Worthy causes battle for £80,000 prize

It's one of the toughest choices Norfolk will ever have to make - to help the county's deaf or build a garden to unite a community. There are always winners and losers in life but today this has never been starker as two worthy causes from the county battle it out for an £80,000 prize.

It's one of the toughest choices Norfolk will ever have to make - to help the county's deaf or build a garden to unite a community.

There are always winners and losers in life but today this has never been starker as two worthy causes from the county battle it out for an £80,000 prize.

Norfolk Deaf Association's Listen Here! minibus project and the Swaffham Sensory Garden Project face the public vote today to decide which is the most deserving.

The decision is almost impossible - the minibus would bring vital help to the doorstep of deaf people across the county while the sensory garden will be a retreat where young and old can experience its sights, sounds and smells.

The two finalists in the People's Millions TV contest admit it is a crying shame that one project has to lose out after the buzz of the build-up.

The idea of making two good causes fight for the public's affection may appear unseemly but the contest organisers, the Big Lottery Fund, say it is a reflection of the difficult choices it has to make every day.

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Demand for lottery cash vastly outstrips funds. The BLF gives away about £630m a year to good causes across the UK, a fraction of the £8bn of applications it has received this financial year.

Lines open at 9am today and close at midnight and to help the difficult decision two promotional films for the Norfolk projects will be shown at 6pm today on ITV Anglia East.

Liz Nobbs, disability access manager for NDA, said: “It is unfortunate there has got to be a loser. Everyone who got through to the final is a worthy project and it is a shame one will lose out on the money.

“At the end of it, if you do not get the funds then you have almost wasted that money on publicity but we are just ecstatic at having got this far in the contest.”

Michelle Meyrick, deputy town clerk at Swaffham who helped organise the sensory garden project, said: “It is such a shame that anybody has to lose as they are both such worthy causes.

“But you have got to think of the positives, even if you lose it will highlight our project to get funding elsewhere.

“We are so excited, this is the furthest we have ever got in something like this and it has really generated a buzz in the whole community.”

Different projects from across the East of England are competing for up to £80,000 each night until Friday, when the runner-up with the most votes will also be awarded their project money. Across the UK regional projects will receive £7.8m in the contest this week.

A spokesman for the Big Lottery Fund said it was never easy to reject bids from good causes.

“Unfortunately lottery and good causes funding is a very competitive business and some will not be able to be funded,” she said.

“We have to make difficult decisions on who gets the funding on a daily basis and this is an opportunity for the public to say who they want to get the funding.”

She said that even the losing projects would benefit from publicity and that most previous losers had gone on to secure grant funding from elsewhere.

The two projects will discover late tomorrow which has won the public vote.

Next week four national projects will battle it out for a £50m prize from the Big Lottery Fund, including the Sustrans Connect2 project that would see a new cycleway built between Griston and Watton, with people already able to vote online, and by phone from next week.

Lines are open to vote for the Norfolk projects from today at 9am until midnight. For more information visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/peoplesmillions

Gill Girling from the NDA

Listen Here! Minibus Project will provide a regular accessible minibus outreach service for deaf and hard of hearing people and their families in rural areas of Norfolk.

Trained volunteers will be on the bus to offer support with hearing aids, equipment, information, advice, signposting and more.

Many elderly deaf people live in hard to reach areas of the county and cannot get to the hospital or to larger towns for advice and support and are often unaware of what help they can receive.

Deaf people need face to face communication in order to access information as they often rely on lipreading, sign language or both.

This also means they can be isolated from their local community. The Listen Here! Minibus will raise awareness of deafness and provide support for those needing it most.

TO VOTE CALL 08702 405 401

Carol Baker from the Swaffham Sensory Garden Project.

There is no other public garden space in Swaffham to allow residents of all ages to meet.

There are two aims of the sensory garden:

To create an inviting, intimate and beneficial area for everybody who visits the garden, especially those with sensory disabilities. This project has taken into account the touch, smell, and sound and sight elements for this much-needed community sensory garden.

To have an area for people to meet who would not normally socialise with each other.

The ultimate aim of the garden is to bring the generations of Swaffham together.

Sophie Willis, 14, of Sacred Heart School in Swaffham, will have her winning poem, Sensory Kaleidoscope, engraved on a foundation stone within the sensory garden. Most important is that everyone will feel that it is their garden; it is something special in their own town.

TO VOTE CALL 08702 405 402

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