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Rotary News

Champions Awards – Valerie Leivers and Eileen Harrington

Champions Awards – Valerie Leivers and Eileen Harrington

The Champions Awards recognise outstanding humanitarian and community service conducted by volunteers from across Great Britain and Ireland.

Valerie Leivers, from Sherwood Sunrisers Rotary Club, won the Champions of Change Award due to the passion and commitment she has shown towards building a future for some of the poorest people in India.

It all began when Val and her husband were looking to sponsor some children throughout their education. They were able to contact some friends in India which led to them sponsoring two young boys, and went to visit them at their school.

Val said: “When we arrived, it was one big room with an awful corrugated tin roof, in boiling heat and with a tree growing through the floor of the classroom where 100 children sat. The teachers were working extremely hard with little infrastructure or facilities and so we decided to see what more we could do to help.”

From then on, Val dedicated her time to raise funds in order to transform the school so the children have access to a safe environment where they can learn and thrive. “I try to raise funds wherever I can, and I am always busy.”

I taught those children, the song, ‘you’ve got the power, I've got the power, nothing will silence my words, nothing will close my eyes. We are going to make it together."

Over the past seven years Val has been involved with the school, it has been transformed. The school buildings are now safe with large, clean classrooms, a library, tables and seating, a science lab, computers, and learning resources for all 1,390 pupils.

Val also spends 5 weeks in Hyderabad each year, staying with friends and visiting the school, interacting with the children and seeing the incredible progress the school and children have made thanks to her enormous efforts to improve their lives and education.

“I taught those children, the song, ‘you’ve got the power, I've got the power, nothing will silence my words, nothing will close my eyes. We are going to make it together.

"This has become the school song and I tell them every year that I’ll never give up on them.”

They inspire me to keep going. They never give up so why should I?”

Last year Val provided all 1,390 children with a pair of shoes, but she says her shopping list is still full and she has a lot more work to do.

Thanks to Valerie’s tremendous efforts, the school can now operate at a high standard with committed and fully qualified teachers, with amazing children and in a community whose aspirations are rising. They understand that education offers their children better life chances than ever before.

Parents of the children even come to the school to express their thanks. Access to a good education in a safe facility, is a unique opportunity for children from their background.

Val added: “They inspire me to keep going. They never give up so why should I?”

Eileen Harrington was nominated by Doncaster Rotary Club for extraordinary work and determination to help people suffering from Dementia and their loved ones.

In 2012 Eileen founded ‘DonMentia’ a charity to support not only people with Dementia, but also their loved ones who care for them. Eileen knows from first-hand experience the challenges carers face when looking after someone with dementia after she cared for her husband Don for many years.

Whilst caring for Don, Eileen found she became very lonely and isolated. It was difficult to go anywhere as she couldn’t leave Don.

“When you get to that situation you lose a lot of friends, people drop off because they find it difficult to cope with.”

In 2012 Eileen founded ‘DonMentia’ a charity to support not only people with Dementia, but also their loved ones who care for them. Eileen knows from first-hand experience the challenges carers face when looking after someone with dementia."

Don became difficult to care for as although he was still very fit and well, he became aggressive and violent, Eileen had no other choice than to put Don into a secure unit.

“I couldn’t turn to anyone because there wasn’t anybody I knew in the same position. This is why I’m doing this, I’m making sure that people who are in my situation have got people to support them and understand what they are going through.”

DonMentia organises day trips and activities for groups people in Doncaster with Dementia along with their carer, and Eileen organises the whole thing.

This allows people with dementia along with their carers go out for the day with other people who understand what they are going through.

Eileen said: “they absolutely love it, they think I’m the best thing since sliced bread, because otherwise they wouldn’t go anywhere.”

“People become friends through this, they understand.”

Becoming a registered charity is still the thing I am most proud of."

Once a month Eileen organises a trip from start to finish including transportation and food so nobody has to worry about a thing.

“One of the most popular trips is going to the seaside on the train. Last year 70 people came.”

Eileen goes out of her way to fundraise in order to make these trips completely free. She has hosted garden parties, car boot sales coffee mornings, and quiz nights all in aid of DonMentia.

DonMentia is growing from strength to strength and Eileen is amazed at how much it has grown over the years.

DonMentia makes a real impact on people’s lives and the support they receive allows them to cope and manage as well as having days out."

“Becoming a registered charity is still the thing I am most proud of.” she said.

DonMentia makes a real impact on people’s lives and the support they receive allows them to cope and manage as well as having days out.

Without Eileen’s drive and determination to support people in a similar situation to what she found herself in, many people in Doncaster would be struggling in silence.

Eileen is amazed at being nominated for the Community Champions Award and grateful that the work she is doing for the community is being recognised.

Find out more about DonMentia on their website.