The New Year Honours is not just about celebrities and sport stars – many people are also recognised for quietly serving their community, charity work and campaigning.
This year’s picks include a road sweeper, a circus performer, the mother of a girl who died from air pollution, and a 92-year-old who’s helped educate people about the Holocaust.
Nanny who organised aid for Ukrainian refugees
Louenna Hood, a nanny from Cambridgeshire, has been awarded a British Empire Medal after her Instagram post “snowballed” into six shipping containers being sent to Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
She also raised £190,000 for refugees in Moldova.
“I initially thought about sending a few boxes, that turned into a small van, that turned into a container, and then we ended up with six containers,” she said.
“I had absolutely no experience whatsoever, and it was all down to my friends, family, the community, who just all got completely behind it, which is why it took off the way it did.”
Making dreams come true for terminally-ill children
Patricia Ward-Jones has also been awarded a British Empire Medal for fundraising for Promise Dreams – which helps seriously and terminally-ill children fulfil a wish, such as meeting a celebrity or going on a trip of a lifetime.
“When you start you just want to raise as much as you can, give yourself a target, let’s try for a thousand pounds,” she told Sky News.
“Then it became £3,000, now I would say that’s a regular thing. In December I did £5,000.
“It just depends on who you’ve got there and how much you can pull their heartstrings to donate to the charity; that’s what it’s all about, fulfilling the dreams of these children.”
Mum who campaigned after daughter’s pollution death
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has campaigned for change after an inquest found air pollution contributed to her daughter’s death.
She fought for a new inquest into Ella’s death and set up a foundation that pushes for cleaner air and more awareness of asthma issues.
Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has also been campaigning for the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill or “Ella’s law”.
She said being made a CBE was a “bittersweet” moment.
“Ella would be over the moon, she would be overjoyed,” she said.
“Although I got the inquest victory, she would be really, really proud that I just didn’t give up because I could have walked, couldn’t I?”
Veteran road sweeper thought honour was a ‘wind up’
Image: County Antrim road sweeper Stephen Burns says he’s looking forward to going to the palace Stephen Burns has been cleaning up in the village of Portglenone, County Antrim, for two decades.
The 56-year-old thought his award of a British Empire Medal was a joke when he first found out.
“About a month ago, a fellow rang me around lunchtime. He told me about this award and I thought he was pulling my leg,” he said.
“I told him I would mention it to some other people and he said to me I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. I thought that sounded a bit suspicious.”
But the award was legitimate and Mr Burns said he’s now looking forward to his trip to the palace.
Man who escaped Nazis honoured for Holocaust education
Michael Brown arrived in the UK as a boy in the wake of Kristallnacht – and a few days before Britain declared war on Germany.
He managed to escape the Holocaust but has been determined the horrors of that time are not forgotten.
The 96-year-old has spoken to more than 2,000 people in the past two years alone and was one of the first survivors to share his story via Zoom.
He said: “I always think about how lucky I am because probably, I was one, if not the very last, the second to last, [to] transport before the war began. I came to England on August 23, 1939. So I just squeezed in.”
Two other Holocaust survivors have also been honoured.
Lilly Ebert, 98, who was in Auschwitz, gets an MBE for speaking about the need to stand up to antisemitism, and Yvonne Bernstein, 85, gets the same award after nearly 20 years at the Jewish Museum and the Wiener Library.
Lifeboat volunteers who’ve helped save dozens of lives
Dupre Strutt has been directly involved in more than 300 RNLI rescues since 1983, helping save more than 60 lives.
A mechanic at RNLI Kirkwall Lifeboat Station in Orkney, he followed in his father’s footsteps and has now been awarded an MBE for services to maritime safety.
He paid tribute to all lifeboat volunteers, adding: “Knowing that there’ll be some families together that wouldn’t have been because of that contribution makes me proud.”
Mr Strutt is not the only person from the RNLI to be recognised.
Among several others is William “John” Collins, from Kirkcudbright Lifeboat Station, who’s been awarded the British Empire Medal after being with the institution since 1991.
He said he was honoured but “we do the job because of the love of it, not for the recognition”.
Policeman who worked on better representation in the force
Asrar Ul-Haq, a former police officer who served for 30 years, has been awarded an OBE for services to community in Greater Manchester.
He told Sky News he’d worked on “lots of different initiatives, hoping to improve lives of other people”, which made him realise “policing is not just about locking people up and throwing away the key”.
Mr Ul-Haq said he was also proud of working with the College of Policing to help improve the representation of women and non-white candidates on the accelerated promotion scheme.
He also initially thought the email and call about his OBE was a prank.
“I’ve got friends and family that would quite happily wind me up with something like this,” he said. “It was about the second or third phone call it actually sank it.”
Tweedy the clown ‘surprised’ to get the nod
Alan Digweed, 48, is perhaps one of the more unusual honourees.
He’s performed around the world as a clown named Tweedy for decades after being inspired by the likes of Laurel and Hardy.
In his spare time he puts on charity shows and is currently part of Gloucestershire-based Giffords Circus.
He said his Empire Medal “was a complete surprise”.
“I nearly missed out because for some reason I didn’t get the email, and then they got in touch by my agent.
“I was too late in the end to respond to it, but they let me off for being late, typical clown fashion I guess.”