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Walthamstow community organiser wins humanitarian award

Gail Penfold, who has been gone out of her way to help others for five decades, won the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award today

Gail Penfold

A Walthamstow community organiser has said said she is “in shock” after winning a humanitarian award for her generosity of spirit.

On winning Ayrshire Council’s Robert Burns Humanitarian Award today Gail said: “For what I do to be seen as similar calibre to previous finalists/winners is overwhelming.  I just help others where I can, speak out where change is needed and arrange events to provide a little relief and enjoyment.”

2024 marks 50 years of volunteering and helping others for the Queen’s Platinum Champion winner.

Gail founded the Walthamstow Stadium residents association and has provided benefit, debt management, budgeting assistance and essential items to those in need across the country.

Gail has also worked to support people with mental health issues since she was a teenager and has organised ‘silent’ funfairs for autistic children who can’t cope with loud noises and crowds. Her achievements also include launching what is the first GP-led gardening welfare group in Waltham Forest.

Accepting the award, Gail said: “Oh my goodness, thank you so much. I’m absolutely overwhelmed to be chosen and delighted to be the 23rd of the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. I am so lucky to have the most amazing husband and son who support me.”

She added: “To everyone that donates items that help me to help others, a heartfelt thank you for your kindness and support. The items that I give away for free are either donated or purchased. Thank you to every council, company, organisation and individual donor for your trust and generosity.”

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Speaking when her inclusion as a finalist was announced, Gail said: “To be selected as a finalist is quite surreal, it took a while to sink in. I am truly humbled to be considered for such a prestigious global award. For me, 2024 marks 50 years of volunteering in many roles through organisations such as the NHS and Metropolitan Police Service.”

“I don’t regard what I do as special or needing recognition because I believe anyone can do I what do. I just try to make positive differences to individuals and communities both locally and further afield, provide new experiences and bring a little joy or comfort where I can. I aim to inspire others and set up other volunteering groups when asked.”

“When someone comes to me for help I just offer to do my best no matter who they are or what the topic. Everything I do is done on goodwill and no two days or weeks are the same. I can be knee-deep during floods, attending court, sourcing furniture and other essentials for those in need, delivering shopping, visiting patients in hospital, assisting the bereaved and giving advice are just some examples.”

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