More than 100 people were nominated by friends, family or neighbours as Coventry Heroes for the #OurCovHeroes campaign, launched in the summer by Coventry City of Culture Trust. The final 21 were then selected by a panel of young people from Coventry Youth Activist Group and the Belgrade Theatre after being recognised for their acts of kindness.

The final 21 heroes had their portraits taken by photographer, Ayesha Jones, and these portraits are being displayed in city centre shop windows from 3rd December, so that the entire city can learn about the inspiring community work they have been doing during the pandemic.

The heroes include a local retailer, Mr Rai, who was delivering goods to customers in Potters Green at the height of the national lockdown and, rather than cashing in on a sudden rush on items such as toilet roll, was giving it away for free to vulnerable customers.

There is also Evie Barriscale, a ten-year-old who made magnets and keyrings to help raise money for the Children’s Air Ambulance, and Lisa Chant, a care worker who went the extra mile to make sure the husband of a care home resident could spend some time with his wife before she passed away.

There are tales of community spirit bringing people together during lockdown, and those who have taken it upon themselves to help feed people who may otherwise have gone hungry.

As well as the portraits of the 21 people selected for #OurCovHeroes, five ‘stand out heroes’ have had illustrations created of them by artist Ana Jaks, which feature in city centre windows too.

The Trust has also worked with Coventry BID to recognise every person who was nominated for the #OurCovHeroes campaign, meaning all nominees will have a dedicated bauble, featuring their name, hung on Christmas trees in Coventry city centre.

Community group leader and one of the 21 heroes, Chaitrali Chitre, said: “I am humbled to have been nominated to be one of the 21 Cov heroes. This recognition is very motivational to all the volunteers who work wholeheartedly towards the community. I would like to thank all those who nominated me. I am still overwhelmed with the news.”

Coventry DJ, Rich Brandist said: “I was aware that someone had posted about #OurCovHeroes on the Pride of Willenhall Facebook page and knew that a couple of people had nominated me.

“It was only when I was informed that I was part of the 21 #OurCovHeroes that I discovered how many people had nominated me. I was overwhelmed and I am truly grateful for this.”

Loraine Masiya Mponela, chairperson of Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG), said: “Nobody sets off to be recognised especially if it’s to do with undoing injustices. I appreciate the person who nominated me, in order to recognise the gap that CARAG has always tried to fill, not just during the pandemic.

“I am proud of my community and this award for me is a celebration of all the work CARAG does which centres on the values of dignity, justice and equality for all.

“So, today I am truly happy that #OurCovHeroes campaign is recognising CARAG work during the pandemic, as something vital to our own community.”

Chenine Bhathena, of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “It has been incredibly moving to read the stories of all of the amazing nominees and it really does demonstrate the number of incredible everyday heroes in our city.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for all of us – but this project has shown how testing times for our communities really do bring out the best in people.

“The toughest part has been selecting our final 21 heroes, whose portraits are being displayed in the city centre.  However, it is great that we have been able to recognise everyone who was nominated.

“We are grateful to everyone who put forward a nominee and hope that #OurCovHeroes provides a bit of festive cheer this winter.  I know people in the city will continue to show understanding and care for those in need in their local community.  We are inspired by you all.”

In a year in which the high street has been badly hit, this is a great opportunity for people to rediscover the pivotal role that our shops and business have in the community. The Trust was overwhelmed with support from the businesses and the council, helping to share these important stories.

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