Carers in Bedfordshire and young carer Jamaal Otieno have been recognised at the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire Annual Awards ceremony held virtually yesterday (18 March).
The Zoom ceremony celebrated those groups and individuals who have demonstrated excellence in supporting their local communities during the last year of the Covid pandemic.
Carers in Bedfordshire was presented by High Sheriff Susan Lousada with a Charitable Organisation Award for “operating at an outstanding level throughout the pandemic and showing great versatility, kindness and care." Jamaal was given a Young Citizen Award for the contribution he has made in caring for his younger brother and raising the profile of young carers both locally and nationally.
The charity which supports thousands of unpaid carers across Bedfordshire hit the ground running when the first lockdown began. Although face-to-face services closed, the team got on the phone to offer practical advice and a listening ear.
CEO Chris Stelling said: “We are so proud to have received the award and this formal recognition of our staff and volunteers who have worked incredibly hard during such a challenging time. Carers are facing difficult circumstances and have been for an long period of time. Our support workers have been able to carry on supporting them with an unlimited supply of kindness and compassion. The feedback we’ve received from the carers we’ve supported during the last year has been fantastic to see, lifting their spirits and keeping them going.
“Workshops, events and groups did not just move online but expanded. Our yoga workouts are new, as well as our cookery course, exercise groups and Time to Ask sessions. Everyone has been working extremely hard to give carers varied and interesting activities to alleviate loneliness and isolation. One carer told us ‘You are my main contact with the outside world.’
“I am extremely proud to lead such a dynamic organisation, with a team of such hard working, caring individuals, many of whom are also carers and would have felt the strain of the last year.”
Jamaal cares for his younger brother who has ADHD and very challenging behaviour. The 16-year-old is a Peer Mentor undergoing bespoke training from Carers in Bedfordshire to equip him with the skills to mentor other young carers. He regularly attends a national young carers campaign group The Young Carers National Voice and raises the profile and needs of young carers with local and national government. He also stood for Youth Parliament earlier in the year with a manifesto to support young carers.
Janice Styles, family Team Co-ordinator at Carers in Bedfordshire, said: “Jamaal's care and commitment to his brother and family shines through each time you speak to him. His passion for young carers is evident in the extra work he takes on alongside his caring role. He is an inspiration to other young carers of what you can achieve and with the theme for Young Carers Action Day this year being ‘Protect Young Carers Futures’ his efforts certainly won't go to waste.”
High Sheriff Susan Lousada added: “I am so pleased to recognise Carers in Bedfordshire for the outstanding service they deliver within Bedfordshire. They quickly adapted to the challenges of this pandemic ensuring that no carer was left without contact. I am also delighted that I was able to award Jamaal Otieno with a Young Citizen Award. He is truly exceptional and a wonderful role model for young people.”
19 March 2021