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New Year Honours: The extraordinary ‘ordinary’ stars of the year | UK News

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Behind the New Year Honours list is a host of heart-warming stories, as Britons are awarded for some of the most moving contributions to public life.

From a 13-year-old charity fundraiser to a 94-year-old D-Day veteran, Sky News takes a look at some of those celebrated for their achievements this year.

The youngest on the list

Ibrahim Yousaf is the youngest on the list
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Ibrahim Yousaf has raised thousands for good causes

Aged only 13, schoolboy Ibrahim Yousaf, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, has raised thousands of pounds for charities.

As the youngest person on the New Year Honours list, he has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) after his fundraising work for local causes.

Ibrahim’s first act of charity was at the age of 12, when he donated his birthday money to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital charity, where he is a patient.

He said: “I am truly shocked and overwhelmed at being awarded a BEM in the New Year Honours.”

He dedicated his award to the charities he has worked with and to his hometown, saying: “I just want to say I know there are so many who deserve this honour more than me, especially charities who are the real heroes of our community.”

He added: “This recognition is solely down to everyone’s incredible support in helping me in my campaign.”

In eight months, the teenager raised more than £1,300 for cancer support centre Maggie’s. He has also made more than £2,000 overall for causes including Oldham Foodbank, Dr Kershaw’s Hospice and the Oldham Mayor’s Charities.

D-Day veteran, 94, fundraising for fallen servicemen

Harry Billinge
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Mr Billinge dedicated his award to his fallen servicemen

Harry Billinge was only 18 when he was one of the first troops to land on the beach in Normandy on 6 June 1944. Now, aged 94, the D-Day veteran has raised more than £10,000 towards the cost of building a national memorial honouring his fallen servicemen.

Mr Billinge has been made an MBE, but says he will accept the honour not for himself but for the 22,442 personnel who were killed on D-Day and during the battle for Normandy.

Talking about his award, Mr Billinge said: “It’s overwhelmed me to be honest. I’m 94 and it’s a bit late in life to be recognised.

“I am very grateful for any kindness bestowed upon me. I am choked beyond measure to think I have got an MBE. I don’t deserve it.

“When I get it, it won’t be for me, it will be for the 22,442 blokes killed on D-Day. That’s what it’s all about. They were marvellous men, some just 16.

“What a waste of life. Terrible.”

Mr Billinge, who also holds France’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur, added: “I’m no brave man and I’m just an ordinary sapper, Royal Engineer Commando.

“I did my job and I didn’t want any glory. There’s no glory in war.

“Nobody should have got off the beaches at D-Day and I was lucky. I’ll never forget any of the blokes I was with – 22,442 were killed and it’s very difficult for me to talk about that.”

Holocaust survivors teaching appreciation to youngsters

Holocaust survivor Mindu Hornick
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Holocaust survivor Mindu Hornick says the award was ‘an absolute surprise’

Two Holocaust survivors have been awarded MBEs – honours which they say will drive them to keep teaching young people to “appreciate each other’s faiths and beliefs”.

Birmingham-based Mindu Hornick, 90, and John Paul Hajdu, 82, who lives in north London, have been honoured for their work in Holocaust education and commemoration.

Czechoslovakia-born Ms Hornick works with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Anne Frank Trust. She described the award as “an absolute surprise”.

She said: “I’m 90 now and it is always an effort to do [Holocaust Memorial Days] but with everything that is going on in the world today – with Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other unacceptable things that are happening – I think it is important to educate young people.”

She added: “In my opinion, it is very important that we don’t just mourn our losses and our tragic events, but we should also mourn others going on now in the 21st century.

Holocaust Survivor John Hajdu
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Holocaust Survivor John Hajdu has been given an award

“There has been a terrible rise of all kinds of atrocities – it is very important to educate young people to love each other and to appreciate each other’s faith and beliefs.”

Mr Hajdu, who was born in Budapest and now lives in Muswell Hill, said it had been “most unexpected”.

Working with the Holocaust Educational Trust, he gives talks to schoolchildren about his experience of the persecution he suffered under Nazi and Soviet regimes in the 1940s and ’50s.

Mr Hajdu tells the youngsters he is standing there to show “it is possible with all the hardship and all the fighting in your life, to survive and create a happy life in this country”.

He said: “The award simply urges me on to try to talk to as many people as possible and be an ambassador on behalf of survivors who might not be able to talk or might not want to talk about their experiences.”

The Reverend who rocks

Rev Wynne Roberts as Elvis
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Rev Wynne Roberts as Elvis

A hospital chaplain who has raised around £250,000 by performing as Elvis has received the British Empire Medal (BEM) for charitable services.

The Rev Wynne Roberts, 58, from Anglesey, began his Elvis tribute act six years ago, when his late mother was in a nursing home with dementia.

He now performs up to 100 shows a year to raise money for various charities, as well as continuing to sing for people in care homes.

He said: “When you’re singing these songs the negative effect of that illness is taken away from people because they are actually taken back, through music, to a very happy time.

“I have seen it where you have a lady absolutely affected by dementia and all of a sudden you sing Can’t Help Falling In Love and her husband walks in and she is a 21-year-old in love again.”

On discovering he had been awarded the BEM, which he found out in a hospital post room, he said: “To be honest, I was humbled. I’m just singing songs – other people have done far greater things.”

Red Cross volunteer who supported Grenfell families

Lady Angela Lamport has offered support across the world as well as in the UK
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Lady Angela Lamport has offered support across the world as well as in the UK

Lady Angela Lamport, 67, says she feels “overwhelmed” after being made an MBE for services to the Red Cross – which has seen her help those impacted by tragedies from Haiti to Libya to Grenfell.

Lady Angela, from Surrey, has worked on a number of national and international crises since she joined the charity in 2003.

Of all the tragic events she has been involved in, she said “the most heart-rending experience was helping some of the bereaved families after the fire at Grenfell Tower”.

Her award is not based purely on the help she gave in the aftermath of the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, as organisers have said they will not consider honours solely on it until the conclusion of the public inquiry.

Lady Angela said: “I went out to Haiti after the earthquake, where I saw the utter devastation and the work the Red Cross was doing to help rebuild livelihoods.

“I travelled to Libya on a Royal Naval frigate to help people who were being evacuated.

“That was totally unique and extraordinary, but the most heart-rending experience was helping some of the bereaved families after the fire at Grenfell Tower. I still think of them every day.”

In 2010, Lady Angela helped set up the Tiffany Circle, where businesswomen raise funds for the Red Cross and promote the charity.

Couple who fostered 39 people over 18 years

George and Maureen Hughes have welcomed almost 40 people into their home
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George and Maureen Hughes have welcomed almost 40 people into their home

A couple who have fostered 39 people in their Leeds home over almost two decades have been honoured with MBEs.

Maureen and George Hughes have opened their doors to scores of people in need, ranging from a day-old baby to a 27-year-old mother and her child – as well as having five children of their own.

Mrs Hughes, who is 58 and a full-time carer, said: “We had already got a crazy household and we thought we could help other children who were less fortunate.”

She added: “We just want to give them the love and attention that any child should have, with the correct parenting and teaching them the right way to behave.”

The couple believe that by fostering they can break the cycle of going in to care by showing children the right way to parent when they have a family of their own.

Mr Hughes, who works part-time as a handyman, paid tribute to his wife, saying: “She is tremendous, she is the best thing that has happened to me, never mind anybody else.”

He added: “Fostering teaches you to be calm, to keep the noise down and to see that what a lot of them need is reliability, and knowing that tomorrow morning, they will get up, the place will be warm and there will be food in their belly.”

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