Stories behind COVID-19 heroes recognised in Queen’s birthday honours
Written by on 9 October 2020
COVID-19 heroes dominate the Queen’s birthday honours this year.
The list was postponed from June in order to include people, such as medical workers, fundraisers and volunteers, who have been instrumental in the coronavirus effort.
The honours celebrate the selfless good deeds of these ordinary people who have dedicated themselves to helping others through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are the stories behind some of those recognised.
Dabirul Islam Choudhury OBE
Mr Choudbhury, a 100-year-old from Bow, east London raised more than GBP420,000 for COVID-19 relief while fasting during Ramadan.
He did it by walking 970 laps of his garden during the Islamic holy month, which fell between 23 April and 23 May this year.
Mr Choudhury said: “I feel proud they have honoured me for the efforts I have done.
“I thank everybody from the bottom of my heart.”
His son Atique Choudhury, 57, said: “Where we are from in Bangladesh, we don’t get much recognition for the work that we do, so this is for all the people who contributed towards my dad’s success and all the victims of COVID-19.
“He said his work hasn’t finished and he’s going to carry on working and raising money for people affected by coronavirus.
“We are very proud of my father for walking his garden and raising money for a great number of people, and getting recognised for the work he’s done is an honour.”
Ali Ghorbangholi OBE
The 29-year-old from west London is a co-founder of the GoodSAM app which helped mobilise hundreds of thousands of volunteers in support of vulnerable shielded people during lockdown.
Mr Ghorbangholi said: “I’m humble to be even be considered for this award.
“I’m a programmer who spends most of my time behind the computer, usually app users don’t even know people like me exist.
“This honour recognises the great work people like me are doing.”
Felicia Margaret Kwaku OBE
Miss Kwaku, 52, associate director of nursing at Kings College NHS Foundation Trust, has been honoured for her services to nursing spanning more than 30 years.
During the pandemic, she supported BAME nurses by delivering webinars which reached thousands of NHS staff at a time when they felt vulnerable, scared and worried.
She also championed the cause of Filipino nurses and raised issues surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE) for BAME staff, particularly certain types of surgical masks built for white Caucasian males that didn’t fit properly for some Asian and Filipino nurses and doctors.
“The honour is an absolute privilege but not just for me. We saw nurses were dying,” Miss Kwaku said.
“It honours all those who put their lives on the line – it represents all my fallen colleagues.”
Adrian Petticrew OBE
Mr Petticrew has been awarded an OBE for his work as a St John Ambulance volunteer.
The 53-year-old, from Banbridge, Co Down, has been involved with the charity since he was ten, carrying on from his father and grandfather.
But this year saw the biggest challenge yet, co-ordinating St John resources with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) through the pandemic.
He said the recognition was a “very, very pleasant surprise.”
He added: “We went from providing about 20 crews a week during a typical February to at one stage during April and May giving them 80-90 crews a week.
“From the end of February to the end of July we mobilised almost 1,300 crews.”
David Maguire MBE
The restaurateur from Glasgow gave out free meals to NHS workers and vulnerable people during lockdown.
Mr Maguire 62, said his first customers to his West End restaurant on the first day of lockdown – nurses from the Beatson Cancer Centre at Gartnavel Hospital – inspired him to help out during the pandemic.
They visited 1051 GWR for lunch as all their usual places had been forced to close, including the hospital canteen.
When Mr Maguire and head chef Steven Caputa served the nurses, he said: “We looked at each other and went we just can’t charge them.
“We’re just making pizza and pasta but these girls were risking their lives to keep going with their patients, so we thought we’ll just give it to them.”
That started a movement which saw the restaurant make more than 800 free meals daily for the next 11 weeks, during which time he lived in his garage as his wife was shielding.
While they initially started helping NHS workers have a hot meal every day, food was also given to the homeless and families in need.
He set up a fundraising campaign with GBP10,000 of his own money, which raised more than GBP68,000.
He said: “We were serving hundreds of people every day. A gigantic amount of pizzas, pastas and curries.
“We recognised how much people enjoyed having good quality, carefully prepared food – it had a morale boosting effect, better than being given a can of coke and a packet of crisps.
On getting recognition from the Queen he said: “It felt surreal to get the letter to think that people had noticed what we were doing.
“The letter was addressed to me but it was very much a team effort.”
Leahman Filmore Pratt
The 69-year-old from Exeter, Devon is recognised for his work as a Christian Chaplain, at HMP Exeter.
Despite the increased risks posed by the virus as a black man and family bereavement, he volunteered outside his expected hours to ensure prisoner support at a time of highly depleted staff numbers.
He acted as a source of support to prisoner families, and voluntarily took on a funeral for a prisoner who had passed away.
He said: “I am very excited and stunned to be given this award, it’s absolutely incredible.
“I am a people person. I enjoy working with other and it just came naturally to me to treat people how I would like them to treat me.”
Penelope Bond BEM
As a volunteer reserve for the London North East Railway (LNER), Miss Bond launched Letter to a Friend.
The project started when she contacted her local care home and asked if they would be interested in receiving some handwritten letters to distribute to the residents.
More care homes got involved and she enlisted the help of fellow LNER Reserves volunteers and soon care homes around the country were receiving not only letters, but postcards, puzzles, pictures and poems.
To date, more than 150 care homes across the country have taken part and more than 35,000 hellos have been sent out.
The 41-year-old from Grantham, Lincolnshire said: “It’s unbelievable. I feel really privileged to be able to do something that helps others.
“To get given a reward knocks you back because you don’t expect it. So I feel really honoured to be recognised.”
Geoffrey Norris BEM
Mr Norris, 53, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire has been recognised for his work as a Asda supermarket delivery driver.
He used his own car on his days off to make sure elderly and vulnerable customers got their shopping during lockdown.
He said: “As COVID hit and just before it started to lock down, you noticed all the delivery slots were being booked, everything was taken, so we were delivering to regular customers and on the last week or so before they were saying ‘we can’t get any slots’.
“I turned round and said ‘look, I’ll see what I can do, just keep your eye open’.”
He rallied “four or five” driver colleagues to volunteer their own time to pick shopping, go through the tills and deliver it in their own vehicles on a Sunday.
He took orders by email and phone with the help of his wife Vanessa and 22-year-old daughter Anna, or if customers contacted the store directly colleagues passed on the order to him.
On getting the honour he said: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I can’t put into words how pleased I am.”
Jolene Miller BEM
Mrs Miller traded in her job as a train driver to work as a volunteer paramedic treating coronavirus patients.
The 42-year-old left her role driving for Northern Rail and worked in triage at Darlington Memorial Hospital, assessing patients as they came in for treatment.
She had previously worked as a paramedic for about 13 years before becoming a train driver, and had kept her registration by working at events.
Mrs Miller, from Ingleby Barwick, Teesside, said: “I thought I cannot sit here and do nothing when I have skills that I could use elsewhere.”
On getting the BEM she said: “The honour makes me proud, but it’s surreal.”
Lynne Grieves BEM
Lynne Grieves, a registered nurse at Northlea Court care home in Cramlington, Northumberland, has been recognised after moving into the home during early April.
She stayed for 12 weeks, even celebrating her birthday there, after fearing she couldn’t take the risk of transferring the virus back to her 82-year-old mother Ann, with whom she was living. The home was kept clear of coronavirus the entire first wave.
The 57-year-old said: “It means a lot, it just shows I’ve been appreciated for what I’ve done.
“Everybody sacrificed so much, but I just feel it was worth whatever I did sacrifice for such a short time, and if this happened again I would do the same thing again.”