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A food bank coordinator, hospital porter and selfless teen who donated life savings all up for Who Cares Wins Award

SOME people go about their day, just quietly making things better for everyone around them.

That’s what our three Unsung Hero finalists are known for – selflessly putting the needs of others first, and doing everything in their power to support and cheer people up.

Mel Hudson (top l), Ram Kurapati (bottom l) and Rhys Langford – picture with his parents, are all up for Unsung Hero at The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards

We had so many nominations for this category, and it was a tough decision for our judges, but these finalists really do deserve to be honoured for all they’ve done.

The winner will be honoured at The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards – sponsored by the National Lottery, in partnership with NHS Charities Together – which are being hosted by Davina McCall and screened on Channel 4 and All 4 on November 27.

And there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

Here are our three fantastic finalists…

Mel Hudson

MEL Hudson is the beating heart of her community – and survives on just a few hours sleep because she is so busy helping others.

The single-mum-of-four is a community coordinator for the Slade Green Big Local, in South East London, a lottery funded project and food bank run in partnership with the residents.

She works 30 hours a week and volunteers another 40 hours on top of that. 

Mel, 48, said: “I live in this community and my children are a part of this community too – and that’s why I do it. 

“There are deprivation issues and it’s important there’s someone there to raise money to put back into the community and if I don’t do those hours, it’s not going to happen.”

Selfless Mel set up the Slade Green Food Bank at the start of the pandemic – and without her, hundreds of people each week would go hungry. 

Community Coordinator Mel Hudson is up for The Sun’s Unsung Hero award

Mel said: “Throughout lockdown, we noticed people were really struggling with their mental health.

“It’s one of the biggest issues at the moment because of the cost of living crisis. 

“Not a day goes by when we don’t get somebody with a mental health problem. 

“It’s heart-breaking. Everyone in Slade Green is written off and the poverty levels here are still shocking.

“It’s like living in a tinderbox for most families.”

At the foodbank, people are asked to fill in a sheet to request the items they need. 

Mel said: “But the most important bit for us is to have a box on the sheet where people could write if they had any issues or if they wanted to tell us something they were too embarrassed to talk about. 

“Then a volunteer would bring the sheet in to me and if they needed immediate help, I’d go out and talk to them. 

“Someone actually wrote that they felt suicidal and I managed to get them some counselling.”

She arranged mental health first aid training sessions, with NHS South East London ICS and the Bexley Wellbeing Partnership, and run by the charities Mind and Mental Health UK.

She has also organised a family health check day, with a pop-up vaccination centre, as well as a range of community clubs at St Augustine’s Church Hall, where the foodbank is based.

Mel has been nominated for the Unsung Hero award by Patrick Gray, Engagement Manager for Bexley Local Care Partnership, which works to support and improve the health, care and wellbeing of local people and communities.

He said: “It’s my job to go out to local communities and speak to people about how we can improve health outcomes. I’ve known Mel for around two years and I saw very early on that she is the beating heart of this community.

“I think what makes Mel so special is that she always thinks beyond the needs that people come to her for. People come to the food bank for food but she knows there’s a lot more going on under the surface.

“She has a holistic approach so it’s not just about putting food in people’s tummies but also about how she and her team can improve people’s physical, mental, financial and spiritual health.”

Mel admits there is a very personal reason why she is so passionate about helping others.

She said: “I left a violent relationship and arrived in the community with nothing. 

“It’s important for myself, and also for my children to be seen because single parents are given such a bad reputation. 

“I want my children to know they can achieve anything.”

Ram Kurapati 

NOTHING is too much trouble for hospital porter Ram Kurapati and he is always happy to pitch in – even if it means working long after his shift has ended.

Ram, 57, loves his jobs at St Michael’s Hospital, a mental health inpatient unit, in Warwick, where he has worked since 2011.

He helps with everything from cleaning wards, to transport and collecting medication out of hours.

Ram, who lives in Coventry, West Mids, said: “If they say, ‘Ram, will you come over and clean up the room?’ I’ll do it. 

“I like to keep busy and see different parts of the hospital. 

“I go wherever help is needed and I’ll help out in emergencies.

“Everyone knows me in the hospital. I work weekends as well and, if the staff are sick, I help out then.”

Ram was nominated for the award by his colleagues, deputy ward manager Victoria Edwards and deputy facilities manager Elaine Woods.

Victoria said: “Ram is such a positive, pleasant and professional member of staff who always goes above and beyond in anything he is asked to do. 

Ram Kurapati found out about his Who Cares Wins nomination in the middle of a busy shift – and carried on working

“He does much more than what is in his job description as a hospital porter and constantly goes out of his way to prioritise patient care. 

“There’s nothing he won’t do to help anyone out, even if it means running over his shift, he will do it. 

“He collects medication, moves furniture, paints, and gets heavily involved in projects around the hospital, specifically our gardening projects. 

“He is a very happy man and is so proud to work for the NHS.

“We can always hear him whistling and singing to himself around the hospital.

“I think that he is so well-liked because he treats everyone with respect and kindness. 

“From ward managers to patients, and cleaners – he treats everyone the same.”

Ram has also been heavily involved in transforming an art therapy room for patients and creating a courtyard garden. 

Victoria said: “He got the plants, planted them with some of our patients, moved furniture around, and painted the benches. 

“He is always watering and taking care of the garden too, to ensure it stays nice for the patients.”

Elaine added: “Ram goes above and beyond. He says yes to everything with a smile and never moans.

“Hospital porters are often in the background but they are very much frontline and deserve recognition.”

Ram moved to the UK from Chennai, southern India, in 2003, and now lives in Coventry with his wife, Indu, 50, a district nurse and sons Poorna, 23, a medical student, and 16-year-old Vishnu, who has just sat his GCSEs.

He said: “It’s lovely to be nominated. I love my life and love talking to the patients. 

“I feel a real sense of reward from the job. Every day is varied.”

Rhys Langford

BRAVE Rhys Langford endured months of gruelling treatment and surgery after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer – and was told it was terminal earlier this year.

But after hearing that six-year-old Jacob Jones, who lived in the same village in Ebbw Vale, South Wales, was also facing cancer, the selfless teenager donated his £1,000 life savings to the family to help fund treatment.

Rhys Langford’s parents Catherine and Paul Langford are so proud of their son, who raised money to help fellow cancer sufferer Jacob Jones

And Rhys, who worked as a labourer, went on to raise a further £67,000 to help fund treatment for Jacob. 

His mum Catherine, 38, said: “Rhys was one in a million. Even when he was dying himself he was thinking about others.

“Rhys was bed-bound and I remember him calling me into his room. 

“He said, ‘It’s too late for me, I won’t need money where I’m going, so can I give it to Jacob?’ I was absolutely dumbfounded. 

“He knew Jacob was going through gruelling treatment like he’d done and he wanted to help even though it was too late for him.”

And now Rhys, who died, aged 19, in February, has been nominated for the Unsung Hero by Jacob’s family, to thank him for what he did. 

Jacob Jones who was helped by the terminally ill Rhys Langford who died of cancer earlier this year, with his parents Emma Williams and Alwyn Jones

Catherine, an assistant cook, said: “He’d be so excited to be nominated. I can hear him now, he’d say, ‘I’m buzzing, mum’. I know he would.”

With the help of his mum, Rhys set up a GoFundMe page, writing: “Reading about little Jacob and his own fight and his cancer relapse has really upset me.

“I know nothing can be done for me now but as one of my many last wishes I would like to help Jacob and help him fight this awful disease.”

His act of kindness went global and Rhys quickly smashed his target of £20,000 and he raised almost £70,000.

Both Catherine and Rhys’ dad Paul, 45, a lorry driver, and brother Charlie, 10, are immensely proud that he achieved his dying wish.

Jacob was diagnosed with stage three blastoma in December 2017 and his family have fundraised for pioneering treatments abroad.

Jacob’s dad, Alwyn, 38, a bricklayer, said Rhys is a “hero” and he will never be able to thank the family enough. 

He said: “The fact that a lad of his age who was dying wanted to help our little boy have a life stretch out in front of him is something I’ll never, ever be able to thank him for. 

“Rhys is a winner and a hero in our eyes..”

Alwyn – and Jacob’s mum Emma Williams, 33 – were told 18 months ago that Jacob was cancer-free, but he will undergo regular checks. 

Alwyn said: “His specialists seem to keep finding nodes, he’s got some on his kidney and for around the last 15 months we’ve been fundraising in case he needs treatment in America again. 

“The procedures, which Rhys helped to fund, reduce the risk of his aggressive type of cancer returning.”

Stay-at-home mum Emma added: “How one boy could be so selfless to help another is just beyond words. 

“Rhys was suffering so much yet all he wanted to do with his last few weeks on earth was help someone else. 

“We’ll always be thankful to him for helping our son. We don’t know where we’d be without him.”

Davina McCall is hosting this year’s Who Cares Wins awards

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