A British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community is being handed to Joanne Barber, who has devoted years to helping children with disabilities to swim.
Joanne, 57, of Ferryhill, County Durham, is the head coach at North East Disability Swimming Club, which she set up in 2010. The group meets once a month, and offers learn to swim sessions and competitive training for disabled and non-disabled young people at Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre, Durham.
The club has youngsters with disabilities ranging from autism and visual impairment to cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. “We are fully inclusive and we don’t turn anyone away,” said Joanne. “It’s a lovely club and everyone is friendly.”
She says she loves to see the children achieving and that’s the best part of her work. She added: “I just so love what I do. When I was told about the award, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a scam, I was so shocked. I had to read it a few times. It felt so emotional.”