Rebekah (Bex) Wilson of Leeds and Sandra Ellis of Cleethorpes were recently honoured by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland with a prestigious Community Champion award during the national ceremony at Volunteer Expo Live!
Volunteer Expo Live! is the UK’s national volunteering show, hosted by Rotary Great Britain and Ireland, and it was where this year’s Community Champion winners received their awards in a high-spirited ceremony at The Vox Conference Centre, Birmingham on 7 May 2022.
Held annually, Community Champions are part of Rotary’s Champions Awards, which recognises unsung heroes whose volunteering efforts have had a huge impact on people’s lives both at home and internationally.
Rebekah (Bex) Wilson was working as Deputy Head Teacher at one of the biggest primary schools in Leeds when a child in her classroom told her “I’m always tired Miss, I don’t have a bed.”
It was this moment that inspired Bex to start Zarach – a charity that aims to address the unrecognised issue of ‘bed poverty’ by delivering beds and basic supplies to children living in poverty, therefore giving them a better chance of a good education.
Despite having no previous experience in the charity sector, Bex rose to every challenge and galvanised many individuals, Rotary clubs, churches, schools, NGOs, businesses and other organisations into helping her on her mission to tackle bed poverty.
Over 1,500 children received a ‘bed bundle’ as part of the project, with hundreds more receiving emergency food parcels and new school uniforms.
The project has been widely recognised, appearing on The One Show and BBC Breakfast, and the aim for the future is to expand Zarach out of Leeds to address poverty in other major cities.
Bex has always had a passion for education, and she believes that every child has the right to an equal opportunity to learn and to become the best version of itself.
Sandra Ellis does not let age get in the way of her continuing to do good for the community.
With her husband of 52 years, Graham, she regularly makes sure that the children of her community have something to do during the holidays – be it a mini sports day or arts and crafts – all while managing the load of taking care of her own family.
Before Sandra and Graham became such integral parts of their local community in Daubney Street, there were several issues damaging the quality of life where they lived such as antisocial behaviour, littering and the residents not interacting with each other.
Sandra and Graham said ‘enough is enough’ and have spent the past years bringing residents together to create a community they can be proud of.
Through small changes like having planters on each end of the street, having alleyways securely gated, adding seating to alleyways for residents use and providing grocery packages for pensioners (just to name a few) – Daubney Street has become a great place to live.
Thank you to Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland for sharing this content.