A GROUP of 21 of Coventry’s real-life, everyday heroes have been celebrated and recognised for their acts of kindness in the Covid-19 pandemic after a citywide search.
More than 100 people were nominated by friends, family or neighbours for the #OurCovHeroes campaign, launched in the summer by Coventry City of Culture Trust. The final 21 were then selected by a panel of young people from Coventry Youth Activist Group and the Belgrade Theatre.
Chenine Bhathena, of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “It has been incredibly moving to read the stories of all of the amazing nominees and it really does demonstrate the number of incredible everyday heroes in our city.”
And nominee Loraine Masiya Mponela, chairperson of Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG), said: “Nobody sets off to be recognised especially if it’s to do with undoing injustices. I appreciate the person who nominated me, in order to recognise the gap that CARAG has always tried to fill, not just during the pandemic.”
The final 21 heroes had their portraits taken by photographer, Ayesha Jones, and these portraits will be displayed in city centre shop windows from Thursday December 3 until January 5, so that the entire city can learn about the inspiring community work they have been doing during the pandemic.
Of these, five ‘stand out heroes’ have had illustrations created of them by artist Ana Jaks, which will also feature in city centre windows.
The five heroes illustrated by artist Ana Jaks are:
Inderjit Singh – ran Coventry Emergency Shelter – Inderjit worked flat out last winter hosting the Coventry Emergency Shelter at Langar Aid House, Spon End, which looked after up to 20 rough-sleepers each night from November to February. As this finished and the country went into lockdown, he took it upon himself to feed around 200 hundred vulnerable individuals, seven days a week.
Caroline Sinclair – founder of Cheylesmore foodbank – After being furloughed, Caroline decided to put her time to good use and decided to set up a Food Hub in the Cheylesmore area. Despite the area not being seen to need a food bank facility, she pressed ahead anyway and, within eight weeks, was helping more than 30 families in need of food.
Aileen O’Shea – Coventry City Council registrar – She retired in May after 16 years and one of her final acts in the job was to give a couple their last wish by organising for them to be married on the ITU Ward at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.
Evie Barriscale – a 10-year-old schoolgirl – Deciding to fundraise at the height of lockdown she created heart-shaped magnets and keyrings that she sold for a small fee, raising £208 for the Children’s Air Ambulance.
Loraine Masiya Mponela – chairperson of Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG) – Despite being worried about her own plight, she organised housing for the homeless and food for the hungry. She organises meetings, petitions and writes articles.
Other #OurCovHeroes and their stories
Juliah Galliers – a nurse working in cardiac surgery at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire – Not only does she work long shifts, she’s often on-call at all times of day and night as her skills are much in demand. She is compassionate and calm in an emergency and is described as bringing ‘enormous joy’ to everyone who knows her.
Mr Rai – Potters Green shopkeeper – When others were increasing the price of hard to obtain items – such as hand sanitiser, flour and toilet roll – he bought in bulk and offered them free to customers.
Kelly Iles – Owner of The Barn Kitchen, Binley Woods – Delivered 60,500 free meals to local hospitals for NHS staff during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
Chaitrali Chitre – community group leader – Moved sessions online during lockdown to help keep people active, including in music, dance, arts, cookery and mental health awareness. As well as this she empowered women in the community to show off their talent.
Brett Kowalski– Royal Mail HGV lorry driver – Manages an online photographic community to help inspire others and share work – capturing the beautiful side of life through photography.
Lisa Chant – care home worker – Went above and beyond to ensure a husband spent the final hours with his wife in care, before she died.
Sheila Tatum – retired palliative care nurse – Volunteered to go into Abbey Park Nursing and Dementia Care Home to do everything from cleaning to answering the phone. Was a rock to staff with her empathy and understanding during some of the most difficult times in the Covid-19 crisis.
Garry Bratt – local resident – Helped his local community by knocking on doors and offering to do shopping and fetch prescriptions. He also ran outdoor ‘street’ events to keep spirits up including bingo, quizzes and games.
PC Shaun King – city police officer – When coming off duty at 3am – already four hours late – he discovered a car fire and immediately called the fire service. They said the blaze was just a few minutes away from sparking a house fire, endangering the lives of several families with children.
Anna-Marie Corbett – Centre Manager at the Canley Community Centre – Described as ‘a beacon of light for Canley’, she works tirelessly as a community volunteer and provides a safe space for children/young people, plus runs the Canley Food Hub which has 80 families subscribed to it.
Rich Brandist – local DJ in Willenhall – Received 21 separate nominations after giving up every Thursday and Saturday evening to play records and games with the local community. On top of that, he organised fundraisers for community causes.
Rachelle Morgan –local resident – After having periods of homelessness and vulnerability herself, Rachelle is giving support to others. A valued member of the Anchor Centre’s patients’ participation group, supporting and encouraging others in the group.
Mike Stott – local resident – After the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016, he set up street events for neighbours which have grown in size since. During lockdown, set up a local WhatsApp group to keep people ‘together’, hand-delivered messages to those who had no access to technology, as well as organising a street-wide clap for carers and a 1940s party to commemorate St George’s Day.
Ray Wilson – unsung hero – Helped to turn a modest patch of woodland running parallel to Kenilworth Road into a quiet haven for people during lockdown and set up Kids’ Picture Trails for local families.
Manjit Rehal – Chartered counselling psychologist – A senior outreach practitioner with CRASAC (Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre), she also volunteers in-and-around Coventry helping women in need. She has conducted safeguarding and awareness with rape and abuse sessions for women giving her time voluntarily, especially in the BAME community.
Val and Nigel Elvin – married couple – Ensured community spirit was alive and well in Harewood Road, Whoberley. Nigel painted coping stones for residents after being furloughed, repainted street signs, planted flowers and become the area’s ‘chocolate fairy’ by leaving unexpected treats on doorsteps. Val baked scones, cakes and shortbread and gifted them to neighbours in need of some cheer.