The happy list 2009: Readers responses

Our Happy List, published last week, celebrated some of people who make Britain a better place. We asked for nominations, and readers responded with some shining examples
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The Independent Online

The second Independent on Sunday Happy List provoked praise, debate, reports, nominations and pledges to imitate its positive approach to life. The list, published last week, named 100 people who give back rather than take big bonuses, and so make Britain a more contented place. It was set up as an antidote to things like The Sunday Times Rich List, which worships at the shrine of money and celebrity.

Our list included the man behind the country's most eccentric radio station; former gang members who now help kids stay out of trouble; the founder of Britain's most outrageous charity walk; the postie of the year; fairy godmothers to the elderly; sick children who have fought illness and disability and now help others to do so; our most beneficial inventors; founders of imaginative charities that have transformed the lives of millions, and many more.

We asked for your nominations, and the most valued of the contributions were those naming people whose work was unknown to us.

Robin200, for instance, wrote: "I think deserves a mention. Nadia and Em, who run the site, help loads of women get inspired and make their dreams happen. It's a fab site and they interview some really inspiring women who are doing really cool stuff like running businesses or rowing oceans, rather than the usual boring celebs."

A little research showed that, over a drink in a pub, Nadia Finer and Emily Cleaver dreamt up their site to inspire and support women to achieve their dreams. Launched in 2006, it offered advice to those who talked of setting up their own businesses or travelling but never quite put their ideas into practice. The site features interviews with sportswomen and top female entrepreneurs including Martha Lane Fox.

Deborah Hayter nominated "Margaret Harrison, founder of the first Home-Start scheme in Leicester more than 30 years ago, and as a representative of the many thousands of Home-Start volunteers who have visited families with young children, helping them to enjoy family life and to give their children the best possible start in life". Set up in 1973, the Home-Start network has spread across the UK, with more than 300 centres providing encouragement and friendship to parents with children. Trained volunteers are matched with families to give them help tailored to their needs.

"Clawrance" nominated Jill Robinson for "tirelessly working in China and Vietnam to free beautiful moon bears which spend their lives incarcerated in coffin-like cages and are milked daily for their bile through catheters inserted into their abdomens. Their pain and suffering is excruciating. Jill has dedicated her life to ending this horrific practice. I admire her unerring faith in what is good and right in the world."

It was after her first visit to a bear bile farm in China in 1993 with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, that Jill Robinson promised the animals that she would free them from the cruel industry. She persuaded the Chinese authorities to shut down the farms where catheters are used to extract bile, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, from bears in cramped cages. She set up the Animals Asia Foundation in 1998, which now runs a moon bear rescue centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province, and a similar one in Vietnam.

And from "Rslms" we had a nomination for Angie Brice Hessbruegge. She has a BA in international relations and Spanish, and a Masters in applied linguistics, but her true passion is natural hair and educating people about chemical-free good looks.

"Rslms" wrote: "The Hairoine not only makes all her products from scratch but she offers lots of free advice and makes videos for people with hair concerns advising them how to look after their hair using natural products. The best thing is, she offers so much guidance trying to help people look and feel better that she makes them happy too."

There were a raft of nominations for various entertainers. They included actress June Whitfield; Susan Boyle, the Britain's Got Talent sensation from West Lothian; comedian Paul Merton, TV drama writer Russell T Davies, Sir Norman Wisdom, Julie Walters, Kathy Burke, Harry Hill, Alan Bennett and, despite our list normally being restricted to the living, "Professor" Stanley Unwin and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

"Jonathancr" nominated "Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish. Their radio show and its corresponding podcast is probably the most uplifting thing being broadcast at the moment. I'd also nominate Charlie Brooker for his amazing Screenwipe and equally amazing Newswipe, which pretend to be annoying and childish commentaries on the media but are actually compassionate and moral cries of rage against an industry which conspires to keep us all as stupid as possible."

And "Spudpotatoes", presumably a nom de net, cited John Otway: "A visit to a John Otway concert should be on the National Health. He's the funniest, least self-centred, most self-deprecating (didn't even get a mention in my own autobiography) most hard-working musician in Britain today. I defy anyone to see one of his gigs and not come out smiling, and with a tune (probably someone else's that Otway has deliberately mangled) on their lips." There were also nominations for Sir Robert Winston, and Wallace & Gromit film-maker Nick Park.

Nominations – the best of which will feature in the 2010 IoS Happy List – will remain open on our website for a further week. Go to: