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Queen's Birthday Honours: Much Hadham's Claire Uwins recognised for services to rural community during Covid-19 – despite shielding at home with asthma

A Much Hadham woman who inherited her late father's passion for retail has followed in his footsteps by being honoured by the Queen.

Claire Uwins, of High Street, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Birthday Honours for her services to her rural community during the Covid-19 lockdown – despite having to shield at home because of an underlying health condition.

The 55-year-old divorced mother of two from Northern Ireland stressed that she was receiving the award on behalf of a team involved in the "massive community effort".

Claire Uwins (42667630)
Claire Uwins (42667630)

Claire, the third of five daughters of Strabane shopkeeper Hill Robinson, said: "I was so chuffed as Dad was 88 when he was given an MBE in June 2010 for services to Cancer Research UK, and he’ll be up there with my mum saying ‘That’s my girl’.

“Dad ran the Strabane district fundraising campaign for over 30 years all through the Troubles. I used to go out and collect for him as a teenager along our road because he asked me to.

“That’s definitely where I learnt to have the courage to knock on a door and ask someone to give from their heart to charity.

Claire Uwins (42667626)
Claire Uwins (42667626)

“In hindsight it was very important as our mum lived with breast cancer for nearly 40 years thanks to amazing cancer drugs and it’s probably why I’m so drawn to helping with clinical research now.

"They were both very kind and resilient people. The Troubles taught us all how to be able to get on with life no matter what, as we grew up going to school and not really being adversely affected, even though Dad's shop in Strabane was bombed many times and he and his brother got up each time and repaired and rebuilt.

"It rubbed off on all their daughters. I happen to be planted in a community where my Irish ways are welcomed and valued, as I imagine it must have been someone from my community who put me forward for this honour."

Needing to shield during lockdown as an asthmatic, Claire channelled her energy into helping the Hadhams community stay connected and positive by helping to set up both the Halo Group to support the vulnerable and isolated and the Carebank online resource.

Claire Uwins (42667632)
Claire Uwins (42667632)

She said: "Also, as a member of our [Much Hadham Health Centre] patient participation group and St Andrew's Church committee, I was able to join lots of dots with other volunteers so we could all work together on health and wellbeing across our villages.

"I'm so grateful for people like Tony Bond, Ashrafa Sutton, Sandra McAdam, Jan Williamson and Juan Salanis, who simply are the reason I've been able to stay so positive and resilient whilst joining dots for our rural community.

"They totally enabled me to be nominated. I'm really getting this award on behalf of all of them – it was a massive community effort."

Born in Strabane, Co Tyrone, in January 1965, Claire became a retail buyer for Tesco – looking after everything from fresh pasta to men's socks – after graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a business degree.

At the age of 36 she took a career break to become a "very happy" stay-at-home mum to her two sons. Isaac, 22, works as a life science analyst focusing on Covid-19 therapies and vaccines, having graduated this year in biomedical sciences from the University of Oxford, while Solomon, 19, is in his second year reading chemistry at the University of Manchester. Their father, Simon, who was commercial director at Tesco, lives in California.

"I guess I've channelled all that creative and positive energy I had as a child and at Tesco into my Much Hadham and East Herts community since I became a mum. It started with toddler group and church in Much Hadham and then progressed to developing a website called The Healing Journey and Carebank.

"Out of this came The Stepping Stones, which I developed with the children at Heath Mount School [in Watton-at-Stone, where her sons went] to help them build their self-esteem and resilience. I still use these tools every day and it will form part of the new East Herts Healthy Hub programme, which I'm very excited about, along with Dementia Friends.

"I've also really enjoyed running our Much Hadham Sunday lunch club, being a Compassionate Neighbour for Isabel Hospice, a member of the Parkinson's support group and part of the East Herts Dementia Action Group."

Claire is also a Dementia Friends Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society charity.

Her father died nearly two years ago at the age of 98.

"He'd been living very well for nearly 20 years with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia, and this is why I’m so passionate about dementia friendly communities and Parkinson's support as it is the people who live alongside those with these neurological conditions who can make the most difference to their quality of life."

She added: "Five years ago a great friend, Sandie James, asked me to bring my Tesco customer focus and dementia championing to the world of London clinical trials and since then I've simply loved being involved in helping those with dementia, pain or diabetes get involved in clinical trials to help their long-term conditions by working part-time with St Pancras Clinical Research."

In her own time, Claire loves to cook curry, watch movies and documentaries, spend time with friends, walk, do other exercise every day and listen to music – she is a big fan of David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Diamond.

"I love to head home to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, where I'm lucky enough to have a seaside home," she said.

"I'm very tuned in to the connection with mind, body and heart, and this keeps me balanced and sorted, no matter what is thrown at me."

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