Holocaust centre founder amongst New Year Honours recipients

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Four local people have received awards in the New Year’s Honours List for the contributions they have made in the fields of education, local government, Holocaust education and genocide prevention, and for work with older people.

Dr James Smith, co-founder of the UK’s National Holocaust Centre and Museum, near New Ollerton, and the Aegis Trust for genocide prevention, is being made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year Honours by Her Majesty the Queen. One level below a knighthood, the CBE is awarded for prominent, distinguished and innovative contributions in any given field.

Dr Smith, who lives in Broughton, is president of the museum, which he founded with his brother Dr Stephen Smith in 1995. It is visited by hundreds of students every week, who explore its exhibitions and landscaped memorial gardens, where hundreds of roses are dedicated by people who lost loved ones in the Holocaust. Students also have the opportunity to meet survivors who come to share their experiences.

Dr Smith (main picture) told Chad: ““It’s a massive privilege to receive this honour. Mostly however, this is a wonderful recognition of two charities – the National Holocaust Centre and the Aegis Trust, and the many people who have worked to make them successful. I dedicate this award to all Holocaust and genocide survivors who have inspired and worked with me through the years towards our shared goal – a world where men, women and children are no longer at risk of mass atrocities simply because of who they are.”

The honour has been welcomed by Nottinghamshire residents who survived the Holocaust and regularly volunteer at the centre.

“I’ve been proud to know James at The Holocaust Centre for the past seventeen years,” said Lisa Vincent, who escaped from Nazi Germany with the Kindertransport before the outbreak of the Second World War.

“He deserves this honour for all his achievements, both for the Jewish community and for the Aegis Trust”

Simon Winston, who survived the Holocaust as a child in the Ukraine, added: “I’m elated. There couldn’t be a better person to receive an honour.

“James is one of those who does things regardless of the reward, but he’s got it nonetheless. Fantastic.”

Having established the National Holocaust Centre, genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the early 1990s left James and his brother Stephen feeling that remembering the past alone was not enough. During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, they launched the East Midlands Kosovo Appeal – and James became an area coordinator for the International Medical Corps in Albania for several months.

Kay Cutts

Kay Cutts

Talking to refugees and investigating factors which led to the ethnic cleansing he saw that mass atrocities or genocide do not occur spontaneously. Just as with diseases, if the risk factors can be identified then genocide too should be preventable. And so in 2000, James and his brother launched the Aegis Trust for genocide prevention.

Aegis stresses the importance of remembering the past but also emphasizes research and learning to help create resilience against genocide at a community level. It campaigns to prevent mass atrocities where they are threatened, and supports survivors and communities to rebuild after genocide.

Today Aegis has offices in Britain, the United States and Rwanda, where it has been responsible for the Kigali Genocide Memorial since establishing it at the request of Rwandan authorities in 2004.

Sited where some 250,000 genocide victims lie buried, the memorial hosts tens of thousands of visitors each year, from Rwandan school students to international celebrities and politicians.

Asha Khemka, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College, has been appointed a DBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

The accolade comes five years after she was awarded an OBE for services to education.

Asha is the first Indian-born woman for 83 years to be awarded the DBE.

Dame Asha said: “Further education has been my life. I believe passionately in the power of further education to transform lives – it has mine and it does so for countless others. To receive such a recognition is deeply humbling. This is a shared honour - shared with everyone who I have worked with over the years.

“West Nottinghamshire College and the communities of Mansfield and Ashfield embraced me.

“We have worked together to achieve an ambitious vision for our communities. Without their unwavering support this would not have been possible and I pay tribute to them.

“I am indebted to my husband and my three children; throughout this journey, they have been my rock and my inspiration.

“My passion for Further Education is impossible to describe and grows more so every day. I am immensely proud to be part of this amazing sector.”

Dame Asha has been principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College since May 2006. Since her arrival, she has been instrumental in transforming facilities for learning and raising aspirations of the local communities.

Anita Astle, managing director of the Wren Hall Nursing Home, in Nottingham Road, Selston, has received the MBE For services to older people, and Coun Kay Cutts, former leader of Nottinghamshire County Council also received the MBE.

Ms Astle said: “I got a letter from the Cabinet Office in November and my first reaction was, ‘what have I done now?’. But I opened it and I was just speechless. It said that the Queen wanted to offer me an MBE and asked whether I was willing to accept it.

“I know a lot of people say it but it was really humbling - I can’t believe that somebody thought I was worthy of being honoured in this way.”

While best known for her cost-cutting leadership of the authority over the past four years, Coun Cutts’career in public office goes back 41 years to the day in 1972 when she was elected a parish councillor for Normanton-on-the-Wolds, where she has lived since 1963.

She was first elected to the county council in 1989, but her first 20 years were spent in opposition. The Conservatives were finally returned to power in 2009 and her programme of savings pre-dated the austerity programme introduced by the current coalition Government.

Chief Superintendant Ak Khan, who is based at Mansfield Police Station, has also been awarded the Queen’s Police Medal, while Frank Swann, Chief Fire Officer at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, has received the Queen’s fire Service Medal.

PICTURED: From top, Dr James Smith CBE, Dame Asha Khempa, Anita Astle and Coun Kay Cutts.