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Exeter’s Gina Awad has been recognised for her “remarkable” efforts to make life better for people with dementia at Alzheimer’s Society’s 2016 Dementia Friendly Awards.
The national awards celebrate organisations, communities and individuals making outstanding contributions towards improving the lives and experiences of people with dementia.
This year there were nine award categories, including four brand new awards.
Gina was awarded the Dementia Friends Champion of the Year accolade for her efforts to make life better for people with dementia.
Gina has worked tirelessly in the Exeter community and surrounding areas since she trained as a Dementia Friends Champion, resulting in the creation of the Exeter Dementia Action Alliance and over 1,000 new Dementia Friends. She has visited schools, GP practices, law firms, cinemas, the regional hospital and Exeter city football club. During Dementia Awareness Week Gina organised a virtual dementia tour, an Information Session on Exeter Prison and the first dementia friendly screening at the local cinema with over 90 people in attendance.
Gina was presented with her award by Paula White from M&S Bank, the individual award sponsor. The awards ceremony took place in Westminster, London, on Wednesday 30 November and was hosted by Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Angela Rippon.
Gina said: “There are so many people in our community who are frightened to express themselves and I feel that I’m the catalyst for people with dementia and their families to get their voices heard. Dementia is such a complex condition but, for me, in 10 years’ time, I want to be in a position where we are talking about dementia in the same way we are talking about cancer now.
“I have probably spent voluntarily 30 hours a week over the last two years doing my bit to try and change things for the better for people with dementia. Some 15 years ago, I remember talking to a friend and I said I really feel as though I’m here to do something big for people and I’ve no idea what it is. She said to me last year I think you’ve found your calling.’
Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health presented an award. He said: "The Dementia Friendly Communities programme has led to inspiring action, raising awareness of this condition and supporting people to live well. Dementia is a priority for this Government and I am inspired by the work of the individuals here today who are leading the way in making their own communities dementia friendly."
There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, with this figure set to rise to over a million by 2021. With myths and misunderstandings around dementia continuing to contribute to the stigma and isolation many people feel, Alzheimer’s Society warns it has never been more vital for communities to rally together to make a difference to the lives of people with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Chief Executive, Jeremy Hughes, said: “Dementia is the biggest health and social care issue facing our society and there’s no question that it has a profound and devastating impact for many – but the actions of Gina Awad and others like her are helping to raise better awareness, break down stigma and make our communities more dementia friendly.
“What makes our winners so remarkable is the way they use their imagination, energy and enthusiasm to inspire others. Gina has gone that extra mile to make a bigger difference in the community for people with dementia and she will inspire others to follow her example in all walks of life.”
Sponsored by Iceland, the awards are part of Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities initiative, which aims to ensure people affected by dementia feel understood and included in all aspects of community life.
They demonstrate the huge success of Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities and Dementia Friends programmes – there are now 1.7 million Dementia Friends and over 200 Dementia Friendly Communities supporting people with dementia at a local level.
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