“In times of crisis, ordinary people can do extraordinary things”
I was reminded of this recently when I went along to the House of Commons to see the announcement of the winner of the Flood Re Local Heroes award.
I first got involved in the campaign back in July, when Covéa Insurance agreed to sponsor the initiative and I was asked to judge the entries. It was a campaign of personal significance to me, as on Boxing Day 2015 my own community was devastated by flooding caused by Storm Eva. In the weeks and months that have followed, I’ve seen first-hand the critical role that individuals can play, both in dealing with the immediate aftermath and in building resilience for the future.
The Flood Re award invited people across the country to nominate their own “Local Hero”; an individual or group who had done amazing things in supporting their community during a flood event or in working to reduce the potential impact of future flooding. The eventual winner would receive £10,000 to be invested in their community’s response to flooding or to go to a local flood relief charity of their choice.
Along with the rest of the judging panel - made up of representatives from the ABI, NFU Mutual, Flood Re and flood action groups - I made my way through an incredible 14 entries. The stories of selflessness and commitment displayed by so many people across the country were inspirational; individuals and groups helping others to recover from devastating floods and working to reduce the risk of it happening again.
We had an incredibly difficult job to narrow down the entries to six finalists, let alone pick a winner; but eventually we made our decision, and last week Geraldine Brown from Yalding in Kent received her award from Floods Minister, Thérèse Coffey.
Amongst so many great stories, Geraldine stood out for her commitment to her community over the past 17 years. She’s been at the heart of the response to individual flood events – including coordinating the local sea-scouts to rescue neighbours from their homes over Christmas 2013 – and has also worked tirelessly to develop the Yalding Emergency Plan, set up an emergency contact centre, secure funding for investment in local flood management, and recruit and train flood wardens. As she told me, “we can’t prevent major floods, but we can build up our resilience”. Her selflessness, even sacrificing her own Christmas to help others, marked Geraldine out as a true local hero.
Being involved in judging this award has been incredibly rewarding. There are amazing people in our communities who have often been true lifesavers to their neighbours. I’m delighted that Covéa Insurance has been able to help recognise their efforts, and to help promote the work of Flood Re in making insurance available and affordable to many more people living in areas at high risk from flooding.
Wishing you a happy and ‘dry’ Christmas and a New Year!”
James Reader, Chief Executive, Covéa Insurance