Citizens' Award Winners 2006
Jennifer Blake ran away from home at the age of 13 and spent the rest of her childhood in care. She carried a knife and didn't care much about anything or anyone - including herself. But having seen too many young lives being destroyed, Jennifer suddenly decided that rather than being part of the problem she was going to do what she could do to improve it. In 2004, Jennifer set up the Eternal Life Support Centre to provide a programme for young people with low self-esteem who were often directly involved in gun crime and drugs.
Through one-to-one mentoring, group sessions, training in basic life skills and a lot of support from the team, people who would almost certainly be committing serious crimes have been able to turn their lives around. Frank White is just one of Jennifer's success stories - he has gone from being an armed criminal and drug dealer to someone who now works to warn others not to follow his example. It is impossible to know how many lives Jennifer and The Eternal Life Support Centre may have saved. The work they do is not easy and at times is extremely dangerous. It takes a huge amount of commitment as well as sustained moral and physical courage.
Nominated by the Levy Foundation and the Damilola Taylor Trust.
PC Kevin Bowen
At 2.00am on cold spring morning in 2006, Kevin Bowen, a police constable at Kingsbridge, Devon, wasn't even meant to be on duty in the area where a man was apparently trying to kill himself. The man had be speaking to the support team at 'Devon Doctors' saying he had had enough and wanted to take his own life. When Kevin reached the scene where he man had said he was, there was no sign of him. In the darkness it was extremely difficult to see, but he, and the other policemen on duty, refused to give up the search. "Devon Doctors' reported that they had heard splashing noises before the man's mobile phone had gone dead.
At last some clothes were found near the River Dart and the man was spotted. He ignored all attempts at communication and began to disappear under the water for longer and longer periods in the centre of the river. He was also drifting further downstream. Kevin grabbed a life ring, raced off downstream, and jumped into the water. He swam out to the man, who had now completely disappeared under water. The combination of the cold and the current made the rescue attempt extremely perilous. The man was suffering from hypothermia, had swallowed a great deal of water and was barely conscious, which made the task of getting him back to shore all the more difficult. However, Kevin persisted and eventually succeeded in getting him ashore. Had Kevin not acted so quickly and decisively there is little doubt that the man would have died. He has now made a full recovery.
"We are going to kill, you evil, evil scumbag." Death treats like this one waiting in Laurie Pycroft's inbox have succeeded in frustrating scientists as well as university and research laboratories in the UK for decades. Paint stripper thrown over cars, smashed windows and even the body of law abiding citizen being dug up have led to individuals, shareholders, and construction companies pulling out of scientific projects due to fear of being targeted by animal rights campaigners.
Laurie Pycroft believes that laboratory research has played an invaluable part in the advance of medicine and, since 16,000 people have of HIV-related illnesses every day, it would be completely unacceptable to stop it. By organising a march in Oxford in support of animal testing and against the intimidation of protest groups, Laurie stirred up a hugh amount of support from the scientific community. With the aims of standing up for "science, reasoned debate and, above all, the welfare of mankind". Laurie formed the organisation, Pro-test, in 2006 - at the age of 16.
Laurie has received dozens of death threats and has had to be given advice on how to open his mail, whilst his family have been advised to install panic buttons and carry personal alarms at all times. He continues to lobby parliament and promote debate. "All I have done is speak my mind. If more of us realised that individuals are, at least sometimes, able to change things, the world would be a better place".
Annie is a shinning example of how any one of us could make a real difference to people's lives if we had her determination and compassion. Soon after he sister was shot dead in Jamaica, leaving four children, her mother and grandmother also died. With no money, Annie and the children came to London in search of a better life for her nieces and nephews. Five years on, she spends almost all her spare time working as an unpaid volunteer at the acclaimed children's charity, Kids Company.
She constantly comes across homes where children are living in rooms where cockroaches and rats scuttle across the floor, where human faeces is smeared over the walls and where children are understandably suffering from depression. She not only gets down on her knees to scrub, clean and tidy, she uses her amazing artistic talents (and a little paint) to transform derelict bedrooms into a magical world of fairy tales and new-found happiness.
Children often write or call her to ask if she can come back and, whenever she can, she does. One little girl told Annie she was so excited because she had been able to invite her friends home for the first time. Annie says that, 'For me, life is about making kids happy. The work I do can sometimes get me down, the the kids always keep me going. Helping them when they are young can make a difference to the rest of their lives".
Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, a previous Award winner, and who was recently voted Woman of the Year, says, "Annie has contributed more than anyone I have ever seen to improving the lives of vulnerable children. She carries out her work in a dignified and unassuming way with real love and tenderness".
Maurice Diaper and John Browett
Just before midnight on 24th March 2006, a fire broke out in a house at Fishers Lock, Newport in Shropshire. Anthony and Glenys Ellis were in the house together with their daughter Melissa and her two sons, Sophie and Laura. Melissa was shouting out of the window for help.
Hearing her cries, Maurice Diaper and John Browett, independently went to see if they could do anything to help. Maurice had suffered a serious stroke in 2000 but, seeing Melissa standing at the window of one of the upstairs bedrooms, he rushed to get his ladder. Meanwhile, John was desperately trying to break down the front door, but in total darkness and with no proper tools he had little chance of success and when he saw Maurice return with a ladder he went to help.
Melissa, by now extremely distressed, told Maurice that her two daughters were in the next room, so he went to rescue them first. The window of the bedroom was not only closed, but locked. John passed Maurice a brick to smash a hole large enough for the two girls to crawl through. The fire was intensifying and the window frames had started melting, but Maurice and John got the girls safely down and then moved the ladder back to the room in which Melissa was trapped.
Although Maurice could see her, and kept calling for her to come to him, Melissa screamed "I can't, I can't". A massive ball of smoke and flame suddenly erupted from the room causing Maurice to fall from the ladder onto John. Despite the fact that the house was now totally ablaze, Maurice shouted, 'Somebody go up there and help or she is going to die", but tragically there was no way that anyone could get close to the house. The fire brigade had just arrived, but there was nothing that even they could do. The house was now completely gutted.
Although neither John nor Maurice had been aware that Melissa's parents were in the house, it has still played on their minds that they had been unable to save them or Melissa. However, there is no doubt that had it not been for their prompt and courageous action, either Sophie nor Laura would be alive today.