The unsung heroes and heroines of Brent were recognised at the borough's community awards. TARA BRADY spoke to some of the inspirational winners about the good work being carried out across the borough
OUTSTANDING individuals who work tirelessly for their communities have been officially recognised for their acts of goodwill. The 23 winners were presented certificates to honour their wide-ranging voluntary and public spirited efforts during the Brent Community Champion Awards held at Brent Town Hall on Monday.
Recipients included thoughtful neighbours, good Samaritans, volunteers, carers and charity workers.
More than 600 invited guests, including councillors, the Queen's representative for Brent, charity workers, as well as friends and family of the winners attended.
The outgoing mayor, Councillor Jim O'Sullivan, said: "The Brent Community Champions Awards are one way we can recognise those who have made exceptional contributions to the community.
"One of the most rewarding aspects of my time as mayor has been meeting so many wonderful people in Brent - particularly those who give up their time for others.
"They are fully committed to the work they do in our community and selflessly give up their time and energy to serve others.
"Presenting the awards to the winners is my last act as mayor and I couldn't think of anything more honourable."
THE ceremony began on a high note with the first award going to musician Alfred Totesaut, known to his friends as Freddy. Freddy from Stonebridge, has used his experience as a music teacher in Brent schools to lead the St Michael and All Angels steel band for the past 14 years. He dedicates every Saturday and his school holidays to teach steel pan to young people aged between eight and 25.
The grandfather-of-four began playing the steel pan when he was a boy growing up in Trinidad and even performed in front of Princess Margaret in the 1960s.
He has won many awards over the years for being a successful musician but is especially proud of being nominated as a Brent community champion.
He said: "I try to teach discipline, how people can work together and how to focus on what you want to achieve.
"Whatever you do in life has to come from your heart and soul. I set up this group to help the children in Stonebridge to improve their confidence and self-esteem. We are helping the talent of today become the stars of tomorrow."
DEDICATED volunteer Christina Connelly has certainly been bitten by the charity bug. The mother-of-three, originally from Mayo in Ireland, moved to Willesden when she was 16 and first started her community work in 1994 for Brent Irish Advisory Service (BIAS). Christina
volunteered for many years helping older members of the Irish community with shopping, filling in forms and making friends. She also volunteered at Brent Victim Support before moving on to Brent's Citizens Advice Bureau.
She has also spent time offering advice to parents of children with special needs. Christina said: "I think it is important to reach out to people.
"I have gained so much learning about different people. It gives me a lot in life. Everyone has a crisis at some point in their lives. It's just nice to help people. I enjoy doing it."
A TRUE asset to Claremont High School is 17-year-old Fatima Khalil. Unlike many teenagers who can be found lazing around on a Saturday morning, Fatima gives up her day to help teach English and maths to Afghan children aged six to 12.
Fatima, of Carlton Avenue East, in Wembley, came to England in 2001 with her six brothers and four sisters, unable to speak English. Despite the language barrier, she quickly adapted to English life and is now helping other Afghan children improve their grades at school.
She also volunteers at St Luke's Hospice, and is an advanced first aider for St John's Ambulance and representative for Brent Youth Parliament. She hopes to one day be a doctor.
Fatima said: "Since we moved to Wembley, we really have embraced life in Brent. I love living here. I am so happy to have been given this award and I hope it encourages other young people to volunteer. Youths are often portrayed badly but this has given me a chance to show they can contribute to society. If I was still living in Afghanistan, I would not have been able to go to school because I am a girl.
Now I have a lot of opportunities and I have my mum and dad to thank for that."
IT WAS only fair Dr Peter Moore, campaigner and chairman for Brent's Fairtrade Network, picked up an award.
The busy university professor encourages more people in Brent to buy fair trade products to help Third World countries.
Peter, 58, from Queens Park, has been working closely with Brent Council to increase recognition of Fair Trade.
His next step is to get Brent officially recognised as a Fair Trade borough. He said: "It is a scandal of our day that we have huge resources and a great deal of wealth and yet one billion people go to bed with no food every night.
"Brent is rich in terms of its cultural diversity and ethnic mix and many people have links with poorer countries.
"The key message is that Fair Trade is a great way ordinary shoppers can help poorer countries out of poverty instead of giving them handouts.
"It is an honour to be awarded tonight, but it is not just me behind this - there is a whole team. It is a further sign Brent Council is committed to fair trade and we hope this continues."
HELPING to fight crime in Brent is qualified boxer Sharon Bennet.
Founder of the Kingfisher and Stonebridge Boxing Clubs, the father-of-six works with the youth offending team and probation team to encourage young people to take up boxing lessons instead of aimlessly fighting on the streets.
Young people attend the classes three evenings a week. The 51-year-old, from Harrowdene Road, Wembley, said: "I have seen a lot of kids turn around. Some have told me I have changed their lives.
"I don't see it that way. I just want them to come in and let off some steam in the boxing ring instead of on the street. I feel honoured to have been awarded tonight. The passion and drive keeps me going."
THE youngest winner of the night, Cassandra Cheng, started volunteering when she was five years old.
The 16-year-old head girl of Claremont High School is an excellent role model for all.
The Wembley teenager co-ordinates litter picking, big clean-ups and tree planting as a member of Friends of River Brent and HEART - a voluntary group based in Harlesden committed to improving the environment.
She is a member of Brent Youth Parliament and hopes to go to university to study genetics after finishing her A-levels. She said: "I just love volunteering. It's fun. It's nice to get fresh air, you meet lots of people and get to improve the environment at the same time.
"I want to encourage other young people to get involved. You learn so many skills. I'm pretty happy about winning this award but volunteering is enriching enough.
"The award is a bonus."
THE REST OF THE WINNERS
Other champions were:
* Alia Coleman
* Bhavinbhai Patel
* Ezra Cohen
**Rajnikant Somabhai Patel