Church Member Wins Heros Award

Church Member Wins Heros Award

Sherrelle Ramus

Tony Hawkins has always been a member of the Nottingham Deaf Society (NDS) and the deaf community which he calls his second home.

What we now know is the NDS on Forest Road in Nottingham originally had its origins as the Nottingham Deaf School in 1950. Tony has been a long-standing volunteer over all these years in various ways: leader in charge of the Nottingham Deaf Youth Club, a member of various committees, supporting needs, helping to establish new support networks for individuals in the deaf community, supported numerous projects and activities of the NDS and has been an active member of the deaf community in Nottingham.

Before the coronavirus pandemic started, Tony was volunteering as a befriender (getting to know and supporting the needs of fellow deaf people in his community, visiting them in their homes, helping with individual specific needs) specifically for deaf people who were vulnerable and unable to attend the Deaf Society. When the pandemic started many deaf people suddenly found themselves isolated at home, unable to see friends and have access to information (news, church, GP) in their first language of British Sign Language (BSL). With more people relying on technology, Tony volunteered to support the NDS in providing BSL information videos on how to keep safe online.

He supported people experiencing social isolation, poor mental health, learning difficulties, disabilities and people living with dementia. In response to his activities Tony said, "I wanted to make sure deaf people had regular face to face contact, so I made weekly doorstep visits, identifying additional needs and worked hard to ensure those needs were met."

He worked tirelessly to reduce loneliness and promote well-being for many of the deaf by teaching them how to use different types of technology, such as how to video-call to keep in contact with their family and friends. He also supported the NDS with implementation of a tablet (iPad) loan scheme for socially isolated deaf people across Nottinghamshire without access to technology. Even a 90-year-old deaf man after a few weeks successfully got the idea of keeping in contact with friends.

Tony is an active member of the Deaf Church online (Zoom) which is headed by Pastor George Hamilton. So he is fully aware of the needs of the deaf to access the word of God in their first language. At the beginning of the pandemic when all churches closed, he raised the concern for the need for deaf people to access church.

With only recently being baptised in March 2020, Pastor Dan Dachin, the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Nottingham, actively worked to provide video recordings of sermons to the Zoom church for the deaf. However, after several problems with the videos etc. Pastor Hamiliton took up the work and has worked non-stop with Tony to ensure there is a weekly service for deaf people. Tony also supports Rev. Wendy Murphy of St Mark's Deaf Church to provide online services through NDS YouTube providing signed performances of hymns in BSL.

As a trained volunteer for Macmillan and a self-help group, Tony helped to set up and host the Deaf Men's Cancer Support Group, working with other trained volunteers to provide emotional support to deaf men experiencing cancer.

After reviewing this catalogue of amazing work that Tony Hawkins has undertaken, the Nottingham Deaf Society (NDS) sent his name forward to the Heroes Awards as a nominee for all his selfless work in his community. Three names went forward, and we were all so proud and pleased when his name was called as the winner of this award. When he won Tony stated, "it is an honour to win this Heroes Award as a deaf person in recognition of the work done for deaf community."

See link to media coverage here.