Three local residents whose efforts have made a huge difference to those less able to cope during the pandemic have been recognised in the New Year Honours.
Fulham couple Julian and Maria Sturdy-Morton have been awarded British Empire Medals for organising fresh food deliveries to housebound people. “We’re both thrilled to bits,” said Julian.
And Savraj Kaur, director of the charity United in Hammersmith & Fulham, has also won a British Empire Medal after drawing on her experience in disaster zones to launch a rapid-response appeal during the first lockdown – raising £100,000 in the first month by working in partnership with H&F Council.
The New Year Honours aim to mark the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the UK. The BEM has the same status as an OBE or MBE.
The citation from the Cabinet Office says Savraj Kaur’s British Empire Medal is for “services to the community in Hammersmith & Fulham, particularly during Covid-19”.
It is “so well deserved”, says H&F Leader Stephen Cowan, who described Savraj as “a fighter for social justice, often working around the clock to help people”.
Cllr Cowan added: “She’s prolific… from tackling isolation and providing Christmas meals to getting tech to young people who cannot afford it, but need it for their studies. She’s making a real difference.”
The 38-year-old from Fulham Reach is director of United in H&F. And her speedy efforts to set up the lifeline appeal – in partnership with H&F Council – helped raise funds for local community groups as the first pandemic lockdown struck in March 2020.
As individuals and firms donated, she spearheaded a system of micro-grants so aid could reach those in need without delay.
More than 140 local programmes were funded, assisting 130,000 people, from domestic violence victims to at-risk youths and Fulham war veterans, while isolating senior citizens received culturally appropriate food parcels.
Savraj has also been working with H&F Council to tackle ‘digital poverty’, co-founding Ready Tech Go, a BAME-led initiative refurbishing laptops and tablets for families without access to technology as part of our Tech4Kids Appeal.
“I’m humbled, and must say that the real achievements each day are happening thanks to volunteers, paid workers or simply great neighbours who are doing so much with so little recognition,” she said of the BEM, adding special mention to Kevin McGrath, her chair at the time the pandemic hit.
Born in Hammersmith Broadway, Savraj worked in the UK and overseas (including providing humanitarian relief in Iraq) before joining United in H&F.
A board member of West London Welcome, which supports refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, she is also a co-editor of UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action Report.
Maria and Julian Sturdy-Morton
The Fulham couple have each been awarded British Empire Medals for services to the community during Covid-19, diverting resources from the cultural and social networks which they have run for more than 13 years to provide fresh food parcels to those in need.
Maria and Julian, who live in Edenhurst Avenue, and who both turn 70 this year, run A Bit of TLC Ltd, a 1,200-strong group of mainly retired people in the borough who enjoy outings, hosted excursions, walks, concerts and breaks.
After the pandemic put a halt to most activities, the group changed focus to organise food shopping and prescription deliveries to those isolating.
Julian liaised with several of the wholesalers at New Covent Garden Market, whose supply businesses had fallen off a cliff as hospitality closed, and – with the help of 150 volunteers – set up a distribution hub at The Hurlingham Club to prepare fresh food parcels for home delivery.
“We found some shocking instances of local poverty,” said Julian. “We found one 80-year-old man living in half a garage near Putney Bridge, with no fridge or heating. He didn’t even possess a tin-opener, using a chisel instead.”
He joined a list of 500 households who received regular food parcels, including the first-class fish and meat from wholesalers that had originally been intended for Mayfair’s finest restaurants. One hundred of those 500 homes were provided with food completely free, while contributions were made by those that could afford to.
“We were lent a large area by The Hurlingham Club to use as a packing shed, and our 150 volunteers managed to package up more than 12 tonnes of fresh produce for distribution,” said Julian. “We obsessed about hand hygiene and social distancing – and reported no Covid cases among our volunteers!”
Five years after being made an MBE, Blues manager Emma Hayes has been elevated to OBE for services to football in the Honours.
She’ll attend Buckingham Palace in the summer to receive her gong after completing a remarkable quadruple with Chelsea Women – the club she has managed for a decade – in the past season: WSL trophy, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield.
It crowns a year in which she was inducted into the newly created FA WSL Hall of Fame, established herself as a forthright TV pundit and signed a new contract with Chelsea.
“It was a huge shock to hear I had been awarded an OBE. It’s an unbelievable honour for me and my family and a privilege I take very seriously,” she said.
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