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29 November 2013

Unsung heroes receive Inspire awards

Unsung heroes receive Inspire awards

Hannah Gibbons receives her Inspire award

A former homeless couple, a youth project, and the pioneer behind a debt-advice counselling centre, are this year's winners of the 2013 Inspire Award for unsung Christian heroes whose work has helped to change lives in their communities.

Around 70 people gathered in the Palace of Westminster on Thursday 28 November to hear the results of this year's Inspire Awards nominations. Those present included government and media representatives as well as people involved in Christian leadership and ministry.

The winners were announced by shadow employment minister Stephen Timms MP, Evangelical Alliance general director Steve Clifford and Inspire magazine editor Russ Bravo.

inspire well 1The unsung heroes of the year in the Inspiring Project category were Carol and Len Fowler who, having once been destitute themselves, opened The Well Centre in Blackpool, Lancashire for the homeless 10 years ago. It has since expanded and is now helping hundreds of people every year.

"It's about showing God's love, grace and mercy," said Carol. "Sometimes we have had people come in who are suicidal and we have been able to sit down with them and say 'there is hope' because Jesus is our hope. We have seen lives changed and we just thank God that we have been able to be part of this ministry and that it will continue to grow." BBC coverage of this award.

Hannah Gibbons, an award-winning financial adviser, won the Inspiring Individual category for her work in setting up and running the CAP (Christians Against Poverty) Centre that Gillingham Community Church, Dorset, had been longing to start. Since its establishment in 2008 they have helped more than 400 people, some of whom were at their wits end.

"God just opened doors and the number of people that we were able to help is absolutely mind-blowing," said Hannah. "I remember the day when I first went up to Christians Against Poverty just to find out what it was all about and I literally cried the whole day. But we have only just started. God has big plans for us and I just look forward to seeing what happens next."

The Shine Project in Bournemouth which helps teenage girls with problems of self-identity won the Inspiring Youth/Children's Initiative category. The youth programme is in big demand by schools across Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch requiring it to put on even more programmes.

Beryl Bye from the Shine project said:"It's so much fun spending time with these girls and giving them a different perspective on life. The media so often tells them who they should be and what is beautiful whereas we tell them they are lovely just as they are."

Stephen Timms MP, speaking at the awards, said: "Believing in Jesus inspires people to do wonderful things and moves people on to not just think something is a good idea, but to act on it.". The contributions we are celebrating this afternoon are examples not of a dying phenomenon, but a growing one."

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "I would have loved those who believe the Church is dead or irrelevant to society to have been here today. This is one of the highlights of my year seeing the amazing work that individual Christians and local churches are doing to make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people – of all faiths and none – in their neighbourhoods. This is faith in the community at work."

Russ Bravo, editor of Inspire magazine, told the ceremony: "We love to tell some of the most encouraging stories of Christians and the local Church in action, making life better for so many in their communities. These people are living their faith in a way that really counts."

The Inspire Awards have been running since 2008 and are run in partnership by Inspire magazine, CPO and the Evangelical Alliance, assisted this year by Youth for Christ (YFC).

More information on the Inspire Awards and how to make your nomination: Inspire Awards