Hensioner Alan Richards wins Prime Minister's award
A RETIRED Gateshead taxi driver has been honoured by Prime Minister David Cameron in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the North East community.
Alan Richards, 77, is one of only a select few in the region to be handed the prestigious Point of Light award celebrating those making a difference to people’s lives.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Alan and his fellow ‘hensioners’ have developed a unique way to support care home residents. The quirky HenPower project has a serious impact, reducing the depression and loneliness that residents can sometimes feel. I’m pleased to recognise Alan’s innovative volunteering with the 245th UK Point of Light award.”
Four years ago Alan spent his days alone at home in Gateshead watching the television or going to the pub.
Now he is among the team of active older volunteers helping develop the flagship HenPower project run by charity Equal Arts, which provides creative opportunities for older people. Alan has become a leading figure for the programme that helps tackle isolation and loneliness in older people through caring for hens and weekly activities such as creative writing, arts and crafts, music and movement and photography.
Selected by the Prime Minister for his volunteering efforts Alan accepted the award on behalf of his fellow hensioners involved in the Equal Arts’ project he credits with changing his life.
Alan, who lives at Wood Green, run by Gateshead Housing Company, said: “I am just so surprised to get this award. Never did I think I would do anything that deserves an award from the Prime Minister. In the HenPower project we are a team and there are various other volunteers and I accept this on behalf of us all.
“Three years ago when I first heard a bit HenPower I thought it was a ridiculous idea. I never imagined it would come to this and I would get so involved and enjoy it so much. I have been to places I’ve always wanted to visit and met so many new people. Some people call it volunteering, I see it as just helping out. For anyone thinking of volunteering I’d definitely say get out there and do something different, give it go.”
He is involved in caring for and hatching chickens with his fellow hensioners and together they visit care homes, schools and conferences across the country talking passionately about their experiences.
Jos Forrester-Melville, Equal Arts’ HenPower project lead, said: “Alan is the best advocate for getting involved and his knowledge and enthusiasm helped secure National Lottery funding of £1m to roll HenPower out nationally. “Alan’s inspiring words and attitude have encouraged many people to become involved with HenPower and we are immensely proud of him and all the hensioners.”
Since the project launched there are now 11 HenPower projects across the North East with more than 300 older people and those living with dementia engaged in hen-keeping and creative sessions helping reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing.
Alan is the latest winner of the Points of Light award developed in partnership with the successful Points of Light award in the USA set up by President George H. W. Bush.
The UK programme has the public support of both President Bush and President Barack Obama.
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