Enfield community champions recognised in New Year Honours

British Empire Medal awarded to five people for their work supporting the Enfield community, reports James Cracknell

British Empire Medal winners, clockwise from top left; Sabir Shaikh, Jack Abrey, Emma Rigby and Joseph Lettieri
Among the British Empire Medal recipients were, clockwise from top left; Sabir Shaikh, Jack Abrey, Emma Rigby and Joseph Lettieri

Five inspirational local people have been recognised for their work supporting good causes in Enfield.

As part of the Queen’s New Year Honours for 2022, British Empire Medals have been awarded to Joseph Lettieri, co-founder of a domestic abuse charity in Enfield; Jack Abrey, who supports young people through the Scouts and other charities; Emma Rigby, founder of community network organisation Love Your Doorstep; Sabir Shaikh, president of the Muslim Community and Education Centre (MCEC) in Palmers Green; and Irene Richards, a former local councillor who has worked in adult safeguarding for two decades.

The British Empire Medal is a prestigious award recognising those who have dedicated their time to “meritorious civil service”. Three of the medal recipients in Enfield were awarded this honour specifically for work to support the local community during the pandemic.

Jack Abrey has been involved in scouting since he was six and is also a governor at St Michael’s Primary School in Brigadier Hill. His charity work includes being an audiobook reader for visually impaired people at children’s charity Living Paintings and acting as an ambassador for Blood Cancer UK.

During the pandemic, Jack has created and led campaigns for young people and spearheaded Scouts projects supporting positive mental health and preventing social isolation among vulnerable people. He also supported a youth delegation at the Cop26 climate talks last year.

Reacting to his award, Jack said: “I’m honoured to be receiving the British Empire Medal for services to young people and charity during Covid-19. I’d like to pay tribute to the over 25,000 amazing young people and volunteers around the country, who lived their promise to help others and got involved.”

Andrew Thorp, a local councillor, said: “Jack is a real community hero, the work he has done to support young people through the pandemic has been outstanding. I’m proud that in Enfield we have people like Jack who selflessly put others before themselves. He is a shinning light in our community.”

Sabir Shaikh launched MCEC in 1994, from a hut in his back garden. A new mosque was eventually built in Palmers Green ten years later, after a long-running fundraising campaign. Sabir was awarded his British Empire Medal “for services to the Muslim community in Palmers Green, particularly during Covid-19”. Throughout the pandemic he has been organising funeral services for local people.

Sabir told the Dispatch he was “very surprised” about the award but that it “brings joy” to be recognised. A statement from MCEC said: “We are all immensely proud to have him as a pillar of our community.”

Emma Rigby from Love Your Doorstep has been recognised “for services to the community in Enfield, particularly during Covid-19”. At the start of the pandemic she spearheaded a doorstep delivery service for vulnerable people. She has also led campaigns against knife crime and set up a school patrol to help protect children on their way home.

Emma said: “I am deeply honoured, humbled, and very proud. This recognition is the pinnacle of my career as it is not only a personal honour but it is as much an award for my wonderful team and all the organisations that have supported my vision across Enfield.”

Joseph Lettieri is one of the co-founders of Family Based Solutions, an Enfield-based charity launched in 2012 which supports families where children have been abusive to their parents. As well Enfield, it helps families in Haringey and Barnet. Joe told the Dispatch: “I was very surprised [about the award]. I am pleased because it highlights the work we do as a charity. Like many small charities we are struggling to keep going and we have had to adapt the way we work.

“When we started we were three people with full-time jobs, working in schools, but now we have got six members of staff. We want to continue expanding the services we provide.”

Irene Richards was awarded her medal “for voluntary service to safeguarding and to the community in Enfield”. A former councillor, she has been a safeguarding advocate for 20 years, since chairing the council’s older people’s scrutiny panel, and has been involved with Enfield Safeguarding Adults Board since its inception. She is also a former board member at Enfield Over 50s Forum.