Pictured - Mama Chris (Chris Hayter)

Mama Chris (Chris Hayter) from Bletchley is being honoured by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland with a prestigious Champions of Change award.

Held annually, Champions of Change are part of Rotary’s Champions Awards, which recognises unsung heroes whose volunteering efforts have had a huge impact on people’s lives both at home and internationally.

Chris, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Milton Keynes Grand Union (MKGU), will receive her award during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday 30th June alongside 11 other recipients as well as last year’s winners whose ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19.

Following a holiday in The Gambia, West Africa, Chris formed strong bonds with the people of Bakau and, with the help of local leaders, promoted several health and wellbeing initiatives through The Oasis Project, a charity she established in 2007. These included founding The Starlight School, which is now responsible for the education of over 200 children.

More recently, seeing the community suffer terrible flooding in the rainy season, and a consequent rise in malaria levels, again through The Oasis Project she galvanised locals to take part in a storm water management scheme, involving developing, repairing and clearing storm drains.

MKGU Rotary Club UK raised funding for the Bakau canal works. Collaborating with The Rotary Club of Fajara the local community leaders to deliver the project. As a result of Chris’s intervention, the town’s people have helped themselves, their homes are no longer subject to flooding and the amount of standing water has been reduced, with resulting malaria cases dropping significantly in the first year.

The search for this year’s winners was carried out across Rotary’s vibrant network of over 1,700 Rotary clubs, with Rotary members and also members of the public having their extraordinary work recognised. This ranged from feeding disadvantaged people during the COVID-19 pandemic to knitting teddies for children in emergency care.

Tom Griffin, President of Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland, commented: “What Chris has managed to achieve through The Oasis Project is truly inspiring.  Through her unselfish actions and dedication she has helped bring about a better life and brighter future for the people of Bakau.

“Her volunteer work on the storm water project in particular has empowered the local townspeople, and they can look forward to living without the fear of flooding and a much greatly reduced risk of catching malaria. She has created a legacy of which she should be very proud.”

The Champions Awards is about giving those who pioneer, lead and support some amazing volunteering projects the recognition they deserve.

Tom added: “The selfless and truly life-changing impact of our champions really demonstrates how we can make a difference and touch people’s lives.

“Rotary is certainly a place where people can turn their passion and ideas into lasting change. There are so many heroes out there and to them I say, ‘thank you and keep doing what you’re doing’.”

Chris Hayter added, I am an ordinary working person who was inspired to see the challenges and need in the community of Bakau. I chose to walk the walk to impact/empower people’s lives in my lifetime which has been a privilege. I am humbled and encouraged by this recognition. I could not have done it alone and the road has not always been smooth. Therefore, I want to thank everyone who believed in me, sacrificed, supported and prayed with me. The Oasis Project (The Gambia) and our Starlight School will continue to promote sustainability of environment, health and education projects. There is still much to be done so, I would urge you to come and partner with us and be of service.

For more information about Rotary’s Champions Awards visit: www.rotarygbi.org/events or to get involved in Rotary and make a difference in your community, visit www.rotarygbi.org/join

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