August-September 2021 | Features

Champions Awards: Simply making a difference

Champions Awards: Simply making a difference

Each year, six non-Rotarians are chosen as Champions of Change as a mark of their work with Rotary and the impact their projects have made to communities in this country, and around the world.

Kate Oakley (Nominated by Kinver Rotary, Staffordshire)

For more than 28 years, Kate Oakley was a teacher. She first volunteered in Uganda in 2007, two years after losing her husband. And in 2012, Kate set up Planting For Hope Uganda, a registered charity working in Kititi, a bush village in south-west Uganda.

Rotary Community Champion, Kate Oakley awarded for her work founding Planting for Hope Uganda

The charity has improved many lives through education, improving health facilities, safe water and sanitation, job creation, sustainable agriculture, solar electricity and improved accommodation. 

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Through the charity’s work, women have set up their own businesses, sustainable agriculture provides employment, and produce for both commercial and home consumption. 

The school in Kititi has grown from 286 pupils in 2014 to 620, of whom 435 cannot pay anything. However, food, education materials and, for some, dormitory accommodation, are all provided. 

The charity’s work has been supported by Kinver and Bewdley Rotary clubs in South Staffordshire and Worcestershire, plus a Rotary District 1060 Foundation grant.


Christine Boatwright (Sudbury Rotary, Suffolk)

Christine is the founder and Director of Counselling at the Kernos Centre, based in Sudbury, Suffolk.

Christine Boatwright was awarded a Community Champion Award for her work founding the Kernos Centre to provide free counselling and support

After working in private practice and voluntarily as a counsellor for 14 years, Christine became aware of the number of people who needed on-going counselling and support, especially those who had been abused emotionally or sexually.

However, many could not afford the kind of fees which private practice required or access on-going therapy. 

This was her inspiration for setting up the Kernos Centre in 2002. Christine had a vision when she set up Kernos that anyone needing counselling and support should be able to access this, without charge, if they could not afford to contribute towards the cost, and for as long as was needed. 

She works tirelessly to raise the funding needed each year and Sudbury Rotary has regularly supported the Kernos Centre which has received 4,308 referrals since 2003 – the oldest was 93-years-old and the youngest, just five.


Gerry Watkins (Cirencester Rotary, Gloucestershire)

Gerry Watkins is just an ‘ordinary working bloke’ with an extraordinary vision, energy and desire to make a difference. 

Gerry Watkins has been honoured a Community Champion award for founding the Big Yellow Bus Project.

He has been the driving force behind a community project called ‘The Big Yellow Bus Project’.

In February 2017, Gerry read about a rough sleeper whose tent was set alight behind Cirencester Church.

After raising significant funds mainly through organising a classic car event and music concerts, Gerry bought an old double decker bus. Over an 18-month period, he worked hard, on top of his day job, transforming it into temporary overnight accommodation. 

The doors to the bus were opened for business on Christmas Eve 2018. 

Since then, despite many hurdles and challenges, Gerry has developed the service provided to include a converted business premises offering refuge for up to 17 homeless persons overnight. 

Many volunteers have been inspired to join Gerry in delivering the service, not least his wife of many years, Mandy.


Denise Campbell (Billingshurst & District Rotary, West Sussex)

COVID-19 caused sudden and immediate hardship to a significant number of families. Many were unable to feed their families adequately due to loss of earnings, being furloughed, or because families needed to isolate because of the virus.

Rotary Community Champion recipient, Denise Campbell who started Complimentary Meals throughout the pandemic

For the past 18 years Denise has always responded when she has seen a need in the community in West Sussex, and is Chair of the Billingshurst Community Partnership.

In the immediate wake of Covid, Denise worked with Rotary, two churches and the parish council to provide shopping services and prescription collections for the vulnerable.

Then, Denise approached a local cafe and asked whether they would be willing to help by providing home cooked ready meals at cost. 

The Community Partnership arranged the collection and delivery of these meals. Funding was provided by the Horsham District Council Covid Support Fund and funding has recently been secured to pay for meals until March 2022.

Hugh Scudder (Dawlish Water Rotary, Devon)

Hugh Scudder founded Christian Response

In 1990, Hugh was motivated by the images of children trapped in orphanages in Romania. He joined several humanitarian aid missions before being instrumental with setting up a new charity to embrace Moldova in Eastern Europe.

Hugh developed the charity Christian Response to Eastern Europe. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe with many needs. Several times a year, the charity takes a 40-tonne articulated truck laden with humanitarian aid and a Christmas truck with over 5,000 Christmas shoeboxes, which have been collected in association with Dawlish Water Rotary for over 20 years. 

Soup kitchens have been established to supplement food aid, but these also play an important role in providing an outlet for children to have fun and discuss issues troubling them. In 2020, £100,000 was spent supporting families and soup kitchens.

These efforts have been supported by regular collections of bedding, clothing, useful equipment including school items such as books, pencils and pens, children’s toys and bicycles and badly-needed every day medical equipment such as walking frames and crutches.


Helen Hyde (Watford Rotary, Hertfordshire)

During COVID-19 Helen Hyde added to her charity activities by joining a project to feed vulnerable adults and children during lockdown.

As the patron and trustee of the inter-faith group One Vision, Helen has helped to organise a daily delivery of approximately 2,000 meals a week to vulnerable people in south-west Hertfordshire. The project also provided groceries and toiletries.

Community Champion Award recipient, Helen Hyde, is trustee of the One Vision Program in North Watford, which has delivered 2,000 meals a week during the pandemic

This was a partnership which also involved a church, synagogue, a Sikh Gudwara, Hertfordshire County Council and Rotary.

Helen assisted the project in co-ordinating a large network of supporting charities and local donors.

Watford Rotary paid for food ingredients through £3,000 of their own funds and £1,000 from a district grant, so local restaurants could prepare meals during the pandemic.

Many of the children and families were identified through the Hertfordshire free school meals advisor.

From the original idea, the project has grown into a daily food delivery to communities across south-west Hertfordshire with volunteer drivers.

For the past year a large proportion of the daily organisation is down to Helen, a former headmistress. She runs the HUB three days a week supporting the team of volunteers.

Her work includes work supporting deprived families in Africa, and One Vision is part of this work helping to provide much needed items.



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