New Year Honours 2021: 'I thought the email was a hoax'

Related Topics
Image caption,
Lifelong teacher, Beryl Jonsen, 85, is awarded the BEM for services to education

An inspirational teacher, a charity founder and a champion of volunteering are among a host of recipients of New Year honours in the East of England.

'Teaching is not just about the classroom'

Beryl Jonsen, who is still teaching at the age of 85, has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to education.

Married to a diplomat, Mrs Jonsen worked in Africa, South America and Afghanistan, where she taught some of the first girls to make it to university.

She taught for 30 years at Monkwick Junior School in Colchester in Essex, before taking up a supply role at the town's Holy Trinity Primary.

Her age meant she has not been allowed to go to school since March.

"When I got the honours email I thought it was a hoax, as you do, and almost deleted it," she said.

"It was a great shock. But I am so grateful to all the people who gave me a chance to do what I love - and the children who have put up with me all these years.

"I'm as old as God, not quite as useful.

"I'm a fan of Marcus Rashford and what he has done," she added. "You cannot teach a child who is hungry and unhappy.

"You have to give them fun, make them laugh, and slip in the learning when they're not looking.

"Teaching is not about the classroom; it's knowing the whole child. I've got to know entire families. I feel like everyone's grandma.

"I've had a rip-roaring life - but I'm not finished yet."

Image source, Varun Bhanot
Image caption,
Ravi Bhanot said he was 'proud and humbled' to be appointed MBE

'I wanted to repay that single act of kindness'

Ravi Bhanot, 60, a pharmacist from Chigwell, Essex, is appointed MBE for services to wellbeing and community action.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Bhanot co-ordinated 3,000 lunches a week for NHS staff, homeless people and those self-isolating and on their own.

But he is proudest of his campaign to encourage more black and minority ethnic groups to donate blood and sign up to donate organs and learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

"My mother almost died in pregnancy with my sister but for a blood donation from a stranger, and I wanted to repay that single act of kindness," he said.

"I was born in Kenya and have malaria antibodies, so I cannot give blood myself."

In 2017, Mr Bhanot co-founded Make It Beat, a charity that provides free CPR training in four South Asian languages, and led the nationwide Jain Hindu Organ Donorship Drive, which helped boost numbers of blood donors in minority groups in Essex and east London.

"The biggest challenge of Covid-19 has been not being able to physically get people together, but I believe it has made communities stronger, neighbours getting to know each other, charities working together towards one goal," he said.

"We have to break down barriers of fear. There has to be a cultural shift.

"I never expected this kind of recognition after 19 years of community work - it is a privilege.

"But it is collective. It is for all those volunteers who work day in and day out to help others."

Image source, Tiger de Souza
Image caption,
Tiger de Souza, MBE, credits his mother with instilling 'a sense of public service'

'This is for the countless millions who just help out'

Tiger de Souza, 41, a National Trust inclusion director from Ipswich in Suffolk, has been appointed MBE for services to volunteering.

"You get the best news of your career - and you can't tell anyone about it for a month," he said.

Mr de Souza has been recognised for his work in galvanizing volunteer groups during the pandemic and ensuring Volunteers Week took place virtually in June.

He credits his mother, Cynthia, a community midwife for more than 40 years, with instilling his strong sense of public service.

He said one of the main challenges is ensuring funding for smaller, local groups who can often go unnoticed with selfless acts, citing the Sikh and Muslim communities who rallied to help stranded lorry drivers in Kent.

"This year particularly, it's not just volunteers, it's all those small acts of kindness at a time of crisis, something this country hasn't seen since wartime," he said.

"This is a celebration of community spirit - the countless millions of people who say they 'just help out'. We owe them all a debt of gratitude."

Image source, Scotty's Little Soldiers
Image caption,
Nikki Scott, with son Kai, 16 and daughter Brooke, 12

'I am so proud of this amazing team'

Nikki Scott, 39, founder of Scotty's Little Soldiers, is awarded the BEM for services to charity.

Mrs Scott, from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, set up the group after her husband, Cpl Lee "Scotty" Scott, 26, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2009.

Scotty's Little Soldiers continues to support the children of service personnel killed in action from all three of Britain's armed forces. It reached more than 450 children in 2020.

"I know [the honour] is in my name, but this is for all our supporters, all our families, and I am so proud of this amazing team," she said.

"We've managed to keep going this year with the help of emergency grants, as fundraising fell away.

"It's a good way to end a year like this - with a bit of a pat on the back.

"Scotty would have been chuffed for us."

Image source, Scotty's Little Soldiers
Image caption,
Nikki Scott founded the charity after the death of her husband, Cpl Lee Scott, in Afghanistan in 2009
Image source, Essex Police
Image caption,
Det Ch Insp Martin Pasmore (left), Ch Supt Stuart Hooper and Det Insp Michelle Stoten

'They're an inspiration to us all'

Three police officers from Essex who worked on the investigation into the deaths of 39 immigrants in a lorry found in Grays have been awarded the Queen's Police Medal (QPM).

The investigation was the biggest ever carried out by Essex Police.

Det Ch Insp Martin Passmore, who has since retired from the force, led efforts to identify all 39 victims and to oversee their repatriation to their loved ones in Vietnam.

Ch Supt Stuart Hooper helped lead the investigation, as well as working on preventative procedures to tackle organised immigration crimes.

Family liaison co-ordinator Det Insp Michelle Stoten will also receive a QPM for her work throughout the investigation. As well as working to help identify the victims, Det Insp Stoten ensured proper support was given to the families of those who died, by working with the Vietnamese authorities, enlisting translators and managing a visit to see the families face-to-face.

Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said it was a privilege to see his staff honoured, adding "they're an inspiration to us all".

Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.