North London retiree given Prime Minister’s volunteering award

22 Jul 2015

An 83 year old who has given over half of her life to support her local Jewish community centre has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Point of Light: Barbara Waterman








Barbara Waterman, from Hendon, north London, first volunteered for Jewish Care's Stepney Jewish Community Centre in East London 1970 after visiting with her mother and seeing first hand how valuable their services are to the local area. Since then, she has spent over 25,000 hours volunteering at the centre and formed strong relationships with thousands of the most vulnerable members of her local community. She is the first Jewish Care volunteer to be given the Point of Light Award.

Barbara, who has also raised £20,000 as the Treasurer of the friends of Stepney Fundraising Committee, is the latest recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Barbara first visited Stepney Jewish Community Centre in 1970, as she looked for a local support group for her mother. Inspired by the warmth of the people, and the clear need for more volunteers, Barbara decided that she should offer her time to the centre. 45 years later, and Barbara is now one of the longest serving volunteers for Jewish Care, the charity that supports over 7000 people each week and runs more than 70 services and community centres.

As volunteer coordinator at Stepney Community Centre, Barbara’s support ranges from helping other volunteers who attend the centre, providing mentoring and advice, to organising days out and events for the members themselves, often booking tickets from her own money so that everyone can attend.

Crucially though, Barbara also provides emotional support to members. As the Jewish community has slowly declined in the East End, older people in the area are increasingly finding themselves isolated and alone as their families move away. Barbara, with her infectious spirit and great sense of humour, acts as a lifeline to these individuals. For so many, Barbara is the very lifeline her own mother had been looking for 45 years ago.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

"Barbara has dedicated more than half of her life to support Jewish Care, directly improving the lives of the elderly Jewish community in East London. In Barbara they find a caring and generous woman, who for over 45 years, has provided emotional and social support for so many. I’m delighted to recognise Barbara’s service to others by making her a Point of Light.”

Barbara said of being awarded a Point of Light:

"I am so proud to receive this award on behalf of Jewish Care. Of the 3000 volunteers with the organisation, it is even more amazing that I was nominated and then won.

‘I go to Stepney Jewish Community Centre twice and week and have been involved in all aspects of life there, from catering to entertainment, theatre visits and serving lunches and teas. I like the people, they are real characters – they are like family. Being East End people, they are very friendly and they all know each other – because the centre is small, we get to know each other well. But the members come to be with people – some of them do not have family and they don’t see other people the rest of the week. They just want someone to talk to.

‘I get a lot of pleasure out of it. I go there twice a week and I provide consistency for them, as they get to know you and your family, I feel so involved and I always think about what is best for the centre.”

Local MP for Hendon Matthew Offord said:

"I am delighted to award Barbara’s a Point of Light for her many years of dedication. Barbara’s commitment to the Stepney Jewish Community Centre is second to none and the amount she has helped to raise over the years is testament to this. Congratulations Barbara.”

Jewish Care Chief Executive Simon Morris said:

"We are very proud that Barbara has been recognised by the Prime Minsters Point of Light Award. She is the first Jewish Care volunteer to receive this award and one of our longest standing and celebrated volunteers.

Barbara has a great sense of humour, which is infectious when she is in the centre. Nothing is too much for Barbara, and she is willing to help out with anything needed. The welfare of our members and the morale of our volunteer and staff team are always of utmost priority to her.

We would really struggle without the regular support and commitment of volunteers like Barbara who ensure that so many older, isolated people in our community stay connected to their local communities, and make friendships and connections that bring meaning to their lives.”

Barbara was also among a small group of clients, staff and volunteers introduced to HRH Prince William at Jewish Care’s 25th anniversary fundraising dinner in June and it wasn’t the first time Barbara was presented to royalty, in 1987 the late Queen Mother visited the Day Centre.

Barbara is the 294th winner of the Points of Light award which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA and was first established by President George H. W. Bush. Over 5,000 US Points of Light have been awarded and both President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK which honours shining examples of volunteering across the country.

Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Point of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.

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