Citizens' Award Winners 2008
As a young girl Jade was conscious of the fact that she smelt and that her clothes were filthy. She also remembers having birthday parties when no one turned up. Jade's mother has suffered from depression and been an alcoholic for many years. Jade's father has been seriously ill since contracting MRSA 14 years ago. Her two little brothers have relied on Jade to look after them for the last seven years.
By the age of ten, Jade was shopping, cooking and cleaning for her whole family. After her mother's behaviour deteriorated even further, the option of suicide was constantly on Jade's mind and she began to break down at school. Filled with a mixture of shame, exhaustion and desperation, Jade contacted the social services to get some help. They told her that her case 'wasn't serious enough'.
Jade somehow found the strength to survive being weighed down with the responsibility of looking after her family with very little money, day after day, year after year. There were no days off and no holidays. In moments of total despair, Jade contacted the social services twice more and each time received the same response. 'Your case isn't serious enough'. At 13, in an act of both self preservation and compassion, Jade moved out of her mother's house with her two brothers to go and live with, and care for, her father, who was desperately ill.
It was only last year, after The Princess Royal Trust for Young Carers and, finally, social services, contacted Jade, that her life became a little more tolerable. Jade's mother was finally taken into care but only last month she attempted suicide and ended up in hospital on several occasions. Jade's father, Andrew, had a kidney transplant earlier this year and although he remains in poor health, it is a huge credit to Jade that he is still alive and that her brothers, Ethan and Tyree, have turned out so well. Jade's remarkable resilience coupled with her willingness and ability to talk about her life is an inspiration to all young carers struggling to keep their heads above water. Her strength and example will hopefully allow her to continue to raise awareness of the 190,000 young carers in this country and so help to provide them with the support and understanding they so desperately need.
Nominated by The Trustees.
Jasvinda Sanghera was just 15 when her parents announced that she was to be married within two weeks. When Jasvinda said she didn't want to get married, her parents retaliated by locking her in her bedroom and effectively keeping her under house arrest. A few days later, Jasvinda managed to escape and fled.
Even though Jasvinda was sleeping rough on the streets, whenever she contacted her family - begging them to allow her to return home - they said that she had brought such dishonour on them that in their eyes she was dead.
Over the next seven years Jasvinda secretly stayed in touch with one of her sisters, Robina, who was deeply unhappy and terrified of the man that she had been forced to marry. Jasvinda was working at her market stall in Bradford when she got the news that Robina had tried to kill herself by pouring oil over her clothes and setting fire to herself. Robina died a few days later.
Jasvinda vowed to do something to help prevent the misery, violence, suicides and murders brought about by forced marriages. She set up Karma Nirvana - an organisation that runs a network of refuges for women fleeing their husbands or families. Despite Jasvinda receiving threats, she has continued her work - highlighting the fact that young Asian women have a suicide rate three times higher than the national average.
Karma Nirvana gets about 50 new calls a month from women and agencies but sadly there are still cases where help arrives too late. One girl's head was crushed under the bonnet of a car - her family claimed she had been changing a tyre at 3 am. There have also been several terrible 'accidents' involving chip pans - yet when the police got to the scene there was no chip pan in sight.
Jasvinda has helped to bring the issues surrounding forced marriages out into the open and has championed the rights of women in this country and throughout the world. There is no doubt that without her strength and courage, many women would not have regained their freedom and happiness, or even escaped with their lives.
Nominated by Jessica Proudfoot - a guest at last year's Awards Dinner.
With a mother who was hopelessly addicted to drugs, Jamal started living on the streets at the age of eleven. All to predictably, he became involved in prostitution - living in a world where ordinary morals and any sense of social responsibility simply didn't exist. Jamal had no reference point for leading a normal life or even for caring about another human being. When he was picked up by the social services, he was put in hostels where he suffered some of his most degrading and sickening episodes of all.
Jamal is now 21 and studying to be a lawyer. His life turned round when he came into contact with Kids Company - a charity which offers practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable children and young people. For the first time in his conscious memory, Jamal experienced what it felt like to have someone care about him. Within a remarkably short space of time, he then began to reach out to other young people who desperately needed help.
Earlier this year, Jamal wrote an open letter to Gordon Brown, published in the national press, which identified the government's failure to care for vulnerable children. At a great emotional cost to himself, Jamal is now using his unique insight to speak up and help others understand what needs to be done to prevent other young people suffering what he went through.
Jamal has also been raising the profile of Kids Company, so that it can continue to care for the thousands of young people who simply do not know what it is like to be loved.
The depth of moral courage and fortitude that has allowed Jamal to turn a tragic life into one that has become a powerful, energetic and positive force for good, that will hopefully continue to inspire others, is probably impossible for most of us to understand.
Nominated by Miranda McWhirter
In the early afternoon of 29th January, 2007, PC Rob Preston was involved in a plain clothes operation to try and arrest drug dealers in Ipswich. He had spotted two young men dealing in class A drugs but when he tried to arrest them the two men turned on him him - clearly intent on inflicting serious injuries. One of the men then ran off while the other continued to fight PC Preston.
Michael McCarthy was on his motorbike when he saw the two men fighting. He saw that the younger man had got the upper hand but was still punching PC Preston. Still oblivious to the fact that PC Preston was a plain clothes policeman, Michael stopped his bike and tried to break the fight up. As he got closer to the two men, he saw that PC Preston had a deep gash on his head and was bleeding profusely.
It was only after Michael had begun to restrain the younger man, that he realised that the other man - PC Preston - was telling him that he was plain clothes policeman and was trying to show him his ID card. Having no idea how PC Preston had received the serious injuries to his head and face and not knowing whether the drug dealer had a knife or not, Michael continued to struggle with the assailant until he was able to help the badly injured policeman handcuff him.
As soon as help arrived, PC Rob Preston was rushed to hospital where his head was literally 'glued' back together.
Michael's selfless actions led to the arrest of an extremely dangerous man. The other drug dealer was also traced and arrested soon afterwards. It is not clear what would have happened to PC Preston if Michael had decided to take the easy course of action and had carried on driving past, but given the drug dealer's record, it is possible that he may even have saved PC Preston's life. As it is, Michael and Rob Preston have now become friends.
Nominated by the Suffolk Constabulary.
Just after midday on Friday 30th June 2006, Donald Gray heard a commotion near his home in Speke, Liverpool, and went to see what was happening. He found a group of onlookers helplessly watching a woman being savagely attacked by two dogs - one a Pit bull Terrier and the other a larger Mastiff crossbreed.
Donald knew that it could only be a few minutes or even seconds before the woman was killed. Totally unarmed, he went to her aid. He tried to pull the larger dog off the woman but it refused to let go of her. Her injuries were already extremely serious, so he tried kicking the larger dog while at the same time trying to fend off the ferocious Pit bull. The dogs were so vicious that the crowd of people were still too frightened to help.
At last, Donald managed to force the larger dog to release its grip on the woman - only for it to turn on him with a renewed ferocity. Despite sustaining multiple injuries, Donald eventually managed to fight the larger dog off. Fortunately, the dog then fled which in turn prompted the Pit bull to run off, too.
There is absolutely no doubt that Donald's extraordinary act of bravery saved the woman's life. Although she was very seriously injured and remains badly scarred, she is now making a good recovery. Donald also has a number of scars from the encounter - which will, at least, serve as a lifelong testament to his selfless courage.
Nominated by the Merseyside Police - Liverpool South