City Hall's banqueting suite swelled with pride as the district's unsung heroes were honoured in this year's Community Harmony Awards. The individuals and organisations who won praise for building bridges between different communities are a shining example of how ordinary people can work together to build a better Bradford. FIONA EVANS spoke to some of the winners to find out how their work has helped to bring people together from different generations, religions, races and social backgrounds.

Nobody who sat through the Community Harmony Awards ceremony could fail to be moved by the overwhelmingly genuine commitment to unity in the district.

From a Bradford businessman, whose disabled son inspired his community work, to Denholme schoolchildren, who help the elderly with modern technology, every winner offered inspirational proof that the desire to create harmony is alive and well.

These people who work quietly 365 days a year away from the public gaze deserved every bit of their moment of glory last night as they were rewarded for their efforts to build bridges between different groups across the district.

Bradford Council's acting chief executive David Kennedy summed up the sentiment when he hailed award winners and nominees as "positive role models for us all to follow."

He told City Hall's packed banqueting suite of nominees, winners, supporters, judges and dignitaries: "Whether you have won or not, I sincerely believe that everyone present here tonight is making an individual contribution to the district."

This year's awards attracted 29 nominations in categories covering Individual; Group/Organisation; Business; and Employee.

But judges were so impressed by the quality of the nominations that they introduced four additional awards - Lifetime Achievement, Commendation, Inter-generational Initiative and Children and Young People - to celebrate the wide range of activities and projects going on within the district.

Mohammed Sabir has brought people together from across the district through his fundraising efforts which have raised more than £1 million since he set up Jannat Welfare International Trust to help needy people in Bradford and Pakistan more than 20 years ago.

The 65-year-old chairman of Shipley-based Aagrah restaurant, who was last night honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award, dedicated himself to organising fundraising dinners and events after he lost his nine-year-old disabled son, Sajid, to pneumonia in 1983.

When the South Asian earthquake struck last year, he leapt into action to co-ordinate fundraising efforts of people across the district and then personally delivered aid to people in the devastated region.

The efforts of young people to build bridges in the community were in abundance in this year's awards with Year 6 pupils from Glenaire Primary School in Baildon netting the Children and Young People's Award; and St Bede's Catholic Grammar School shared the Group/ Organisation Award with Community Accord Volunteers.

St Bede's head teacher Paul Martin's arrival at the Heaton school heralded the start of a strong working relationship with the local community.

A number of projects were initiated which include litter-picking, older boys caring for younger boys, the Heaton Citizenship Award and the African Children's choir concert.

Year 6 pupils from Glenaire Primary School in Baildon beamed with pride as they collected their award for building links with the elderly people in their community.

A 12-week beauty therapy course held in the Half-Noon Caf in Robert's Park gave the youngsters chance to use their new-found skills on senior members of Baildon Community Link.

Senior citizens' efforts to share their experience with younger generations spurred judges of this year's awards to create a new award for the Inter-generational initiative.

The award was shared by Jane Dale for her involvement in the Let's Meet' project to bring together young and old people in Windhill, Shipley, and Ivy Wood for the friendships she established between Denholme Primary School pupils and members of Denholme Elders Network.

As chairman of the network, pensioner Mrs Wood has initiated visits between the two groups so elderly people can enjoy school performances such as the annual nativity play, while schoolchildren are treated to an annual Christmas party at the Denholme Elders' drop-in centre at the village's Mechanics Institute.

The elderly visit the school to help pupils with reading and history projects while the schoolchildren help the elders with computers and modern technology.

Mrs Wood, 81, said: "To be associated with the word harmony' is a very great compliment. The most wonderful thing about it is that the children recognise us in the street and say hello.' It's really lovely and we feel we are friends. We hope that, as the children grow up, they will realise the generation gap is not so big."

The Community Harmony award for the business community proved to be too tough a decision for the judges so they split the award equally between the two nominees.

Dayu Mistry, manager of Bankfoot Post Office, was honoured for the work he does among the hundreds of elderly people living around his shop.

He is renowned in his local community for looking out for the well-being of his customers and those living around his shop.

"I am very humbled to know that so many people nominated me.

"It makes what I do worthwhile. I have been doing this job for a number of years now and so the people who come in my shop are not customers to me, they are my friends."

Two of his nominators, Stanley Cousins and his wife Mary, were on hand to see him collect his award.

Mr Cousins said: "He's just a wonderful man."

Graham Swain was nominated for his work with Bradford's Muslim communities in his work as a grave digger at Scholemoor cemetery.

He has become a renowned figure for the work he does to accommodate the specific needs of the followers of Islam at the time of death and burial. Muslims have been known to come from as far away as Middlesbrough and Derby to seek his advice regarding burial.

"I was really surprised to be nominated," he said.

"I just go to work every day and do what I can to improve.

"I genuinely see Bradford as being the best in the country for Muslim burials."

Liz Parker was awarded top prize in the Employee category for her work in setting up the Go Girlington! campaign.

She said: "I was very pleased with the way the campaign turned out.

"It is very much a team effort and I take this award as very much an acknowledgement of all their hard work."

Julie Tolley received the award in the individual category for her work in organising youth provision and activities to bring schools and youth clubs together in the Manningham and Heaton areas.

She said: "It is certainly good to feel recognition and it is something I am definitely going to keep doing - it's hard to stop."

Captain Mahroof Rashid, was presented with his commendation award for encouraging young people of all races and backgrounds into the Army Cadet Force.

He said: "I have been involved in this for 22 years and I am very pleased and honoured with the award.

"This is the first time I have ever been rewarded for the work I have done so I am very happy."

This year's judging panel was made up of the Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Valerie Binney; Bradford Vision chief executive Elaine Appelbee; Telegraph & Argus deputy editor Catherine O'Connor; and Asian Virsa QED-UK development manager Dr Harjap Singh Pooni.

Community Accord Volunteers impressed the panel through their work resolving neighbourhood disputes.

The team of 15 volunteers give up their free time to resolve neighbourhood disputes, which could range from disputes between two people to larger groups of residents.

Volunteer manager Lorrainne Knott, who nominated the 15 volunteers for the award, said: "They do a fantastic job across the district. They are all intensively trained and give a lot of time to their training and personal development.

"We made sure that we have volunteers of all ages, races and genders. They deserve to win. If anyone is committed to community harmony in the district, it is them. We would not be able to do what we do without them."

The same could be said of every one of last night's winners - most of whom work on a voluntary basis.

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Valerie Binney, said community spirit and harmony were traits Bradfordians were renowned for.

She said: "This is the fourth year that the awards have taken place and in the past we have seen some excellent nominations. I am pleased to say that this year is no exception.

"Community work creates an emotional bond between people and makes people proud of where they live.

"A total of 29 people were nominated for these awards and each one is a winner in their own right."

And Bradford Council leader Councillor Margaret Eaton summed up the general feeling of this year's awards when closing the awards ceremony, saying: "The success of an event such as this depends on all of us working together for a common cause, which is the promotion of good relations and harmony between the citizens of the district.

"I am reassured by the commonality of the type of work/projects, which are underway across the district. This obviously provides us with the basis to build better relations between and among the diverse communities."