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Volunteer of the Year


The Argus, Wednesday, October 2, 2013


PAUL Foster not only battled his demons but then used his experience to help others. He started drinking alcohol when he was just 11-years-old. Little did he know that first sip would set him on a path of alcoholism which would see him lose everything and almost his own life. His health declined over the years and he ended up living on the streets. But at the age of 37 he began a 12-step abstinence based treatment at Brighton Housing Trusts Detox Support Project. The programme provided Paul with the toughest challenge of his life but he came out the other end a better person. He got himself a job and started to get his life back on track. But determined to give something back the former alcoholic began volunteering at the Detox Project. A decade later he is celebrating his 10-year anniversary at the charity. Friend Lucy Enever said: Paul never lets the clients down even when there is heavy rain or snow and he is completely exhausted after a full days work. By listening to client's fears, and supporting and inspiring them to make life changing choices, he has helped hundreds learn to live well without drugs or alcohol.

TOM Dowds is the teacher we all wished we had. The head of City College Brighton and Hoves carpentry department, he possesses passion, enthusiasm and drive by the bucket-load. But what makes Tom really stand out is his ongoing volunteering project. For the last ten years he has been the driving force behind a scheme to provide homes and basic infrastructure for children living in Nakuru in Kenya. He has sent countless students over to Africa to volunteer their skills in the former colony. Tom is now embarking on a project to bring over a young Kenyan to study carpentry at City College while living with his family. Brian Bell, from City College, said: As well as making such a positive contribution to the Nakuru community, Tom's tireless efforts to keep his students on board with the projects fundraising, planning and implementation gives them invaluable experience to take through life. He would be a worthy and inspirational winner of this award.

RYAN Walshe nearly lost his life to testicular cancer back in 2010. He went through the trauma of 11 weeks of intense chemotherapy and then almost died again from neutropenia. After such an ordeal you would forgive the youngster for taking it easy. But those who know Ryan, know thats just not his style. Instead he vowed to help educate young people and Talking Testicles was born. Ever since setting up the scheme he has spoken candidly to more than 4,000 students in Brighton and Hove and London. The results were instant. Weeks after one talk in the capital he was called by a school to say a student had checked himself and found a lump. It turned out to be cancerous but as it was caught early, he survived. Ryan was then seen by millions when he appeared in the national press with others to raise awareness of the disease. TV presenter Jeremy Kyle checked himself as a result and was saved by the early diagnosis. Ryans mum, Trudi, said she couldnt be more proud. She said: He has not stopped volunteering for one minute, he has never asked for anything in return, not even a thank you. But I believe he does deserve a thank you from the community and that is why I have nominated him for this award.

Grandparent of the Year

BERNI and Ernest Taylor have always been there for their children and grandchildren and they always will be. Despite both suffering through ill health, the couple continue to look after not only their own children but their childrens children. Most grandparents have the luxury of being able to spoil their g randchildren before passing them back to their parents when the tears come. But not 48-yearold Berni and 59year-old Ernest. The couple are f u l l - t i m e guardians for two of their grandchildren. Despite Berni continuing to recover from a stroke and Ernest suffering from a bad hip, the pair devote their lives to making sure the 12-year-old and seven-year-old get the best possible start in life. Auntie to the two children and daughter of Berni and Ernest, Kelly Dhabia, also lives with her parents at their home in Whitehawk Way, Whitehawk. She said: They are fantastic. They have given their lives to looking after the family. They work tirelessly 24/7 and I really think they deserve this award. They both have medical problems but that doesnt stop them, theyre amazing. It has been hard for my mum and dad because they are not young and Id love for them to get this award. SOUTHWICK-based Susan Groves lives some 250 miles away from her four grandchildren. But this extraordinary grandmother doesnt let that get in her way. She regularly travels up to Yorkshire to see them and has been known to journey up for just one night to babysit. Over the school summer holidays she slaves away in the kitchen preparing meals before freezing them to make sure they are well fed across the six week break. And when not with them, she is collecting vouchers and planning the next visit and days out. The pensioner has even dusted the cobwebs off her knackered old bike so she can start cycling with them. If that wasnt enough she also looks after her husband and cares for her 92year-old mother.


JOHN and Jean Merrington have always been there for their grandchildren whatever life throws at them. The pair, both 74, not only brought up their own four children but raised many of their grandchildren as well. Grandchild, Stephanie Merrington, described them as one in a million. She said: Me and my brother were brought up by them from the age of three. We have been given the best start in life and they were always loving parents to us. They helped us to understand life and make sure we achieve and respect and love our family. They have both suffered ill health over the years, with John undergoing a triple heart by-pass. Regardless they continued to care for the family and do everything they can. Stephanie added: I would love them to win this award to show how much we respect what they have done for us.

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