Meet the North East heroes celebrated in the 2022 New Year Honours list

These unsung heroes from the North East have been applauded for their work in the community.

The New Year Honours list for 2022 features a number of people from our region who have been praised for a variety of achievements.

A string of MBEs, OBEs and BEMs have been handed out and here is a look at just some of the recipients who have been singled out.

Read more:The 2022 New Year Honours list in full

They include people who have gone above and beyond what is expected of them or have been carrying out voluntary work for years.

One North East man, a security officer, has helped to save lives while others have supported people in difficult circumstances.

Here are the stories of some of our recipients.

David Porter MBE

David Porter who has been awarded an MBE
David Porter who has been awarded an MBE
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

David Porter, 67, former security officer at the University of Sunderland, has been awarded an MBE for services to security.

For nearly three decades, he was a team member at the university and served a variety of roles before joining the security department where he was employed for around 16 years.

Over the years, he has helped to save lives, including people who have tried to harm themselves.

During a routine patrol in 2017, he saved a woman who was on top of a bridge and was threatening to jump off. Because of his actions, he received a security officer of the year award from the Association of University Chief Security Officers.

Just months earlier, he had evacuated students and co-ordinated emergency services from one of the university halls of residence after an incident which resulted in a fire.

In December 2019, he helped to save another distressed woman when she was on top of a bridge threatening to take her own life.

As he waited for officers to arrive, he spoke with the woman and held her through the railings to prevent her from falling. He then helped police lift her to safety.

Chief Supt Sarah Pitt, from Northumbria Police, presented him with a Commander’s Compliment in recognition of his heroic act.

He postponed his retirement to assist the university security team through the Coronavirus crisis. He finally retired in March this year.

Mr Porter, of Sunderland, says he has sadly come across people trying to take their own lives many times and he just tries to talk to them before the emergency services arrive.

He said of the MBE: “When I got the letter, I thought it was some sort of joke or prank. It was unbelievable really. It’s not something I expected.

“We were like a team at work, we were always a team.”

Bridget Stratford MBE

Bridget Stratford, who is getting an MBE
Bridget Stratford, who is getting an MBE
(Image: Bridget Stratford)

Bridget Stratford, 25, from Ponteland, Northumberland, is receiving an MBE for services to refugees and asylum seekers, particularly during the pandemic.

She is the driving force behind North East Solidarity and Teaching (NEST), a student-run volunteer group at Newcastle University.

NEST helps to provide refugees and asylum seekers with one-to-one English teaching, group English classes, sports, creative arts and outdoor trips.

Bridget led the team’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and moved to online services. The students livestreamed lessons on YouTube, while volunteers made wellbeing calls to all registered learners.

NEST delivers regular classes to around 400 members from across the North East.

Bridget said: “I was really surprised but it feels great to get recognition for the project.

“When I was a third year undergraduate at Newcastle University, I got an opportunity to support one of the Syrian families relocated in Gateshead. I went on to become more involved and became project leader.

“We support people from all over the world, from places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador – people who are coming to the UK to seek sanctuary and resettle somewhere safe.

“It’s a privilege to work with them. They are some of the best people I’ve ever met. They have so much courage and determination. I have learnt so much from doing this work. It’s a real privilege.”

Anya Francis MBE

Anya Francis who has been awarded an MBE
Anya Francis who has been awarded an MBE
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Anya Francis, 48, of Hetton-le-Hole, is being awarded an MBE for services to young people through swimming.

She is a coach at Hetton Amateur Swim club and has helped to grow the club’s role in the community with over 100 regular members.

Anya promotes community spirit and healthy lifestyles as well as teaching life-saving classes. She also trained to be able to coach swimmers with disabilities.

When some of the club’s younger swimmers wished to enter a competitive league, she offered to manage it. They started at the bottom of the junior league but soon reached fourth out of 18 teams. She continues to manage this league and last year became runners up.

During lockdown, she helped to fundraise through bingo, raffles and quizzes.

Anya has been doing all this work voluntarily whilst juggling a full-time job as a civil servant.

And she says it’s great to see the children develop and enjoy their activities in the pool.

She said: “I’m still in shock. When I got the letter I thought ‘what on earth is this? Is this a joke?’ I read it about five times. At the moment, it doesn’t feel real.”

Margaret Tierney Gregg BEM

Margaret Tierney who has been awarded a BEM
Margaret Tierney who has been awarded a BEM
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Former nurse Margaret Tierney Gregg, 80, of East Boldon, South Tyneside, is being honoured with a BEM for services to asylum seekers and refugees.

She is the secretary of South Tyneside Asylum and Refugee Church Help (STARCH) and has become known for her valuable voluntary work providing practical and emotional support to asylum seekers and refugees.

Following her retirement from nursing, she helped develop the work of the charity, which offers interpretation services and English lessons, and provides second-hand household goods, clothing, financial support and food bank access where needed.

Volunteers provide a friendly face, teaching new arrivals how to use public transport and find hospitals, libraries, and places of worship.

During the pandemic, Margaret has continued to support clients by making home visits, delivering food parcels or donated clothes, organising the transport of furniture, helping new arrivals settle in by explaining how to register with doctors or finding schools or colleges.

She has been doing this work voluntarily for around 17 years.

Margaret, a grandmother of nine, said they used to support 40 to 70 people but the number has grown over the years to over 400. They work with people from all backgrounds and religions.

She added: “If you get a child or a family, and see what’s happened to them and how they want to find a better life, you would want to help. None of us would want to be stuck like that.

“It’s all about helping people in difficult situations.”

Speaking of the award, she said: “It’s going to be very special. It is the same year as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

“But this is not just for me, it’s for all the people that I work with. It’s really good recognition for everybody.”

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Chronicle Live – Sunderland