The director of a Hackney charity is nominated as the borough’s lockdown hero for BBC Radio London’s Make a Difference Hero campaign on Sunday.

Originally from Edinburgh, Colette Allen has worked at the youth charity Hackney Quest for 20 years and was nominated by the council in the scheme honouring those making a difference to their local communities during the Covid pandemic.

Based on Poole Road, the charity has 100 volunteers and works to provide mentoring services, activities, and support to more than 300 young people in the borough.

When the charity had to stop its regular youth club services last March, the team took their services online, providing cookery and fitness classes and a youth employment programme.

“We also ended up opening an emergency food bank last April,” said Colette, recognising a pressing need to support the most vulnerable as the pandemic took hold.

“Which basically tripled in size over the year," she added.

“The other thing we've done is a big campaign around the digital divide with some young people not having access to equipment like laptops to work at home. Thanks to a fundraising campaign, we've supplied 90 laptops and tablets to young people during the pandemic.”

Ham & High: Hackney Quest set up a fodbank last April. Pictured: Kim Long (front), Marisa Linihan and Seeta Devi.Hackney Quest set up a fodbank last April. Pictured: Kim Long (front), Marisa Linihan and Seeta Devi. (Image: Andrew Leo)

In November, the charity formed a consortium with the council and other local community organisations including Wick Award, Morningside and Gascoyne Youth Clubs, St Mary of Eton and Frampton Park Baptist Church, to provide meals for people self-isolating.

“For the voluntary sector, it feels like being very visible during the pandemic has attracted a lot of support for us as organisations,” said Colette. “Working with the council on the food support has really given us some stability as well. To know you have the funding and support to do a project which is really intense has been quite comforting.”

Speaking about the Lockdown Hero recognition for her work in the pandemic, Colette said: “It shouldn't really be about me, or even Hackney Quest, although I am really thankful for the amazing team we have.

"Hackney Quest is not the only organisation that's doing brilliant things in Hackney, there's hundreds of them. It’s really about the community working together.”

Ham & High: Colette Allen with Hackney Quest youth worker Camille Kaethner.Colette Allen with Hackney Quest youth worker Camille Kaethner. (Image: Andrew Leo)