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Ex-drug dealer and changed man wins Urban Hero 2012 award

A 24-year-old former drug dealer from Eccles has won the 2012 Urban Hero of the Year award, presented by The Message Trust ...

A 24-year-old former drug dealer from Eccles has won the 2012 Urban Hero of the Year award.

Paul Dixie's dramatic turnaround story was celebrated – along with five others – at a glitzy red carpet awards event at Lancashire County Cricket Ground hosted by Manchester youth charity The Message Trust on Saturday night (30 June).

Paul had already been named winner of the Achiever Award earlier in the evening for his powerful story of overcoming drug abuse and leaving behind a life of crime and destruction (see more details below).

He was presented with the Urban Hero of the Year 2012 award by Sir Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach Group.

Dignitaries, including Chief Constable Peter Fahy and top businessmen Bob Edmiston, lavished praise on the winners who have most impressed the charity in its face to face work with thousands of young people over the last year.

Each inspirational story was told through a moving short film before the award winner took to the stage to receive their trophy to the applause of more than 800 guests including family and friends.

This was the fifth annual Urban Hero Awards hosted by The Message Trust, aimed at recognising the finest achievements of young people from across Greater Manchester and beyond.

Every award winner had an inspirational story of triumph over adversity and their stories demonstrate how young people are making a positive difference in the lives of others in their community.

The award winners were drawn from The Message Trust's work among the hardest-to-reach young people in schools, communities and prisons. Each year the charity is in contact with more than 100,000 young people in Greater Manchester and other urban centres including Sheffield and Bradford.


Winners’ stories – as detailed by The Message Trust:

The Special Award for Enterprise – Adam Fountain

Adam was one of South Manchester’s most feared young men, involved in a life of intimidation, violent crime and drug and alcohol abuse from an early age. Following a threat against his life, Adam fled to the North East in 2010. But his problems followed him and he ended up facing two charges of assault during a drunken rampage.

Narrowly avoiding a hefty prison sentence, Adam was sent to do community service on the site of The Message Trust’s new Enterprise Centre. There, he got chatting to staff who helped him make a serious attempt to get his life back on track. He found a supportive church community and threw himself into helping others.

Over the last few months, Adam has pursued his dream of setting up a small property maintenance business employing other hard-to-reach young men including ex-offenders. His entrepreneurial spirit is a picture of what we hope to achieve with the Message Enterprise Centre.

The Achiever Award – Paul Dixie, Genetik

Both of Paul’s parents were heroin addicts and much of his childhood was spent in foster homes and care. A drug addict himself by his teens, he looked certain to destroy his life in the same way his parents had.

Paul amassed a long criminal record and spent time inside young offenders institutions. It wasn’t until he became a father at 18 that Paul started to seek help. Several attempts at rehab failed but in one clinic he had an encounter with God which led him to apply for The Message Trust’s Genetik course.

Though his background suggested he would be an enormous risk, the content and discipline of the course and tough, hands-on mentoring from people at The Message turned out to be the key to Paul’s restoration. He joined AA and sought out a professional counsellor to work through his past.

Having trained this year as a youth worker, Paul now works hard in his local community of Eccles to help other young people make good choices, sharing his story as an inspiration. He is also completely committed to becoming a great dad to his daughter, Megan.

The Champion Award – Sid Williams

Sid grew up in Rwanda as the son of missionary parents. He watched how his parents put their own lives at risk to protect others as the genocide unfolded in the early 1990s.

After returning to the UK as a teenager and completing school and training as a graphic artist, he made a decision that would change the course of his life.

Influenced by his parent’s acts of compassion, he chose to train as a youth worker and accepted a placement with one of the Message Trust’s first Eden teams, in Harpurhey. Over the last eight years, Sid has placed a special focus on on mentoring at-risk young men, helping them make good choices, find work, and stay out of prison.

Today, Sid still lives and serves in Harpurhey but also gives an increasing amount of time to the Eden Bus, a mobile youth centre which travels around tough neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester and Liverpool.

The Courage Award – Mark Collar

From the Manchester Evening News, February 16, 2012:

A grandmother reunited with the young man who dragged her from a burning house has told him: "Thank you for saving my life."

Mark Collar risked his own safety by dashing into Val Brooks' Gorton home to pull her from the flames. Val was treated by firefighters at the scene after breathing in smoke – but was otherwise unharmed. And now we have reunited the grandmother-of-one with Mark – giving her the chance to thank him for his bravery.

She said: "I was really distressed and I can't remember much of it.

"But I know that Mark saved my life and I'm more than grateful – I wouldn't be here without him."

Mark, 20, made the daring rescue when he was walking home from football practice at Wright Robinson College in Gorton. When he arrived on Melville Close, where Val lived, he noticed an acrid burning smell and saw smoke billowing from an upstairs window of her home.

Mark, who lives in Openshaw, said: "When I got closer, I heard a woman shouting for help. "I went as close to the house as I could and asked the woman to come down.

"She said she was trapped so I just booted the door in and went to get her. She was on the landing so I just got her down the stairs and outside."

Police investigated the possibility that the fire was arson but their inquiries were inconclusive. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but it was thought it started at the back door of the property. The house was so badly damaged by the smoke that Val, 51, has had to move to temporary accommodation in Longsight.

Mark, who plays football for the Salvation Army and volunteers at the Salvation Army charity shop, shrugged off suggestions that he is a hero.

He said: "I was a bit scared but it just felt right. I know I put myself at risk but if someone else is in danger then you have to help them. It was my civic duty."
The Inspiration Award – Emma Wilkinson
Emma has impressed the team on Eden Buttershaw in Bradford because of her great character and mature faith in God, despite being just 14 years old.

Citing her faith in God who she discovered simply by reading her Gideon Bible from school, she felt moved her to start a group in her school called the Peer Pastoral Team, designed to care for her fellow pupils.

This led to invitations to lead assemblies and even teach RE lessons to years 7, 8 and 9 classes, as well as requests for prayer from both students and teacher. She organised a gala day with a range of activities, raising over £350 for good causes.

Emma’s nominating youth worker writes: "This is a girl who found God not through going to church but all by herself. She carries a Gideon Bible around with her, and through her faith in God lives out her life giving everything to her Daddy God in heaven.

"She is the most radical, inspiring young person I have ever met. Her story is one that needs to be told so others my be inspired and challenge on how we live our lives and the choices we make."

The Volunteer Award – Andy Walker

Andy grew up in a single parent family and had many anger problems, which often got him into trouble at school and with his family. He smashed up his own home several times and regularly fought with his mum and sister. He was excluded from school more times than he can remember.

An encounter with our Eden Easterside team (Middlesbrough) in a local boxing gym started a chain of events which saw him turn his life around and become a real asset to his community as a volunteer in many ways.

He is an active helper in his local church and has helped raise funds to support other youngsters to attend summer camps. He also assists with a homeless soup kitchen once a week.

Says Tony Grainge, his nominating youth worker: "After talking to Andy's mam she said the change in him is remarkable and even her friends have noticed the difference in him, saying Andy is a pleasure to be around now. I tell Andy he is not only the most reliable teenager I've ever met, but also one of the most reliable adults."
See more videos of this year's winners at The Message Trust's YouTube channel


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