The Grateful Winter Get Together: Who Are Our Local Heroes?
The Grateful Winter Get Together on Thursday, 17 December kicked off our Great Winter Get Together campaign for 2020, which shines the spotlight on facing loneliness together - one connection at a time.
Four of our Local Heroes were selected to join our ambassador (and Jo Cox’s sister) Kim Leadbeater and special guest, BBC 5 Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake. They discussed their experiences of loneliness, how they have impacted their communities, and shared their hopes for 2021.
From a Syrian refugee making waves in his local community in Exeter, to a south London publisher bringing together BAME youth throughout lockdown, our inspirational Local Heroes were recognised for their tireless work helping others, forging connections and reducing isolation during what has been a difficult year for most. You can watch a recording of the event below.
Read on to find out more about our Local Heroes...
Khaled Wakkaa, Exeter
Khaled is a refugee who fled the war in Syria eight years ago with his wife and child. After several years of travelling through different countries, he eventually found a new home in Exeter, Devon.
Khaled has since thrown himself into the local community, and is at the forefront of bringing people together through voluntary work and helping vulnerable people in his local area. His wife has had another daughter while in Exeter, and Khaled and his wife are learning English at the local college. Every Sunday lunchtime, Khaled cooks Syrian meals and distributes them for his local community, particularly for those who are isolated or homeless. Throughout lockdown, his voluntary group has provided over 2,500 meals.
He is an inspiration, a mentor and an absolute Local Hero - the community have taken him and his family to their hearts. He is currently working towards becoming a social worker thanks to a university scholarship, and his goal is to someday become the Mayor of Exeter.
He has also co-authored a book, ‘Human Crossings: 9 Stories About Refugees’, available on Amazon and with 50% of proceeds going to various refugee charities - including the one that helped Khaled settle in the UK.
Lesley Fisher, Salford
Lesley set up charity Dancing with Dementia in 2016, after her sister was diagnosed with vascular dementia. She did some reading about the condition and found that music, singing and dance were ideal forms of therapy.
The charity holds monthly tea dances for people across Salford suffering with dementia or in care homes, as well as their partners and families, as a chance to have fun and make genuine connections through dance (check out this lovely video of pre-lockdown festivities!).
During lockdown, Lesley arranged for meals to be delivered to those who usually attended events to help prevent isolation, and supplied care home workers and residents with PPE and treats. The meal project was a huge success and when we were offered more funding we extended the programme delivering over 400 meals in the community.
For the festive season, she has launched a community appeal for gifts to be given to all those who attend and to the care homes looking after people with dementia, and has also enrolled a local school to make Christmas cards to add to the gifts. Thanks to an overwhelming outpouring of love from the community, they have been able to supply gifts for 15 care homes, 4 sheltered accommodation places and produce a hamper for a hospice to raffle to raise funds.
Winsome Duncan, London
Winsome Duncan is a publisher and entrepreneur from south London who has founded the Look Like Me Book Challenge®. During lockdown, Winsome produced a BAME youth author programme where 30 young people (aged 7 to 12) from across London came together virtually to co-author, design characters and illustrate a bestselling collective community children’s book, ‘The Popcorn House’.
Winsome has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to provide BAME youth from across the UK the opportunity to feel empowered, connected and represented by being included in a storybook they created together.
She provided a safe space online for the young creators to work together and let their imagination run free. This inspiring initiative has built up their self-confidence, increased self-esteem, and promoted peer support friendships during such turbulent times.
Louise Reed, West Yorkshire
Louise is the founder and CEO of charity Focus4Hope, a community-based group making a collective difference in the region. With Louise at the helm playing an incredibly hands-on role, Focus4Hope has been serving individuals in West Yorkshire who are isolated, vulnerably housed, homeless or elderly since 2016.
She has not only worked with thousands of vulnerable people across the local area and beyond, but has additionally conducted outreach with refugees in Calais. Particularly during the pandemic this year, as need rose to unprecedented levels for vulnerable populations, she did not hesitate to develop a robust Covid-19 support plan.
They provided food parcels, prescription pick up services, and other essentials to frontline NHS workers, local elderly, vulnerable, isolated and the homeless. This effort has been crucial for those who have received support - especially for reducing isolation and facing loneliness together.