does everything from photocopying and making coffee to helping teaching assistants and inter-viewing prospective employees.

She said: "I just enjoy being in the school. I retired early after I fractured my spine and came to live with my daughter and then became the family carer.

"Rather than sit at home I came in to help out the school and since then I've been here - sticking like glue!"

Mrs Main, who has two grandchildren who attend the school, has also completed a charity parachute jump and has run the London Marathon twice to raise funds for the school.

Mrs Main chose to donate her prize money to Stag Lane Middle School to restore their garden. The award was presented by Leader of Harrow Council, Councillor David Ashton.

Eco Volunteer 2008: Peter Perritti

THE environment may not be the first thing that you think of when volunteering is mentioned, but the award for eco volunteer recognised the efforts of a Stanmore man who works to benefit local residents.

Peter Perritti, of Green Lane, Stanmore, is a voluntary warden at the Bentley Priory Nature Reserve and is also on the management committee. He helps manage all aspects of the natural history of the site from bird observation to preserving the green space.

He said: "We are not strictly working for one group, the work we do benefits all sections of the community. I stress the word 'we' as I don't work alone, there is a group of people involved. In particular Elizabeth Stainthorpe, the secretary of the Harrow National History Society does a great job to help."

The 79-year-old works at Bentley Priory, which means that he is also involved with the Harrow Natural History Society and the Harrow Nature Conservation Forum, which is part of the Harrow Heritage Society.

He said: "I think the success of our work is measurable by the number of people that use the place. It's very difficult to get financial support for the work that we do, that's the sad thing - we are not a priority."

Mr Perritti, who was presented with his award by the Observer's editor Lindsay Coulson, donated his prize money to the Harefield Hospital NHS Trust.

Sports Volunteer 2008: Denis Collen

A STANMORE man who devoted his time to helping children to develop their swimming skills has been rewarded for his efforts.

Denis Collen, of Crowshott Avenue, won the sports volunteer award at the Harrow's Heroes ceremony.

He said: "I'm so surprised and humbled by this award, I really didn't expect anything from tonight.

"There are many people more deserving of this award, it is great to come here and see all the other people who are doing similar work."

Mr Collen, who is the chairman of Harrow and Wealdstone Swimming Club, teaches 750 children to swim in his spare time.

"The club has 200 young people who are competing at a national level and 500 who simply swim for fun.

The 42-year-old donated his prize money to Great Ormond Street Hopsital as it is a charity that is very close to his heart.

He said: "One of our swimmers received treatment for a brain tumour at the hospital and she carried on swimming throughout her recovery. They said that it even helped her recovery."

Mr Collen, who was presented with his award by Councillor Chris Mote on the night, has worked at the club for 10 years. The award was presented by Councillor Chris Mote.

Partnership Volunteer 2008: Ranu Mehta Radia

A PINNER woman who works with people with learning disabilities and young Asian schoolchildren was one of the winners at the Harrow's Heroes event.

Ranu Mehta Radia, of Wrenwood Way, Pinner, hopes that her award will raise awareness about volunteering among other members of the community.

She said "When I came to Harrow from East Africa 35 years ago I would never have imagined this. Harrow has been extraordinary to me. I wanted to help a borough that has stood by me over the years."

The 51-year-old launched the Sai School, which is a Saturday school for ethnic minority children the community, where they learn about citizenship values. Each year in the school chooses a local chairty which they fundraise for. These have included Aspire and St Luke's Hospice.

She said: "I want to encourage young people in our community to put something back into the borough."

Mrs Mehta Radia also works at Harrow Link Up, which works with people with learning difficulties. She pioneered a course that helps young disabled women learn how to make themselves presentable for job interviews.

She said: "We teach people with facial disfigurements how to apply make-up and dress appropriately. These are things that other people don't think of, but can make a big difference to someone with learning disabilities."

For more information about the Sai School go to

Mrs Mehta Radia was presented with her award by Tony McNulty, MP for Harrow East (Labour).

Community Award 2008: Asha Kalib

A STANMORE woman who helps Somali people settle into the borough has been rewarded for her outreach work.

Asha Kalib helped found the Somali Women's Action Group, which aims to help integrate people into the community and find them work.

She said: "I wanted to empower Somali women, many of these women are the head of their famillies. We help them obtain new skills and do ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses so that they can learn English and communicate with others."

The charity, which was founded in 1997, runs community projects which include a youth club, for young people between the ages of eight and 16, as well as supplementary school.

She said: "We provide training for young people who are out of work and teach them interview skills and writing techniques to help them get jobs.

"At the school we will also provide extra classes in maths and English for GCSE students. I realised that our community needed something like this."

Ms Kalib, also works for the Harrow Association of Somali Voluntary Organisation and the Harrow Refugee Forum.

For more information on the Somali Women's Action Group call 020 8426 5900.

Ms Kalib was presented with her award by Councillor Anjana Patel (Conservative).