An exceptional Dorset man, who has tirelessly served the local community for five years, was recognised with a national honour yesterday 9 July.
The Rev’d Chris Colledge was presented with a British Citizen Award (BCA) for his services to the community.
The BCAs were launched in January this year to honour the incredible accomplishments of individuals in society who positively impact their communities. They are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.
The Rev’d Chris experienced a mental breakdown 12 years ago and was medically retired at just 45 losing his ministry position and home. Whilst coming back from the depths of despair, he moved to Bournemouth in 2010 to rebuild a life for himself.
Chris then started on a slow road to recovery, wanting to give everything he could into his new community. He joined Caring Canines, a dog assisted therapy group with his dog Maisie. Chris and Maisie began visiting at a nursing home, and supported many residents. Maisie was particularly empathetic with people who had dementia, as they relate to the nonjudgmental friendship of a dog and this helped stimulate memories and positive responses.
This inspirational man worked with Caring Canines to enhance talks for people with hearing loss and the dual sensory loss of hearing and sight. Chris used his many years of experience as Chaplain in London with the Royal Association for Deaf People and his qualifications in British Sign Language and as a Deafblind Interpreter, to assist those who couldn’t take part fully in talks and presentations by the group. Chris now accompanies the group when they give talks to such people with special needs.
He also assists with services at the nursing home. He with Maisie would bring comfort to a number of residents, especially those in their final hours of life where the stroke of Maisie’s coat or the feel of her wet nose would bring peace and inward calm. Maisie passed away in 2014, but Chris continues to be a supporting member of Caring Canines.
Just one year after Chris moved to Bournemouth, he formed the West Cliff Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and the West Cliff Green Residents Association. As the chairman, Chris successfully campaigned for the demolition of a derelict hotel, which had become a drug den and infested with pigeons and rats, causing much distress to the local people. Chris was instrumental in persuading Bournemouth Council to grant revised planning permission which lead to the hotel finally being demolished and which was greeted with great relief by local businesses, residents and holidaymakers.
He is passionate about the care of the local environment, especially that of the West Cliff Bournemouth and arranges Community Litter Picks and the raking up of burnt barbecue areas each spring and reseeding such areas. He has recently been appointed chairman of Bournemouth in Bloom.
In 2012, whilst assisting as a retired priest at St Stephen’s Church, Bournemouth, there were a series of thefts of lead from the church roof, heroically Chris took it upon himself with a Neighbourhood Watch colleague to take guard one night and apprehended the thief, who was later jailed.
Apart from his West Cliff Neighbourhood Watch responsibilities, he is a registered volunteer in assisting the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner with Community Forums and Engagements.
In addition, Chris set up a Tea and Meet group in 2014, after the sad discovery of a lady’s body which had not been found for 7 years. He then realised that with an elderly population, many living in flats and having few local relatives or friends, that this tragedy could easily happen again. With the support of a local hotel, the group was launched and has blossomed ever since. Chris set up the group to combat loneliness in the community, enabling people to meet their neighbours, make new friends, and join in with new activities, all over a cup of tea.
He has been an assistant priest at two parishes in Bournemouth, and is currently associate priest at St Ambrose Church, Westbourne and St Francis Church, Charminster, where he works hard at building up the congregation by organising special services and community events. Through his church, Chris has dedicated many hours supporting people with disabilities to be made to feel welcome, valued and included.
Honoured at a prestigious ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, Chris was one of only 30 BCA medalists. All recipients have positively impacted on society undertaking various activities in support of a number of causes. Each will receive a medal of honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medalists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.
Speaking about his nomination, Rev’d Chris said: “I didn’t find out I’d been nominated for a BCA, until I was contacted to say I was one of the final medallists. I was extremely shocked to find out.
“With that said I do have a huge sense of pride for this honour – I never thought anything like this, could happen to someone like me. I simply do what I do, to give back to the community to build a better and closer environment for everyone to live in.”
The awards are supported by one of UK’s largest property management companies, Places for People, palletised freight company, Pall-Ex and leading ethical law firm Irwin Mitchell, who each had representatives taking part in the assessment day and will present the awards.
Rev’d Chris was nominated for a BCA by his friend, Sue Dennett.
Sue said: “It’s amazing to see Chris recognised with a British Citizen Award. He is the last person that would ever look for recognition, and he has helped the community enormously in such a controlled manner. Chris has made a difference and improved the lives of others and it’s fantastic to see him get this recognition.
“He stands out as an individual, always wanting to do his best for people and especially in his local community if he sees a problem or an issue which needs addressing he will tackle it. Rather than take on too much at a time, Chris paces himself and ensures that he never tries to offer more than he can cope with. Whatever he has started he continues to do.”
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill added, “Chris’ passion and dedication to helping people has been exceptional and I would like to congratulate him on his outstanding achievement. Chris regularly volunteers at my public meetings and events and is a popular member of our volunteer team. We value his commitment and enthusiasm and I am delighted to see his hard work recognised by this award.”