WATCH | Local Heroes awards ceremony honours finalists and 80-year-old frontline recipient

The much-anticipated Daily Dispatch and Johnson & Johnson Local Heroes Awards ceremony finally took place on Thursday night. While very different in 2021, the event was still one to remember and saw 13 ordinary people receive recognition, praise and (virtual) applause for their incredible work and effort in bettering their communities.

Reducing the usual five-hour gala ceremony to a one-hour virtual programme, the Daily Dispatch ensured that the 2020 Local Hero finalists were celebrated with just as much glamour, professionalism and prestige as previous years.

Each hero received a special gift bag filled with goodies from all the sponsors and were invited to dress up in their best outfits to accept their awards at a special meet and greet before the virtual event, which was streamed on Thursday evening.

The finalists were also treated to a special dinner after receiving their awards.

Daily Dispatch marketing manager Jennilee Peremore-Oliver said the acceptance speeches, sponsors messages and emcee’s introductions were all pre-recorded in an effort to produce a seamless and professional virtual event.

“We thought that is very important because we want all eyes to be on our heroes on awards night.

“We believe that making sure we produced a quality video was the best way to honour the heroes, despite the challenge of not being able to host the gala ceremony.”

We believe that making sure we produced a quality video was the best way to honour the heroes, despite the challenge of not being able to host the gala ceremony.

From Pet Pals founder Susanne Kriel, who has been caring for and rehabilitating stray, neglected and abused animals since 2011, to Keiskammahoek-born Vuyokazi Ngaka, who collects and donates matric dance dresses to underprivileged young girls, the 2020 local hero finalists are diverse and dynamic.

Lwazi Mlondolozi, one of the 12 Local Hero finalists for 2020, said his experience with the campaign had been incredibly rewarding.

“It feels really good to know that there are people out there who notice the little that we do for the community, and knowing that you are someone’s hero; it’s something else,” said Mlondolozi, who was nominated and named a finalist for his community baseball programme in Mdantsane.

Teaching children the ins and outs of baseball in an attempt to revive the sport and keep children off the streets, Mlondolozi has more than 300 children from 14 schools around the community involved in his Mdantsane Eagles baseball club.

He said simply being nominated for the award was a great honour and he hoped his late baseball coach, Billie Magengele, would have been proud of his achievement in being a 2020 Local Hero finalist.

“As someone who’s been following the campaign from the beginning, it is a very good initiative, and yes the community should support it as we get to see and know what other good people do around our province for their communities and people around them,” said Mlondolozi, who enjoyed being able to share the event with his team far and wide.

“The virtual event worked out just fine as I was able to share the event with my other coaches and administration and also my Play global team from the US,” Mlondolozi said.

Kriel, who has more than 200 animals in her care at the Pet Pals animal sanctuary, said it was an honour to be recognised by the public and the Daily Dispatch for their dedication and love for the animals in their care.

Monique Lottering, also a 2020 Local Hero Finalist, said being selected was one of her biggest accomplishments.

“It means that what we are doing for our community is important, respected and valued.

We don’t do it for any kind of recognition, though being recognised for what we do makes us proud and motivates us to keep on keeping on.

“We don’t do it for any kind of recognition, though being recognised for what we do makes us proud and motivates us to keep on keeping on,” said Lottering, who started Smart Wast-Ed — a charitable recycling programme — in 2017.

“I think it’s fantastic that those doing good in their communities are recognised.

“It makes us feel as though we have a shared vision.

“Many of these altruistic efforts go unnoticed as we’re not in it for self gain, but because it’s a passion.”

For the first time in the Local Heroes campaign’s six-year history, the awards event also served to honour one very special frontline hero in the midst of the pandemic — an award introduced in 2020 and sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

Receiving the 2020 Daily Dispatch and Johnson & Johnson frontline hero award was 80-year-old Ethel Qwesha.

Serving as a nurse for 40 years, the now retired Qwesha has spent the past 12 years passing on all she knows to young community health workers in Mooiplaas, where she now lives.

Qwesha said nursing had always been her calling — a passion that began when she was just 13 years old.

The complete list of 2020 Local Hero Finalists is as follows: Susanne Kriel, Klaus Rodemann, Mavuyevelile and Amandla Solani, Michelle Rielly, Nisha Varghese, Nhlanhla Mosele, Vuyokazi Ngaka, Tracy-Jayne King, Monique Lottering, Lwazi Mlondolozi, Nomhise Hani and Sue Kietzmann. The 2020 Frontline Hero recipient is Ethel Qwesha.

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