CHILD’S PLAY: Elsie Wickham (centre) is surrounded by youngsters from Summerfield Primary School who joined in her celebrations
MOVE OVER Hollywood – when it comes to the Oscars, these community versions of the famous award put Tinseltown firmly in the shade because they are presented to people who serve others and seek no financial reward.
And one such winner is Birmingham’s own community heroine Elsie Wickham who scooped ‘Best Woman’ in the Heart of Birmingham Oscars 2015 in recognition of her decades of devotion to her neighbourhood.
Since arriving in the city from Watt Town, St Ann, Jamaica as a girl of 18 in 1962, Elsie has been a lynchpin to people in Winson Green, even opening up her own home to serve as an alternative community centre.
But when numbers started spilling out of her front door, she turned to her local community centre – the Summerfield Centre – and launched the Reach Out Day Centre Club UK.
The thriving group meets twice a week for lunch, bingo, dominoes and much more, where elders from the African and Caribbean communities can reminisce and stay in contact with each other.
Elsie, who is now a great grandmother, told The Voice: “The group first started as somewhere for people to meet and share a meal together, but we help them with form-filling, make sure they are getting the right benefits and if we can’t help them we signpost them to someone who can.
“I’m a people person and I love helping people. When my parents Thomas and Edna were alive, they were well-known community-minded people in Winson Green, so it’s something I’ve always been used to.
“When I first came from Jamaica, I had passed my first and second local examinations over there. People knew I could read and write, so people often asked me to help them if they needed something sorted out. I was happy to do it.”
As one of 18 children, Elsie wrote to HM the Queen several years ago to thank her for the life she had enjoyed in the UK.
“The Queen wrote back to me and said how much the letter meant to her personally.”
Retired Birmingham Labour councillor Dorothy Wallace said: “Elsie thoroughly deserves her community Oscar because she is courageous and considerate and will help anyone in need despite having a disability when walking is sometimes painful. She gives of her time very generously.”