Social Worker Assistant receives award from a ‘Grateful Nation’

A Buckinghamshire Council Social Worker Assistant, has been recognised nationally for her outstanding efforts in the battle against COVID-19. Teresa Howard-Birt, who is also a Domestic Abuse Champion, has been awarded a silver medal in both the Essential Workers of Britain and NHS Volunteers categories of the Heroes of 2020 awards.

Teresa was nominated by Christine Green, a retired nurse from Buckinghamshire NHS Trust, for the work she has done as a volunteer on the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. Her efforts have contributed to meeting national vaccination targets for cohorts one to nine, helping to protect the NHS and making sure the most vulnerable people across the UK safely received their first COVID-19 vaccinations. In nominating Teresa, Christine stated: "The strength, commitment and dedication Teresa displays is rooted in the depth of her caring passion to help others."

Teresa, who has been supporting vulnerable adults as a Social Worker Assistant for seven years, volunteered at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the Guttman vaccination centre. She said: “When I first heard I had been nominated I felt very proud but there are so many people out there doing more than me. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘hero’ – I just felt lucky to be able to help and give something back to the community. This disease has taken us all by surprise and turned lives upside down. One thing that I've noticed across Buckinghamshire is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times which is nice to see."

Teresa added: "My family and friends are delighted that I have been given this award and said I should be proud. I know my late father would also be proud. My children want me to frame the award and put it on the wall. They say that I will always be their hero. It’s been a bit of buzz for them and we will be celebrating once we can all get together again.”

Rachael Shimmin, Buckinghamshire Council’s Chief Executive, said: “I am extremely proud of all or our staff for the way they have supported residents, vulnerable people and generally kept services going over the past year – many of them also helping out like Teresa ‘off duty’ in their local communities too. They have all done a phenomenal job. This is an opportunity to thank all of them and say we couldn’t have done it without you.”

Teresa's efforts during the pandemic began back in the first lockdown when she sewed scrubs, headbands and scrub bags for local NHS staff. She also got involved in delivering prescriptions to those who were shielding, baked rainbow cookies for care homes and even painted pebbles with motivational words and designs, dotting them around Aylesbury to give a boost to those who saw them when out and about.

Teresa, who has 19 years previous experience of working in the NHS explains that she was keen to do what she could to support others during this difficult time. She said: “It’s been a really tough year for everyone and we’ve all experienced low points. The low point for me was not being able to see people smile or put a hand on the shoulders for comfort for those who need it most. All of us know at least one person that has sadly passed away to this dreadful disease. A coping strategy for myself was just taking five minutes out of my working day to send a positive email to colleagues and text messages to family and friends and carrying out random acts of kindness. I strongly believe that acts of kindness can make the world a better place and even more so in the current pandemic."

She continued:“Looking back on the past year I’ve learnt a lot about myself and that no matter what life throws at me, I'm capable of turning any negative into a positive regardless of what the circumstances may be. Each and every one of us can make a positive difference by tapping into our strengths and sharing them with each other. The last 12 months have been tough but I will continue to do my bit to help the nation get back on its feet."

Teresa's efforts have been applauded by all her colleagues at Buckinghamshire Council. Gill Quinton, Corporate Director for Adults and Health said: "Huge congratulations to Teresa on receiving this award. She has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic in a range of roles all supporting and helping others. We are immensely proud of her achievements and are pleased that all her hard work and dedication have been recognised in this way."

If you would like to get more involved with your local community and volunteer like Teresa please contact the Volunteer Matching Service at Community Impact Bucks.