Gants Hill 13-year-old helping others after death of brother

A “remarkable young woman” who gladly helps her neighbours and an elderly woman she had never met – despite suffering her own family tragedy – is our latest Young Citizen nominee.

Eileen O’Connor, 13, visits Janet, 66, and Colin Foster, 65, in Ethelbert Gardens, Gants Hill, almost daily to do shopping, tidy their garden and look after their house when they are away.

Through Janet, the Beal High School pupil also learned of 91-year-old Theresa Williams, who has mobility problems, and Eileen has written to her and sent her presents for a year.

She has a smile on her face all the time, despite losing her brother Warren, 21, in a car crash in December, according to her mum Ellen, 62, who nominated her for the Exchange Ilford-sponsored Recorder/Redbridge Rotary Club award.

Ellen said: “Eileen’s coped brilliantly. At school she’s there for other people.”

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Eileen said: “When my brother died, they [the Fosters] were so supportive. He was young and I wanted to help others because they might not have the time.”

Warren died in the Netherlands – where he was studying – on his way home for Christmas. Eileen won an Olympics competition at her school this year in which she wrote a piece nominating him as her greatest hero.

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Janet said: “She’s an absolutely wonderful young woman. She’s been a tower of strength to her mother.”

Janet and Colin were unable to leave their house when Colin had a foot operation, as Janet doesn’t drive. So Eileen would do their shopping.

She also grits their walkway in cold weather.

Janet volunteers at a day centre in Stepney, east London, and Eileen gives her books and magazines to take to its users, including Theresa, also from Stepney.

The youngster has a pen-pal friendship with Theresa and finally got to meet her two weeks ago when she brought her flowers.

Eileen said: “I feel I’ve known her a long time. I buy her little presents to cheer her up because she’s poorly.”

• To nominate a deserving Young Citizen, entries The award runs until December and an overall winner will be announced early next year.

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