Below are a list of the previous winners of Woman of the Year Award. These are the unsung heroes that were nominated by their friends, families and communities and all are worthy winners of the award.
Hilary was born and brought up in North Oxfordshire, and read Botany at Oxford University. After a gap year spent in voluntary service, she came north to Liverpool University to do a PhD, researching the way native plants grow on industrial waste sites. Hilary plays violin, piano and church organ, and met her husband John in a Liverpool orchestra. They settled in Bromborough, Wirral (where they still live) after their marriage in 1982, and they have two adult sons.
Hilary continued as a part-time botanist round the family, doing surveys, management plans and habitat creation work, mostly in urban areas. In 1987 she became involved with the Wirral Group of Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) – known as Wirral Wildlife – and has been active in nature conservation ever since. This has included 28 years of writing responses to planning applications, and 30 years as Honorary Conservation Officer for Wirral Wildlife, advising community groups, local authorities, other conservation charities and individual landowners. A key project has been New Ferry Butterfly Park, a CWT nature reserve run by a local team, which has transformed a derelict railway goods yard into a thriving park centred on invertebrates, with a strong educational and people-facing focus.
When the recent recession badly hit funding, Hilary slipped out of paid work into more nature conservation; and also increased her training of new botanists, old and young – mostly by taking them out on plant surveys.
When not involved with wild plants, Hilary is a gardener, with a half-allotment on Wingate Road Allotments Association in Eastham. This is a self-managed set, of which Hilary was Treasurer for 11 years and is now President. She is organist of St David’s United Reformed Church, Eastham, which she is also helping with Eco-Church certification and a new Forest Church initiative; and she plays violin in the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Orchestra. Just occasionally she finds time to do some baking and knitting!
Hilary says “I have followed this route because it seemed to be what God wanted me to do, but most of it is and has been very enjoyable, especially wandering round some of the nicest parts of Cheshire with the excuse of looking at the plants growing there!”
In June 2005 Pamela Northcott was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Pam had watched her own Mother, just 50 years old, succumb to the same disease. She was steadfast in her view that her own children would not watch her die too. She would fight this with every ounce of her being. The family were then distraught to be informed that there were no effective chemotherapy treatments for kidney cancer.
Her daughter Kate took leave from work, put her children into full time nursery and started her journey of forensic research into kidney cancer in the desperate hope of saving her Mum.
She found a world expert in kidney cancer in New York and sent Pam’s medical notes over. The clinician confirmed there were two new drugs that were used in most of Europe and the US: Sutent and Nexavar. Kate now had a goal, promising her mum that she would obtain one of these drugs, which Pam’s oncologist had stated was “an impossible task”.
Kate began her ‘Fight for Life’ campaign seeking NHS approval of these new drugs for her Mum. After nine months of sleepless nights researching the UK’s cancer commissioning process, Kate discovered a hidden ‘Exceptional Case’ policy, which allowed clinicians to apply to their local NHS board for the funding of high cost cancer drugs for individual patients. After Kate’s relentless campaign to the NHS Board, Pam became the first person in Wales to access the drug. Sadly this came to late to her and she passed away 4 months later) it was too late for her. Pam’s dying wish was for Kate to ensure others also gained access to the drug. On 13th August 2007, the day after her mother’s death, Kate set up The Pamela Northcott Fund – “The Right Treatment at the Right Time for Cancer Patients”.
Kate’s campaigning and advocacy resulted in NHS funding the new drugs for over 70 kidney cancer patients in the first 6 months after Pam’s death. Within 12 months the Welsh NHS had approved both drugs for all kidney cancer patients. Kate was then asked to be Expert Patient Witness for English drug approval body NICE and now both are standard treatment for kidney cancer patients in the UK.
This could have been a great end of the story. However, hundreds of patients contacted Kate with similar stories of new drugs for a multitude of cancers being refused due to cost. She took on every case and ensured over 300 patients gained NHS funding for their specific cancer. Kate has become a successful campaigner for access to all new cancer treatments. She is now an expert in NHS cancer commissioning policy, briefing MP’s, the media and oncologists. She has campaigned for the Cancer Drugs Fund which has now provided new life-extending cancer drugs to over 80,000 patients. She successfully lobbied the government to ensure cancer patient rights, including access to new treatments were top of the agenda.
Kate provides free advocacy nationally for any cancer patient refused NHS funding for a new drug. She also mentors teen cancer patients and supports and advices local organisations working with vulnerable adults and terminally ill children. Kate is resolute that she will continue this work until every cancer patient in the UK receives “the right treatment at the right time”.
Pat Rice has lived in Wirral since she was a small child. She was brought up in New Brighton and enjoyed many summers playing on the local beach. Even as a child, Pat had a strong sense of ‘wanting to help’, she would offer to do neighbours shopping and more particularly to walk their dogs.
Once working, in the Civil Service, Pat was still active in the community. In her spare time she volunteered at a children’s home, taking children out on trips and having fun. She was also instrumental in fundraising to buy a guide dog for the visually impaired.
In her early twenties Pat spent three years travelling and working in Australia. Even here she got involved in community work at an Aborigine mission. Back in England, Pat’s work with young people began in earnest, firstly working as a volunteer, then training formally as a Youth and Community worker.
Twenty six years on, Pat is very proud of her contribution to the work of Wirral Youth Service and her personal positive impact on young peoples’ lives. She currently works as Head of Response, an agency which supports young people in crisis; young people whose experience of life is far beyond what they should be dealing with at an early age. Vulnerable young people who are homeless, at risk of sexual exploitation, struggling with mental health issues, self-harming and contemplating suicide, struggling with substance abuse and addictions, all of these are in a day’s work for Pat. It is a demanding, challenging and often emotional job, but infinitely rewarding.
Keeping young people safe is a crucial part of Pat’s personal philosophy as well as her job. She ensures the service offered to young people is creative, effective, innovative and responsive. Meaningful, supportive relationships are built, not only with young people but with their families, schools and communities. This creates a consistent presence in the lives of young people and goes a long way towards normalising interaction and trust.
In her downtime Pat enjoys walking with her dog (typically a rescue Labradoodle), camping, travelling and the odd spot of DIY (again, helping her friends out).
Pat believes we all have a part to play in making our communities safe. We all have a role in helping to keep children and young people safe, we all have a role in building up resilience, listening to what young people say and hearing what they tell us.
Lynda grew up in the coastal town of Prestatyn, North Wales with her parents and 2 brothers until she moved to Portsmouth in 1986 to study Psychology. During this time she met David, now her husband. On completion of her degree she worked in a respite care home for children with special needs in Berkshire.
After getting married in 1990, Lynda spent a large part of her career in the NHS at Chester as a Research Psychologist, completing her Masters degree in Practitioner Research before becoming a full time mum to Adam, Beth and Josh, now teenagers. During her career break she completed further studies in Clinical and Pastoral Counselling and is currently completing post graduate studies in Leadership and Management.
Lynda thrives on camping holidays and fresh air (but she has to take her duvet!). In her spare time she loves visiting the theatre or reading. She often finds herself heading towards ‘the land’ (where The Joshua Tree will be built) to quietly contemplate the next steps for the charity and to silently give thanks to God for his hand of protection on her family.
Josh, her youngest son, was diagnosed with Leukaemia just one week into year one of his school life. He completed his 3 ¼ year treatment part way through year four (December 2007). His illness and her experience of caring for a very sick child consequently focussed the direction of her life. After much prayer and discussion, Lynda and David founded ‘The Joshua Tree Holiday House and Support Centre’ in 2005, aiming to provide families of children with cancer much needed support during an incredibly stressful period of their lives. She is passionate about the charity and works tirelessly, along with her dedicated team of trustees, staff and volunteers to see her vision fulfilled. Her faith has inspired her to keep focussed and positive throughout her journey.
Land has been bought in Cheshire and full planning permission has been granted. Fundraising is continuing in earnest to raise the £1.9 million needed to build the Centre. Almost £1 million has been raised to date but clearly much has already been spent on the project. A highlight of the end of last year was the launch of their interim Support Centre by the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire David Briggs. Lynda is thrilled that families are now being offered a support service and is very excited about the future opening of the main Centre when funds allow.
In 1978 Christine Pugh and her husband John had three sons of their own when she saw an advertisement appealing for homes for children in Runcorn. She thought that they would like to share their home and help children who were going through a difficult time in their lives. Their daughter was born a year later but they continued fostering. She has now been a foster carer for over thirty years to more than four hundred children. She has cared for babies through to young adults and children with special needs, sometimes providing long term care and an ‘emergency bed’.
Foster children are part of Christine’s family. She compiles a life story book for each one, filling it with memories and photographs. Over the years she remains a part of the lives of many of the children she has cared for and goes to weddings and christenings as the young people she has helped make their way in the world. She is an ‘honorary gran’ to many of their children!
Christine has given a great deal of her time for over twenty years to run a support group for other foster carers, Halton Fostering Families. She is able to guide and mentor others and shares her knowledge and experience so that other foster carers can achieve the same goals and standards that she sets. In 2007 she was instrumental in the group becoming the registered charity ‘Another Chance to Care’. She works tirelessly to raise funds for the charity and to organise events. Another Chance to Care offers family activities so that foster carers, their children and children in care can get together as a family enjoying, learning and improving their skills. It operates without any staff, relying entirely on volunteers. Christine’s commitment to fostering continues to grow and she is very involved in all areas of fostering. This includes training for potential foster carers, supporting recruitment and mentoring newly-approved carers. She is also a magistrate and a fostering representative panel member for a neighbouring local authority.
In January 2013 Christine was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work as a foster carer. She pays tribute to her husband John saying she could not have achieved all she has, without his support. They now have nine grandchildren but Christine continues her involvement in fostering and supporting foster carers. She has given an amazing amount to her community and is a truly inspirational ‘Cheshire Woman of the Year’.
Sue Bowen retired in 2006 after a lifetime career in the teaching profession including primary Headship and work as a School Improvement Officer. She continued similar work as an independent consultant for several years before deciding to give up the paid work for the unpaid work, because it was more interesting!
She was asked to take on the role of Chair of Governor of Ash Grove Primary School in Macclesfield. The school was failing and threatened with closure, results were dire and pupil behaviour was “off the wall”. Her past experience told her that there was a huge mountain to climb – but her conviction that this was vital for the children to have fair chances in life drove her to work unceasingly to improve their education. The appointment of a wonderful new headteacher in 2009 began the improvement process for real. Ash Grove’s SAT results in summer 2011 showed it to be the second most improved school in the country. The skilled and dedicated staff ensure that all children receive wonderful opportunities for learning and personal development. The astonishing improvement in academic and behavioural standards, increasing pupil numbers, together with exciting external activities are very much due to her leadership.
A spin-off from the work with the school came with Sue’s involvement with the Moss Rose Community Brass Band – a mad idea which seems to have created a monster. There are now 34 members, most of whom have never played a brass instrument. The Band’s capability is of course still at a very early stage but everyone had great fun and some people even come to listen – a fact which never ceases to amaze the members.
Ash Grove School is but one of Sue’s many interests in community life. She is an active and enthusiastic member of Macclesfield Castle Rotary Club, currently chairing the Youth Opportunities committee. She is in the line of succession for President in 2013, which will make her the Club’s first female President. She is also involved in organising a twice-yearly Ladies Lunch raising funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care. She walks weekly with a local walking group, enjoys creative embroidery, practises yoga weekly and swims whenever she can (but says this is less often than she ought!)
Sue has four grandchildren, two with her daughter in London and two with her son in Sale. Seeing them is the highlight of her life and fitting this in with keeping up with her wide circle of friends means that a night at home in front of the telly is a rarity!
Josephine Wood joined the RASA (Rape and Sexual Abuse) centre in 2004. RASA is an independent voluntary organisation and registered charity. It was started in 1986 by a group of local women who were aware of the effects of sexual abuse and rape on a woman’s life. This allowed her to focus on her main passion – violence against women. Already a Wirral Magistrate, Jo’s intense sense of right and wrong and total abhorrence of injustice led her to expand the service across Merseyside. Working at strategic level she was elected to the Board of Rape Crisis (England & Wales) as Treasurer in 2006. By the end of March 2010, she had increased RASA staffing from 2 to 7 and the funding from £17,500 to £237,000 for the year. In 5 years RASA has achieved
- Nationwide Award for Excellence in Volunteering
- Goldstar endorsement by the Home Office for Volunteering
- Merseyside Women’s Group of The Year 2008
- The Morgan Foundation Award for Entrepreneurship in Charity Management 2009
In the June 2010 Birthday Honours List Jo was awarded the MBE for her work for the victims of domestic and sexual violence across Merseyside.
As well as her outstanding work for RASA, Jo has been involved in many other voluntary initiatives both here and abroad. Perhaps one of her greatest achievements was the construction in 1995 of a home for orphans and abandoned children in Warri, a small town in South West Nigeria. She contributed to the work of “Sunbeams & Rainbows” charity, raising money for and succeeding in developing, a Baby Memorial Garden at Landican Cemetery.
She is a founder member and Director of Wirral Change. Wirral Change is a Black and Racial Minorities Outreach Service offering information, advice and guidance on jobs, education, training, self-employment, health and wellbeing, as well as signposting to other services for racial minority people on the Wirral. Working in partnership with Wirral Borough Council, NHS Wirral and others, Wirral Change has demonstrated that the problem of worklessness in the black community can be effectively addressed with hundreds of people having found work through the service. In January 2011, Jo was awarded the Wirral Civic Award, presented by the Mayor of Wirral at a special dinner in the Town Hall, Wallasey.
Jo was also secretary to West Kirby Wasps football team for 6 years and is a keen and dedicated follower of Tranmere Rovers. She was born and brought in Wirral and now lives in Moreton with her husband and children.
Get your thinking caps on and let’s acknowledge those unsung heroes in your friends, families, communities or at work.