Foster children nominated for top award
A FOSTER brother and sister who endured difficult childhoods could be honoured for their voluntary work.
BY the time Philip Gordon was taken into care at the age of 13 he was three stone underweight and had become used to fending for himself.
But despite his difficult childhood the youngster, now 17, volunteers at a community centre and hopes to study drama at Bath University.
He has also been nominated for a special prize by his foster mother Rachel Evans who spoke of her pride in Philip and his foster sister, Kerry Thacker, who she also put forward for the Essex Police Young People of the Year (YOPEY) award.
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Mrs Evans nominated the teenagers for a YOPEY in recognition of how well they were doing with their volunteering and for the special young people they had become despite their difficult starts.
It was Mrs Evans who suggested last year that the pair - who live with her, husband Andrew and daughter Grace at Church End, Great Dunmow - do some voluntary work in return for the �27 weekly allowance they receive from the government.
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Since then Kerry has been helping out at the local Brownies and a special needs youth club while Philip gives his time to The Arts Centre in Great Dunmow, where he previously won a scholarship to learn drama.
Mrs Evans said: “I am immensely proud of Philip and Kerry because despite everything they have been through, they are in the process of achieving everything they want in life.”
She added: “Philip's mother suffered from severe learning difficulties so most of the time he had to look after himself.
“There was an occasion in primary school when he fainted on a Monday because the last meal he had had was in school the previous Friday. The situation was very hard for the poor boy.”
Mrs Evans said her foster son enjoyed “proper, healthy meals with a family” for the first time and his feet grew four sizes in six months as he gained his strength but as important was having home with “rules and regulations and set standards”.
Braintree College student Philip said: “I want to prove to everyone that just because I am a foster kid it does not mean that we are all abused, take drugs and turn to crime.
“Living with Rachel, I have realised that I don't have to make do with what I get in life. I can set a target and achieve exactly what I want.”
Kerry joined the family at the age of 14 and was “extremely quiet and had no self-esteem”.
Mrs Evans said: “She was a frightened and withdrawn little girl. Kerry's life experiences were limited and she was placed in care because her family were not able to meet her needs.
“Kerry suffered with her lack of confidence and this was really holding her back for.”
Last summer Kerry achieved 13 GCSEs at Passmores School in Harlow and is now studying for four A-levels at Helena Romanes Sixth Form Centre in Great Dunmow.
Kerry said: “Rachel made me feel more positive and settled. I'd never had any encouragement before, even if I did well in school.
“It is possible that if I hadn't ended up here with Rachel I would not have had a good education. I think I might have ended up in a dead-end job or worse involved in crime like people I used to know in the past.
“I've learnt that I can make my future into whatever I want it to be rather than settling for anything else.”
As a joint entry for YOPEY, Philip and Kerry are now in the running to win the top prize of �1,000, in a competition which has �2000 in cash prizes for remarkable young people who are an inspiration to those around them.
YOPEY, which is this year backed by Essex Police, Essex Police Authority and Jefferies Solicitors, was set up by former journalist Tony Gearing and first held in 2007.
The closing date for entries for the 2009 awards is January 31 and youngsters can either nominate themselves or be suggested by someone else at www.yopey.org or by writing to Essex Police YOPEY, PO Box 103, Hare Street, Ware, SG9 0XD.