On 17/7/2015 the Lloyds Foundation were pleased to announce that Robert Wikinson won the “LONDON UNSUNG HERO AWARD”
This is what I wrote:
“For me a hero is someone who understands the cost of what he is doing but does it even when it causes pain and discomfort to himself. A hero has an understanding of the true value of commitment, friendship and love and how their sacrifice will make the world a better place. He gives no thought to his own needs but lives to serve others. For me Robert epitomizes what a hero is and more……
Robert Wilkinson walked through our doors a stranger on a cold night in January 2012. He was from Bermuda and in London after a separation from his wife and child came to work out his future. A computer programmer, he expected to walk into a job as on previous occasions but found him-self homeless, jobless and friendless. A chance connection by a friend to someone also from Bermuda who had worked in our office sent him our way. Our remit was to help only people with a local connection and hard as we tried Bermuda was a huge distance from Havering in Essex. So I rang my husband and arranged for him to stay in our home overnight. He soon linked with other people and moved on but there had been a connection and we hoped he would return.
After six months, Robert returned to help and despite the obvious difficulties due to his break up, he was cheery and fun to be with. He was asked to help with the guests in the night shelter and volunteered in the evenings and several times overnight each week always filling a gap at short notice. We then got a large office in June 2013 that needed manning every day. Robert was there for a year opening early and closing until the last guest was sorted. He helped people find clothes to wear and washed their clothes and bedding for the shelter. He helped people with their job searches and benefit claims and house searches even when it meant time away from his own tasks.
In September 2013, we opened a Transformation Programme in a large house for 6 men at a time who were honest enough to admit that they needed profound change to detox then live a life free from drugs or alcohol. Robert very quickly became invaluable and has spent every weekend supporting and encouraging the men since its inception as well as many, many long weekdays. Recently the Transformation Manager was sick for a month. Robert worked non-stop to make sure that no one was left out and nothing was missed. His many skills have set up a calendar for the night shelter and another for the Transformation Staff as well as an online team communication system.
As time went on the pain of his family separation and particularly his love for his son was sometimes overwhelming. Like the men he was counselling, he too was working through his own pain. He shared his story of being raised with his brothers and sisters by his grandma when his mother and father were lost to alcohol, even battles with addiction much closer to home. Robert did not just have empathy for the men he was helping but knew and understood their struggles and pain.
Robert has been a father, brother, teacher and friend to the many men who have passed through his hands. He has been a rock to those who work and volunteer at Hope 4 Havering particularly the Transformation manager and myself. He is fun and quirky and keen to bring table manners and politeness to all who eat in the general menagerie.
There is no doubt in my mind, Robert is the epitome of a hero and will ever be treasured and trusted as a friend.”
Written 27/05/2015 by Kim Merry CEO Hope 4 Havering