Twenty-one of Coventry’s everyday heroes are being celebrated and recognised for their acts of kindness after a citywide search to find remarkable people.
More than 100 people were nominated by friends, family and neighbours for the Our Cov Heroes campaign, launched in the summer by Coventry City of Culture Trust, before a selection process by a panel of young people in the city.
Among those nominated were tales of community spirit bringing people together during lockdown, and those who took it upon themselves to help feed people who may otherwise have gone hungry.
The final 21 are a unique group of people, from a shopkeeper who went the extra mile for his elderly customers during the pandemic, to an asylum seeker who organised housing for the homeless and food for the hungry.
The group had their portraits taken, by local photographer Ayesha Jones, which are now being displayed in shop windows across the city centre, giving the entire city the chance to read about previously unsung heroes living among them.
Further to this, five ‘stand out heroes’ have had illustrations created of them by artist Ana Jaks, which feature in city centre windows too.
The City of Culture Trust have also worked with the Coventry Business Improvement District to created baubles with the names of every person who was nominated for the campaign, to be hung on Christmas trees across the city centre, meaning all those nominated will be recognised.
One of those recognised is Loraine Masiya Mponela, chairperson of Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG), who 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 full list of 21 people recognised as part of the campaign includes:
- Mr Rai – a Potters Green shopkeeper who went out of his way to deliver groceries and prescriptions to elderly people;
- Kelly Iles – the owner of The Barn Kitchen, which delivered 60,500 free meals to local hospitals this year;
- Chaitrali Chitre – who ran online sessions during lockdown to help keep people active;
- Juliah Galliers – a cardiac surgery nurse at University Hospital Coventry who has been on-call at all hours of the day and night as her skills are in demand;
- Brett Kowalski– a Royal Mail delivery driver who has been capturing the beautiful side of Coventry through photography;
- Lisa Chant – a care home worker who ensured a husband got to spend the final hours with his wife (a care home resident) before she passed away;
- Sheila Tatum – a retired palliative care nurse who volunteered at a care home;
- Garry Bratt – who took the time to help his local community by offering to get shopping and fetch prescriptions for people;
- Shaun King – an off-duty police officer who discovered a car fire which, if left unreported, was minutes away from setting fire to a nearby family home;
- Anna-Marie Corbett – the Centre Manager at Canley Community Centre who works tirelessly as a volunteer to ensure every member of the community is cared for;
- Rich Brandist – a local DJ who gave up every Thursday and Saturday evening to play records and games with the local community;
- Rachelle Morgan – who after having periods of homelessness and vulnerability herself, gave up time to support to others;
- Mike Stott – who helped keep elderly residents who did not have access to technology informed with hand-delivered messages;
- Ray Wilson – who helped to turn a patch of woodland that runs parallel to the Kenilworth Road into a quiet haven for people during lockdown;
- Manjit Rehal – a counselling psychologist who volunteered in and around Coventry to help women in need;
- Val and Nigel Elvin – the couple ensured community spirit was alive and well in Harewood Road with arts and baking for their neighbours.
The five people recognised as ‘stand out heroes’ are:
- Inderjit Singh – who worked flat out last winter Langar Aid House which housed up to 20 rough-sleepers each night for four months and during lockdown took it upon himself to feed around 200 vulnerable people, seven days a week;
- Caroline Sinclair – who after being furloughed, decided to put her time to good use by setting up a food bank in the Cheylesmore area;
- Aileen O’Shea – a retired registrar who, as one of her final acts in the job, gave a couple their last wish by marrying them on the intensive care ward at University Hospital Coventry;
- Evie Barriscale – a ten-year-old who raised £208 for the Children Air Ambulance by selling heart-shaped magnets and keyrings she created;
- Loraine Masiya Mponela – an asylum seeker who helped housing the homeless and feeding the hungry.
Chenine Bhathena, from the City of Culture Trust, said it had been “incredibly moving” to work on the project and read the stories of the “amazing” nominees.