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In December we announced the winners of our 2023 People Awards at a virtual ceremony. The People Awards are to recognise staff and volunteers that have gone above and beyond in their roles and have been nominated in five categories, four of which are aligned to our values - better together, compassionate, determined to make a difference, trusted expert, and also one new category this year, inclusion and involvement.

The awards were hosted by Kate Lee, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society and she was joined by co-hosts Martin Robertson and Michelle Nelson-Greensmith, two Dementia Voice representatives who have a dementia diagnosis.

Two of our fantastic Dementia Friends Ambassadors were recognised in these awards, and we wanted to share their stories.

Mark Overton was the winner in the Compassionate category for dedicating his life to public health, his community and supporting people affected by dementia.

Mark’s volunteer role manager, Siobhán Marsh said: “As Mark approaches retirement within his role as Dementia Friends Ambassador, I could think of no better way to celebrate his commitment to supporting people affected by dementia than to nominate him for a People’s Award.

“Mark has worked in public health most of his adult life and he first got involved with in 2015 developing listening events to collect and shape the views of those living with dementia and their carers. When the opportunity came along for him to become a Dementia Champion back in 2017, Mark grabbed it with both hands. Mark took charge of making Jarrow, dementia friendly. Leading a group of volunteers, public officials, and business to make Jarrow more accessible for those with Dementia.

“Mark has personal experience of dementia in his family and this spurred him on to do as much as he possibly could to make a difference. Mark used his many years of public health experience to give a voice to those affected by dementia when working on housing projects with local authorities. He has delivered 65 Information Sessions creating 881 Dementia Friends.

“Mark had his reservations about aspects of the Dementia Friends Ambassador role, particularly fundraising, but he took on every bit of advice I gave him and ran with it. I put it to him that people who ask for a dementia friends’ session already want to help and make a difference so why not just ask them if they’d like to do more for our charity. Mark went straight to deliver a dementia friends session for Sunderland University Law clinic students, and he asked them, would you support Alzheimer’s Society? And they said yes. Mark said to me after, I was actually surprised at how easy that was. I am still working with their lead lecturer in how they can support and fundraise for us.

“To say Mark has given his time and dedication is an understatement. Mark has also given his heart. I have learned so much from him and he will be a massive miss to us here at the society, I will miss him too. I want to recognise not only his contribution to his community, fundraising, and countless hours of volunteering over the last 6 years but his deep compassion and determination to make the world a better place for those affected by dementia.”image.png

Another Dementia Friends Ambassador, Emdad Rahman, was recognised in the Inclusion and involvement category for his work reaching diverse communities. Emdad has delivered 82 Information Sessions creating 4,058 Dementia Friends.

Emdad said: “My approach is for everybody, although because of my background, I can reach out to the Asian community in particular, which is wonderful and really helps.

“I’ve held Information Sessions at exciting places and with amazing people. I’ve held them at banks and the Mayor’s Parlour, for matchday stewards at Leyton Orient Football Club, a charity mountain climbing group, in town halls, mosques and community centres.

“A memorable moment for me was making a Dementia Friend of the late great Max Levitas, who fought off Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. A complete folk hero and a good friend. He saw the leaflet in my hand and wanted to become a Dementia Friend aged 100. I also did an information session with Dabirul Choudhury OBE, who was 101 years old.

“The Sessions can have a major effect. Sometimes people get emotional, I get a lot of gratitude. When we raise awareness, we have the support of the community. People still keep their badges five years on.

“Together, we’re making a difference all the time – every single day, and the results are wondrous. It’s magical work and will continue to benefit and help countless people.

“The announcement for the People Awards was made whilst I was with Head Ashid Ali at the London Enterprise Academy - The first school in Tower Hamlets to have students complete the Information Session and become Dementia Friends.

“This is a tremendous honour and a superb way to end the year with silverware and on a high.”

image.pngCongratulations to Mark and Emdad on being winners of these awards. We are grateful to all of our fantastic volunteers for everything that they do to support Alzheimer’s Society and raise awareness of dementia in their communities. Each and every Dementia Friend our Ambassadors create has made a genuine difference for people affected by dementia and we simply couldn’t have reached as many people without their support.