Years of supporting orphans in Malawi have been recognised with a Pride of M&S Award for Southwick man Mike Whittaker.
A customer assistant at M&S Shoreham, he was presented with the fundraising award on Thursday after winning the public vote in the national awards category.
Mike has worked at the Holmbush Centre for four years and until this year, had kept his work in Malawi fairly quiet.
Once he reached the final, he put together a display in the staff canteen, including pictures and letters from the children he has helped.
Commenting on his win, Mike said: “Didn’t think I had any chance at all but the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Since he was introduced to Steria Changalusa in 2006, Mike has raised around £50,000, with the help of his partner Katie Brownings, head of French at Steyning Grammar School, and friends Zoe and Richard.
Mike was nominated for his tireless fundraising efforts that have seen the eight children in Steria’s care receive full-time education, something she could never afford without support.
The cost of one school blazer exceeded her monthly salary and without the benefit of education, the children, all impacted by HIV, faced a desperate future with no hope of breaking free from a cycle of poverty.
Mike felt education was the best gift he could give them.
In one of the letters, Annabel, who wants to be a social worker, said: “You believed in me. You helped me so much that I now want to do the same for others.”
Mike said: “The latest news I have is that Annabel, the second eldest, has won herself a two-year scholarship to study human resources in India at the University of New Delhi. Pretty amazing.
“Fabiano was a very traumatised young boy when I met him some years ago. In between then and now, he was attacked when robbers broke into his school and stole his belongings.
“Fabiano is now leaving secondary school. He is top of his class in every subject. His teachers describe him as ‘the model pupil’ and he is about to start studying engineering at uni. Pretty amazing again.”
These are just some of the stories of the children Mike has helped.