Lapworth woman learns of BEM honour days before brain surgery

A woman who has helped refugees fleeing Ukraine found out she was on the New Year Honours list days before major brain surgery.

Lisa Kay, from Lapworth, Warwickshire, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her charity work and services to refugees.

She raised more than £6,000 for people escaping the war in Ukraine and hosted a family in her home for a year.

She has also collected for local charities across the West Midlands.

Mrs Kay, who previously lived in Solihull, said she received the letter confirming her BEM in late November – about a week before she had a non-cancerous brain tumour removed.

She had been diagnosed after persistent headaches forced her to take early retirement on medical grounds.

Speaking of the moment she saw the letter, she said: “It was so strange… I walked in and there was this letter that had ‘Cabinet Office’ on it. I thought ‘oh God, what have I done?'”

Mrs Kay, who lives with her husband Brad and adult daughter Grace, said she was “shocked” to discover she had been honoured and burst into tears.

“We all knew that the surgery was coming up and this was something positive that I could experience before that,” she added.

“I remember thinking there was no way I wasn’t getting through this operation.”

She was at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for about 11 days after the operation on 1 December and is now recovering at home.

Mrs Kay launched a fundraiser on Go Fund Me at the start of 2022 after her friends in Poland told her about the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

She eventually raised more than £6,000 to support refugees who had fled to Tychy in Poland.

She and her daughter also made postcards which were sold to people who would write messages for refugees.

They were sent to Poland and hung up to greet families arriving from war-torn Ukraine.

Mrs Kay hosted a family-of-four from Kyiv at her home in Lapworth for a year until February.

She has also done collections for local charities, including the Foleshill Community Centre in Coventry and the SIFA Fireside Shelter in Birmingham.

She once collected more than 200 boxes of chocolate to give to disadvantaged people over Christmas.

“It’s just the way my mind works. If somebody needs something and I can help them, then they can have it,” she said.

“I don’t understand people who wouldn’t want to help. I can’t get my head around that.”

After she retired from her career in service management, Mrs Kay began studying for an undergraduate degree in social studies. She plans to do a masters then a PhD.