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Happy List 2022: The Independent celebrates 50 inspirational people making life better for others

Meet 50 remarkable people whose kindness, courage and selflessness make them some of the country’s most outstanding individuals

Emma Ledger
Tuesday 30 August 2022 17:28 BST
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The people chosen to be on our 14th Happy List prove that there is power in working together
The people chosen to be on our 14th Happy List prove that there is power in working together (Getty)

Today The Independent publishes its annual Happy List, honouring 50 remarkable Britons whose kindness, ingenuity and dedication make them some of the country’s most inspirational individuals.

The 50 people here have been chosen by a panel from scores of nominations received from the readers of The Independent. They include a 100-year-old NHS volunteer, a couple who have fostered more than 250 vulnerable children and a man who donated his house to Ukrainian refugees, and who has since developed a network to support the resettlement of more than 100 people fleeing the war.

They appear in alphabetical order, as it would be impossible to measure the successes of these individuals against each other.

The Independent’s Happy List was founded in 2008 as an antidote to the many awards that glorify wealth or celebrity. Instead, it shines a light on ordinary people who do amazing things for important causes and inspire positive change.

This year, the 14th edition, is once again presented in partnership with GoFundMe, the world’s largest online fundraising platform.

From the outbreak of war in Ukraine to the spiralling cost of living crisis, the past 12 months have seen unprecedented global uncertainty and turmoil. The people chosen to be on this year’s Happy List prove that there is power in working together, and that kindness is not a finite resource.

Read about all 50 of them below:

Harriet Asher

Harriet has so far helped to resettle more than 500 Ukrainian refugees in the UK. The Hampshire mother of three visited Ukraine soon after war broke out and was shocked by the lack of transport links out of the country. She joined what she calls “a large network of volunteers – everyday people, not charities – from medics to drivers, to help take people to safety”. Harriet, 39, set up a GoFundMe page which raised more than £25,000 in just 48 hours to help pay for coach travel, flights, safe houses or hotels for anyone trying to escape the conflict. She says “this journey has been a complete privilege for me and I couldn’t feel luckier about all the extraordinary people I have met along the way”.

Banji Alexander

Former southeast London primary school teacher Banji wrote a children’s book aimed at gently tackling Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in the black and minority ethnic community and promoting children’s mental health. “I was aware that vaccination uptake was considerably lower in some demographics within the Bame community, and I wanted to do something to help,” says Banji, who also wanted to help children conceptualise everything they had experienced during the pandemic. He started writing Lockdown Looms, which explores a seven-year-old child’s experience of the pandemic, during the second lockdown in 2020.

Gavin Auty

Gavin launched a bike recycling scheme during lockdown and has since fixed over 300 bikes for people across Yorkshire. Gav’s Bikes started when he realised his neighbours were about to throw away a neglected bike. “I really don’t like waste and couldn’t see something that just needed a little fixing go to landfill,” says Gavin. The initiative has raised more than £5,000 for cancer research and local charities, and donated bikes to Ukrainian refugees in the UK. This February, Gavin also launched a football team to raise money for food vouchers and presents for families at Christmas. “The project just means so much to me,” he says. “I feel it has given me a purpose in life and I want to keep going for as long as I can.”

Ali Beg

Having grown up, studied and started his career in Southampton, British Pakistani Ali realised that the Pakistani community – although the area’s largest ethnic group – was often the lowest achievers. Determined to try and improve their opportunities and overcome barriers, Ali began volunteering at a local radio station for ethnic communities where he launched the station’s first British Pakistani show, featuring health and welfare advice. It led him to set up his own community radio station, Awaaz Southampton, which aims to link and strengthen communities across the UK. The person who nominated Ali says: “Most of the volunteers at Awaaz have been refused training or volunteering at other radio stations. Thanks to Ali, many now have their own radio shows. Ali truly brings the beauty of life out in every individual.”

Jane Flint Bridgewater

“The Happy List wouldn’t be complete without Jane,” says one person who nominated this longstanding volunteer from Stourbridge in the West Midlands. For the past 13 years, the mother of twins has given up her time to help Twins Trust, which supports families with twins, triplets or more. Jane has volunteered for the charity’s helpline, Twinline, clocking up more than 1,000 hours of calls. “Jane is welcoming and empathetic – a great listener, always ready to lend a sympathetic ear. Anyone who speaks with her through Twinline will attest that she’s one of the most positive people you’ll ever encounter.”

Rupert Brooke

Aged just seven, Rupert became the youngest person to cycle the 200 miles from London to Paris in just four days. Rupert, from Eaton in Leicestershire, has already raised more than £42,000 for the Children’s Bereavement Centre, which supported him when his father Tom died in a tragic work accident when Rupert was just four years old. One person who nominated Rupert says: “His courage and determination inspire others. His mantra is ‘I don’t care about things, I just want to make people happy’.” He has also raised nearly £9,000 for a local hospice.

Vicky has been hailed an ‘inspiration’ for her charity work
Vicky has been hailed an ‘inspiration’ for her charity work (Vicky Burford)

Vicky Burford

“Vicky is an inspiration”, says her colleague Claire Baggott. As co-founder and chairperson of the charity PANS PANDAS UK, Vicky works to advocate for, and support those living with, these neuropsychiatric conditions. Triggered by a misdirected immune response, PANS and PANDAS result in a constellation of devastating symptoms. “She is the glue that holds together thousands of families and fights for change so that young people living with these conditions get the correct care. Vicky is patient, incredibly kind, knowledgeable, diplomatic, compassionate and driven. Her enthusiasm and energy are driving forward much-needed change in the UK, both for individual families and systematically across health, social care and education systems.”

Iain Butterworth

Scarborough’s Iain felt so “helpless” as Russia’s war unfolded in Ukraine, he decided to offer up his house to those fleeing the conflict. “I had planned to rent it out for profit, but in these terrible times, there are more important things,” says Iain, who housed two Ukrainian families and set up a Facebook page called the Scarborough Sunflower Appeal to help cover the costs of essential furniture and utility bills, and for donations of food, clothes, toiletries and bedding. The group has grown and now supports more than 100 Ukrainians resettled in the Scarborough area with face-to-face group English lessons, social events, and weekly drop-in meetings to offer advice on benefits, education, health and employment. Iain continues to fundraise to expand the support to both sponsors and guests.

Beryl is the NHS’ oldest volunteer
Beryl is the NHS’ oldest volunteer (Beryl Carr)

Beryl Carr

At 100 years old, Londoner Beryl is the NHS’s oldest volunteer. She started volunteering at Ealing Hospital’s League of Friends cafe after relocating to the capital when she was widowed in 2003 and looking for a way to meet new people. She began giving up her time to work in the cafe and has since served teas and snacks to thousands of hospital patients and visitors. She continues to volunteer once a month, giving four hours of her time a week. The grandmother of one says: “I can’t think of anything worse than spending all day in front of the television.”

Tomson Chauke

“Tomson spreads so much joy with his enthusiasm and zest for life,” says one of the people who nominated him. Tomson, who lives in Reading, has been a British resident for almost 20 years after leaving Zimbabwe during the early 2000s. As well as volunteering at Reading Refugee Support Group, where he runs a football team, he also works at Prior’s Court, a residential special school for young people with complex autism. “Tomson has transformed the lives of many of Prior’s Court young people, forming incredible relationships with them. Any time spent with Tomson is a happy experience.”

Gary Colet

In 2020, Gary was the first Covid patient to arrive in intensive care at Barnet Hospital. After six weeks in a coma and a further stay in hospital, Gary was discharged home. The Mill Hill resident has since gone on to raise more than £10,000 for the Royal Free Charity, with fundraising efforts including a London to Brighton bike ride while still suffering from long Covid. “Gary is one incredible man,” says his nominator. “He is a true inspiration to others and gives up his time to speak to other Covid patients about his recovery and to give them advice. Nothing is too much for him, and I would love him to be recognised for his bravery and hard work.”

Jessie Davies

Welsh social media influencer Jessie – who has had a stutter since the age of four – is raising awareness of speech impediments through her TikTok videos. The films, which have been viewed more than 58 million times, are helping to educate people about the condition. Jessie, from Cynon Valley, set up her TikTok account last year to record videos of herself approaching people in public to tackle her anxiety. After receiving an overwhelming response from viewers, Jessie has dedicated her platform to helping others with speech impediments, deepening people’s understanding of how common stammers are and explaining how people can be supportive of people with impediments, particularly by encouraging patience and improved listening.

@mimidarlingbeauty So wholesome 🥹 perfect start to getting back out there and working towards my next big challenge 👏🏻💗✨ #stammer#girlwithstammer#randomactsofkindess#mimidarling#mimidarlingstammer#stutter ♬ Sad Scene BGM Piano Instrument(313618) - HomeMadeGarbage

Bianca Effemey

In 2004, while working as a receptionist at Kingston Hospital paediatrics, Bianca noticed that small things make a huge difference to families in crisis following a significant diagnosis. She set up Momentum Children’s Charity with the mission of ensuring that no family with a seriously ill child has to cope alone. The person who nominated Bianca says: “She has this special gift of knowing just what a family needs, be that creative therapy for a child struggling with their illness or fast-tracking counselling sessions for grieving parents.” The charity currently supports more than 350 families across west London, Surrey and Sussex, with services including counselling, creative therapies, experiences and respite breaks. They also improve the environment for children treated in hospital with refurbishments that transform bare, clinical areas into bright, child-friendly spaces.

James Elliott

Known as The Canoe River Cleaner, James has been regularly cleaning Grimsby’s River Freshney since 2020 to provide a clean habitat for wildlife and promote the riverside green spaces for residents to enjoy. It began as a pandemic hobby while James was on partial furlough, carrying out his first river clean in his vessel on Boxing Day in 2020 and removing 20 bags of rubbish. He was inspired to make the project a long-term one and has since received backing from local businesses and the wider community, who are helping sponsor a team of volunteers who can support the efforts. James also informs locals about river safety and swimming guidance.

Members of more than 3,800 schools are now part of Simon’s uniform recycling initiative
Members of more than 3,800 schools are now part of Simon’s uniform recycling initiative (Simon Gossling)

Simon Gossling

Simon, from Cheltenham, launched a nationwide school uniform recycling initiative to help parents cut the cost of buying school uniforms, recycle outgrown clothes and reduce large amounts of waste going to landfill. Uniformerly is a free online marketplace where parents, schools and Parents and Teachers Associations can buy, sell, give away and recycle outgrown uniforms direct to other parents. Members from more than 3,800 schools across the UK are now registered and Simon is also working alongside school uniform suppliers and local authorities to improve sustainability, social inclusion, and child poverty prevention.

Luke Grenfell-Shaw

In 2018, Luke was diagnosed with stage four cancer aged just 24. Fast forward to 2020 and he set off to cycle from Bristol to Beijing to show what you can achieve when living with cancer. Luke, from Bristol, completed the 30,000km, cycling through 29 countries, and raising more than £125,000 for charities including Young Lives vs Cancer. “What Luke has achieved is remarkable,” says one of the many who nominated him. “But the hope he has also given to others is indescribable. Along the way, Luke inspired so many people, and had more people living with cancer join him on his tandem bike – and all with a smile.”

Gillian Gaunt

“Selfless, determined and kind,” is how Gillian is described by one of those who nominated her. “She really does put smiles on the faces of people who are experiencing severe disadvantage.” Gillian runs the St Giles Pantry service in Leeds, where subscribers pay a weekly subscription of £3.50 and in return are able to access affordable, nutritious food as well as added support and advice to help them move towards independence. The service aims to empower people to overcome barriers in order to break the cycle of poverty.

Louise Goulden

Founder and chief executive of charity The Together Project, Louise aims to boost wellbeing, reduce loneliness and foster stronger, happier communities through intergenerational experiences. Activities range from arts and crafts sessions that pair children with care home residents, to a music group aimed at children up to four years old, their grown-ups and older people. “Louise works super hard to bring happiness to everyone,” says one of the many who nominated her. “Some of my happiest moments have been at The Together Project sessions.” Another says: “Louise’s contribution to communities and her positive attitude are truly inspirational. She lights up rooms with her beautiful smile and sense of calm. She’s made such a difference to so many people’s lives and she is the embodiment of joy.”

Theo Harvey

Theo lost his sight after developing a brain tumour aged nine and has since spent months in hospital for treatment of benign tumours. Inspired to help others living with sight loss, 15-year-old Theo set out to fundraise to name as many guide dog puppies as he can for Guide Dogs. So far Theo, who currently has a buddy dog from the charity and hopes to have his own guide dog one day, has raised more than £10,000 to name puppies Theo, Harvey, William – after his grandfather – and Kit, after his brother. Theo, who lives in Aberdeenshire, raises money through running challenges and tandem bike rides and is well on track to naming his fifth puppy.

Brynn Hauxwell

Teenager Brynn has taken part in long-distance wheelchair challenges since 2020 to fundraise for Ability Shetland, the charity that helped to support him in his love for getting outdoors. Brynn, 17, has autism, ADHD, severe asthma and fixed ankle contractures, and relies on a wheelchair to get around. Determined to give back to the charity, in 2020 he decided to push himself 1,679 miles – a distance equivalent to the length of Shetland’s coastline. The following year he wheeled the distance of 16-half marathons in the month leading up to his 16th birthday. This year he set himself the challenge of travelling the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Trail. Brynn, who lives on Shetland, has inspired followers on social media by promoting inclusivity, particularly in sport.

Hussein came to the UK as a refugee aged nine
Hussein came to the UK as a refugee aged nine (Hussein Mohamud Hussein)

Hussein Mohamud Hussein

Refugee Hussein came to the UK in 1999, aged nine, after his parents sent him to live with his uncle to escape conflict in Somalia. Growing up in Lambeth, south London, he joined a Somali-run football club called Waaberi FC, but in 2009 the club disbanded due to a lack of funding. In 2015, Hussein set up Streatham FC, a community football team and charity that aims to support East African communities living in London. Today Hussein trains children aged between six and 19, about 80 per cent of whom are from single-parent, low-income households. About 70 kids play regularly and, during last summer’s school holidays, the club ran a football programme for 2,035 kids, with help from council funding, to encourage healthy living and strengthen confidence.

Stuart Hutton-Brown

Blackpool-based Stuart founded Counselling in the Community to help make talking therapy more accessible to adults, children and young people in the city. Since 2017 the donation-based service has enabled more than 130 people to receive counselling every week. Each person pays a small donation – dependent on personal circumstances – to keep the initiative running. The social enterprise has so far worked with more than 930 adults and provided more than 6,000 hours of counselling in 2021. With his hub currently at capacity, Stuart is fundraising to establish a second centre in Blackpool, which would also serve as a wider community hub.

Lola has also expanded the foundation to Nigeria
Lola has also expanded the foundation to Nigeria (Lola Idris-Debayo)

Lola Idris-Debayo

Londoner Lola founded the Lolo Foundation 15 years ago to provide frontline support to vulnerable people across the city. Lola, originally from Nigeria, experienced homelessness when first moving to the UK 30 years ago and decided to support others in a similar position. Twice a month, the foundation hosts food-donation points, providing food for hundreds of people, including Lola’s home-cooked Nigerian meals. Lola has also expanded the foundation to Nigeria, where four times a year it provides humanitarian assistance for some of the most vulnerable people in Lagos. “I am passionate about taking care of people,” she says. “I know what it is to be vulnerable. I want to use this platform to call on everybody that cares about humanity to support us so we can continue to feed and support these people. We are the change that is needed.”

Geraint John

After a five-month charity cycle ride around the UK last year, Geraint was horrified by the amount of beach litter he saw. The 51-year-old, from Maesteg in Bridgend, has since embarked on a 700-mile clean-up of Wales’ coastline, single-handedly clearing tons of litter from beaches and inspiring others to join him in tackling plastic pollution. Geraint, who started his “mammoth” journey in the Mumbles, Swansea, on 13 May, is also fundraising through this challenge to buy a boat that will enable him to visit more inaccessible coastal areas to collect litter.

Oscar Jones

After watching medics save the life of footballer Christian Eriksen after a heart attack last year, Oscar was inspired to raise money to buy defibrillators in his local area. Oliver, from Cheshire, set himself the task of running a mile a day for 26 days. Initially, he hoped to get enough money to buy one defibrillator, but, after smashing his initial target, he will be able to buy 10. Thus far he has raised more than £8,500.

Carole Ann Kelly

Jolly Josh is a charity based in Rochdale that provides dedicated peer support and safe spaces for children with disabilities, complex and special needs and their families or carers. Founded by Carole in 2017, exactly one month after her son Joshua James died aged just 15 months, Jolly Josh now has its own bespoke premises with a hydro pool, accessible changing places and the latest technology to support families and provide them with the environment they need. One person who nominated Carole says: “Thanks to Carole’s tireless fundraising, the charity now supports local families and children to connect and thrive.”

Jacob Kelly

When schools closed during the pandemic, Oxford University student Jacob put out a call for tutors on social media. He quickly set up the Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative (CTI), which has since seen more than 4,000 volunteer university students provide more than 50,000 hours of free, online one-on-one tutoring for school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds across the UK. Jacob, from Surrey, has since wound down CTI and turned his attention to the educational attainment gap, which has widened since Covid and continues to grow. Tutor the Nation is a new charity carrying on the work of CTI, encouraging anyone interested in providing free tuition to sign up to help pupils in state-sector schools.

Paul Llewlyn

Paul, from St Helens, has been hailed a local hero for supporting those in need through Sexton Avenue Community Allotment Garden. The plot of land had been closed to the public for more than a decade until Paul and a small team of volunteers decided to transform it into a garden that could be enjoyed by everyone. The space is now a thriving community hub, which runs gardening open days and support sessions for community groups including St Helens Autism and Asperger Society, St Helens Community Adult Learning, St Helens Youth Justice Service and Parr Mothers and Toddlers Group. The team also run a food bank five days a week, which helps to feed more than 100 people, and a school uniform recycling scheme.

Nina Lopes

When Nina was diagnosed with stage 4 triple negative metastatic breast cancer, just months after receiving the all-clear from her first cancer diagnosis, she decided to dedicate her time to raising awareness of secondary breast cancer. Nina, from Croydon, has called for a greater understanding of the symptoms, for GPs to pay more attention to young women’s concerns, and for a system whereby GPs aren’t the only gateway to cancer referrals. “Doctors are so quick to dismiss us, but it’s killing young women,” says Nina. There are an estimated 35,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK. Nina’s friend Ruth has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to pay for Nina to enjoy some special times with her loved ones.

Fruzsina Marjan

Last year Fruzsina founded Heritage Charity London, which is dedicated to improving the lives of disengaged and disadvantaged children through initiatives outside of school hours. They include sports, creative arts, life skills and team-building, as well as providing mental health support to teachers and students. The person who sent the nomination says: “Fruzsina understands the implications of unequal access to education, and subsequently raised funds for providing educational programmes to the more disadvantaged, who would otherwise have not been able to access any extracurricular support like the wealthier can. She’s dedicated all her time and energy to ensuring that all children are placed on an equal footing in life to become whoever they wish to be. In a short time, she has managed to dramatically change the lives and futures of children.”

Emma Marshall

Emma, from Leeds, is a play specialist who works at the children’s cardiology ward at Leeds General Infirmary. The person who nominated Emma says: “She is a wonderfully smiley and happy person who goes out of her way to make all of the young patients feel at ease and happy during their time on the heart unit.” As well as entertaining the children, Emma also teaches them strategies to cope with the stresses involved in being an inpatient, such as regular blood tests. “She brightens up the ward with her gorgeous smile and fabulous zest for her very important role. The ward would be a dull place without her.”

Kat Mayer

Originally from Macclesfield, Kat is part of a dynamic team who launched the biggest community land buyout in the south of Scotland. The ambitious fundraising project in Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway, set out to double the size of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to 10,500 acres, not only to protect wildlife but also to boost plans for community regeneration. The initial aim, to crowdfund £200,000, was quickly surpassed – and the team has since successfully raised £2.2m thanks to large private donations and a thriving GoFundMe fundraiser. The reserve will now focus on nature-based tourism opportunities, which will in turn create local jobs alongside helping to counter the nature and climate emergencies.

Lesley McCormack

Lesley, 39, has dedicated the last 16 years to supporting people with a learning disability at Mencap in the Wigan area. Lesley, who lives in Liverpool, is described as being “immensely passionate about her job in social care” and someone who went “above and beyond through the pandemic, taking extra shifts when people were isolating, picking up shopping and dropping off food parcels and PPE to those who needed it – or just touching base with other carers to ensure they were okay”. Lesley even gave up Christmas Day with her family in order to be there for the people with a learning disability whom she supports.

Diane and Patrick McCourt

Husband and wife Diane and Patrick, from Larne, have fostered more than 250 vulnerable children in Northern Ireland over the past 40 years. Since 1978 they have opened up their home to children of all ages, and for a range of care periods – from several weeks and months, while children are in the process of moving to permanent homes, through to years of fostering and adoption. With the need for foster carers a matter of urgency in Northern Ireland, the McCourts are passionate about the importance of foster care and its benefits. “We just see it as part of our life,” says Diane. “We have been lucky to have had these children in our life and I suppose that’s why we still foster today. It is worth noting that there is a real need for foster parents in Northern Ireland, and perhaps this award might make people see how we have loved doing this and might make someone else consider doing it in their life.”

Tim Morfin

As a youth worker 23 years ago, Tim noticed a lot of teenagers weren’t attending school, so he worked with them to get them back into education. He went on to found charity Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), which now runs alternative provision (AP) schools across the UK to give young people a future. Alongside this, the charity runs an early intervention programme in a bid to reach children at a younger age. Volunteers delivered 5,727 hours of coaching to kids in school last year, and the organisation is known for its innovation and development of leaders. One of those who nominated Tim says: “His life is the epitome of brightening up children’s lives – giving happiness! Under his inspirational leadership, the organisation has grown from a small church project to a national movement.”

Angelina Namiba

When Angelina was diagnosed with HIV in 1993, it was widely believed to be a death sentence. Ever since, Angelina, from east London, has dedicated her life to reducing the stigma around the virus. She is a founding member of the 4M Network of Mentor Mothers living with HIV, a patron of the National HIV Nurses Association, a member of the Women’s Network of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and a member of the organising committee of the International annual Women and HIV Workshop. She has also been a community representative for the British HIV Association. “Angelina is a true leader and immensely loved and respected. I would just love the wider world to know what an amazing woman she is,” says her nominator. Today, 99 per cent of HIV-infected pregnant women who follow a treatment plan will not pass the infection on.

James Pearson

East Lothian’s James Pearson learnt “magnet fishing” – tying a high-powered magnet onto a rope and throwing it into water – by watching YouTube videos. He was hailed a local hero for using the technique to remove anything in the River Esk that might cause harm to local wildlife, such as shopping trolleys, bikes, scooters and other metal debris. James, 46, set up Magnet Fishing Scotland – the only group legally allowed to magnet fish the Scottish canal system – after making contact with Magnet Fishing Edinburgh. James says: “I see this as giving something back to our brilliant community, and if it gets a few people out and into the fresh air then that’s a bonus.”

Maria Revell

Along with a team of volunteers, Maria, 59, collects furniture and other waste left on streets or outside homes in her local area of Jaywick, Essex, before taking it to the local rubbish dump. In January, council officials told her that dropping off other people’s rubbish amounted to fly-tipping, and banned her from every refuse site in Essex. Maria, who battles fibromyalgia which causes her chronic muscle pain, is undeterred and continues to do what she can to keep Jaywick tidy, by helping to repair and clean up properties.

Marcus Roberts

The Felix Project is a London-based food waste redistribution charity set up in 2016 to help people struggling to access fresh food. Marcus has volunteered with the charity since day one, helping it to grow from a small depot in west London to four huge depots, served by 50 vans and 4,000 volunteers. It now runs Felix’s Kitchen, which cooks up to 5,000 healthy meals a day from surplus food received from suppliers. The person who nominated Marcus says: “With huge bonhomie he has worked tirelessly to ensure The Felix Project continues to grow and expand its fight against food waste across the whole of London, helping to feed hundreds of thousands of Londoners every year.”

‘He is the heart of the team,’ says one person who nominated Dr Moonsang Seo
‘He is the heart of the team,’ says one person who nominated Dr Moonsang Seo (Dr Moonsang Seo)

Dr Moonsang Seo

“Staff and patients love Moon’s indomitable spirit and can-do attitude, and he brightens up even the darkest of days,” says one of the many who nominated Moonsang, who works at Great Ormond Street Hospital. “He is the heart of the team,” says another, who describes how he has organised flash mobs, virtual tours of staff homes, sing-and-dance-alongs and more to help to engage and support the busy team as they cope with stressful working conditions. Moonsang does this alongside his job as service manager at the NIHR Great Ormond Street Hospital clinical research facility, which brings research opportunities to children with rare or complex conditions, many of whom have no conventional treatment options.

Charan Singh Sekhon

Charan is chair of SEVA Trust UK, a charity he founded with the mission of transforming lives through education and social initiatives. During the pandemic, Charan launched an emergency support project to help the elderly, vulnerable, homeless and international students. Charan led a large team of volunteers working in Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Hertfordshire to provide those in need with food and other essential items. Previously Charan played an important role in establishing a new Sikh temple in Kempston, Bedford, where he served as an assistant secretary for more than 15 years. Charan and his team have supported more than 500 disadvantaged children in northern India in the last six years.

Jeff and Chloe Smith

Jeff and daughter Chloe founded charity bigmoose with the goal being to help people with their mental health, prevent suicide and reduce homelessness. The charity was set up in tribute to Jeff’s best friend, Gary “moose” Cloonan, and aims to get people back into work through bigmoose coffee co and also to provide therapy for people who are struggling with their mental health. This year they are aiming to raise £1m for therapy and early and timely intervention.

Asghar Shah

Asghar has been running the Peace Centre food bank in Portsmouth since 2017, even recruiting a team of volunteers to deliver food parcels to families who cannot collect them themselves. The community-based food hub is not financially supported by the council, but through donations from local people and supermarkets. It serves more than 35 vulnerable families on a weekly basis – most of whom have young children – as well as supporting homeless people. Asghar also runs pensioner coffee mornings to help reduce isolation and arranges group litter picking sessions. “He gives so much of himself to his community and was essential to many vulnerable people during the pandemic,” says the person who nominated him.

Michelle Southern

For many homeless people, their pet is hugely important to them, yet they may find it impossible to access veterinary care, or face being separated from their animals when accessing temporary housing. Michelle founded Street Paws in Newcastle in 2016, to provide free accessible vet care and support services to homeless people and their pets across the UK. One person who put Michelle forward for the Happy List says: “She works tirelessly to make sure that the human-animal bond is not broken. She knows how important it is to keep people and their pets together.”

‘I hope my efforts bring happiness to those struggling,’ says Leo
‘I hope my efforts bring happiness to those struggling,’ says Leo (Leo Street)

Leo Street

Leo, a 13-year-old Scout, slept outside in a hammock every night of 2021 to raise money for Shout, the UK’s first free 24/7 confidential mental health text service. Leo endured a heatwave, snow, -5C temperatures and even Covid. “I hope my efforts bring happiness to those struggling in difficult times,” says Leo, who lives in Swanley, Kent. He has so far raised more than £8,000, which will help Shout train 32 new volunteers who will take 6,400 text conversations with children and adults battling suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and loneliness. This October, Leo will cycle 461 miles from Kent to Scotland as his next fundraising challenge for Shout.

Kevin Webber

After being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2014, Kevin was given just two years to live. Since then he has dedicated his life to making memories and raising awareness and funds for Prostate Cancer UK by undertaking multiple ultra-running challenges. Kevin, from Epsom in Surrey, has completed the epic Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert four times, as well as endurance races across snow, tundra and through jungles. Along the way, he has inspired thousands of others to “make the most of it”, and has helped raise close to £1m.

Furnishing Futures founder Emily Wheeler
Furnishing Futures founder Emily Wheeler (Emily_Wheeler)

Emily Wheeler

Interior stylist and former social worker Emily is the founder of Furnishing Futures, a charity that fully furnishes and decorates the homes of women and children who have escaped domestic abuse and have been rehoused in empty flats and houses in London. Social housing is given without any flooring, curtains, white goods and furnishings. Emily created the charity supported by a collective of interior stylists, designers, retailers and brands who donate items that cannot be sold and would otherwise go to landfill. The charity works alongside families and designers to fully furnish the homes with everything the families need, and is currently transforming a women’s refuge in northeast London with the interior designer Rebecca Wakefield.

Arif Voraji

Supporting homeless people in Leicester gain permanent accommodation is a passion for Arif, who founded Help the Homeless Leicester in 2018. Since then the initiative has helped more than 220 people find a permanent address. Arif also established a food bank during the pandemic which is used by more than 200 people on a weekly basis, and every Friday he distributes food and home-cooked meals to homeless people in the city centre. Arif says he had to act when he saw people living on the streets struggling in freezing temperatures. “I went onto eBay and bought lots of clothing and started to help people from the boot of my car in November 2014,” he says. “It has naturally grown from there, and I hope that Help the Homeless will grow from here and hopefully, in the future, we can expand to other cities that need our service.”

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