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Lifechangers: 2016 INSPIRE Awards take place in Parliament

From West Yorkshire to London, Nottingham to the Isle of Wight, local heroes were honoured in the 2016 INSPIRE Awards recently in the Palace of Westminster ...

IF the stories told at the 2016 Inspire Awards event at the Palace of Westminster last month are in any way representative of grassroots local church activity, there is real hope for the future, writes Editor RUSS BRAVO.

Time and again ordinary believers were recognised for their passion, commitment, compassion and faith in recognising needs in their community and, with God’s help, doing something about it. Many had seen dramatic change in their own lives.

As well as the shortlisted entrants and their guests, it was a joy to welcome INSPIRE partners, supporters, advertisers and friends to the event, held in the Jubilee Room, Palace of Westminster. James Lee from Christians in Parliament opened the event, and Gavin Shuker MP (pictured right) closed it, with each warmly commending the awards, the work of INSPIRE in telling inspirational stories of God at work, and the entrants’ contribution to their communities.

INDIVIDUALS (presented by CPO chief executive Andy Moreman)

Winner: Maxine Robinson, Support for Survivors, Nottingham
Runner-up: Ros Holley, Christ Church, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight

After getting help following a breakdown after 18 years of abuse through childhood and young adulthood, Maxine (right) now runs Support for Survivors which provides help and therapy for male and female survivors of abuse. She also sits on a national Catholic safeguarding advisory panel.

Maxine says: “I wanted to provide a visible service for people to access easily. I worked on a plan and was sponsored by Nottingham City Homes. Support for Survivors was born two years ago and I received charity status on 10 March 2016.

“I want to put a smile on a survivor’s face, to hold a hand and say: ‘It's okay to cry’, to build on the word 'trust' and to see an individual excel and say: 'Yes I can do it!'

Former community nurse Ros Holley (right) is a ‘people person’ who has been instrumental in starting a wide range of ministries in her church and community focusing on prayer, women’s ministry, youth work and more, as well as producing two Christian musicals drawing crowds from across the island.

In her previous years in her ministry with her husband Robin she has been involved in starting an Asian Christian Fellowship in their home in Bolton, church planting and work in schools.

PROJECTS (presented by Sailors' Society chief executive Stuart Rivers)

Winner: Life Works, Poole, Dorset

Runner-up: Freedom Forum, Church Church Anerley, SE London

The church-based Life Works project (right), based at Parkstone Christian Centre in Poole, provides ex-offenders and others in need with volunteering work opportunities, access to life skill sessions, holistic care, mentoring and assistance into education/ training/ employment. This reduces the risk of reoffending and offers support to those struggling.

“There’s a sense of belonging here," says centre manager Mark Phillips. "The shame of guilt is terrible and these lads carry it in bucket loads. They are getting a chance to give back and be accepted and respected.”

Christ Church Anerley, southeast London, is home to the Freedom Forum (Darrell McLeish pictured right): a radical Christian ministry dedicated to serving people who have come out of prison. It combines weekly meetings with strong Christian content with reintegration projects like the King’s Car Wash, and is run by ex-offenders.

Minister Matthew Fitter says: “I’ve been really impressed with how well the rest of the church – that is, the ones who aren’t ex-offenders – have welcomed these guys. I think they’ve seen the difference that God can make to someone’s life.” 

YOUTH/CHILDREN’S INITIATIVE (presented by HOPE director of communications Catherine Butcher)

Winner: CICS (Christian Initiative in Calderdale Schools), West Yorkshire

Runner-up: Life and Soul, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

A team of part-time staff plus more than 40 volunteers, supported by some 75 churches, sees CICS (team pictured right) getting involved in almost 80 primary and secondary schools across Calderdale, West Yorkshire, through prayer, taking lessons, mentoring, running lunch clubs and much more.

“To those who teach we are often a listening ear – an outside, trusted person who will listen and understand. To pupils we are joining with what God is already doing amongst thousands of young people. We are there to present the reality of who Jesus is as well as to support, listen and care.” says chair of trustees Paul Blakey.

Growing out of an existing Christian youth initiative, the Life and Soul charity in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, has for the last 10 years worked directly with children and young people in schools and through a local hostel offering play therapy, mentoring and education, via their team of eight plus volunteers. Whether the team is delivering a ‘theatre assembly’ based on biblical teaching, supporting children through therapeutic play, in an RE lesson or relationship education, it knows it is making a difference. 

“We see positive changes in behaviour, increased attendance at schools and hear of children who were previously on counselling waiting lists no longer requiring counselling,” says manager Karen Hickson-Smith.

PHOTOS: Annabelle Hall

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