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Little girl showed Ken how much city cares; OUTGOING LORD MAYOR REFLECTS ON BUSY YEAR IN COVENTRY AND ON WIDER STAGE.

Byline: FIONA SCOTT, Political Editor

ONE of outgoing Lord Mayor Ken Taylor's most vivid memories of his year in office was meeting a five-year-old girl.

She helped to look after her mum every day and was not at all overwhelmed by meeting Coventry's first citizen.

Holding his hand out at waist height, he recalled: "You couldn't believe it - she was only five, about this height. She spoke like a child of 13 or 14.

"She had grown up before her time. She had missed out on all the growing up, playing in the pool and in the sand."

He met her because one of his charities for the year was Coventry Young Carers project, which helps to support children who give up their free time to help dress, feed, bathe and look after sick or disabled parents, brothers and sisters.

The five-year-old girl was particularly young to be a carer - but hidden around the city are hundreds of other children who help relatives to get up in the morning, return at lunchtime to cook meals and do the shopping, ironing and medicines, and help with the housework.

When the first project worker started, she knew of 250 - but soon found another 250. The project helps them by arranging days out, getting them to meet other young carers and giving support and advice.

The Lord Mayor's charity raised pounds 10,000 for the project and the same amount for Cllr Taylor's other crusade - preventing prostate cancer. Twenty- seven men in Britain a day die from the disease and many could have been saved.

"A lot leave it too late to get tests," said Cllr Taylor. "At every opportunity, whether it was at the women's guild luncheons or at any adult group - and to teenagers as well - I would make them aware that they have to look out for the symptoms."

The first Prostate Cancer Support group in Coventry was set up last week.

Cllr Taylor's year as Lord Mayor ends tomorrow when he will return to the political fray as the new leader of the Conservative group.

Among other highlights of his year was the ceremony at Coventry Cathedral last October when Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchoir and Sheikh Tal El Sider, a senior adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, were awarded the Coventry Peace Prize along with Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

"It was an impressive and momentous occasion. It gave me some sort of understanding of the difficulties they have in the Palestinian territories and Israel," he said.

He was treated like a king - or at least an extremely important political leader - when he visited Coventry's twin city of Jinan in China as head of a delegation from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Later, the deputy governor of Shandong province - a man responsible for an area with 92 million people - made a reciprocal visit to Coventry.

But above all, like many Lord Mayors before him, Cllr Taylor was struck by the generosity of Coventry people working in voluntary groups all over the city.

"As Lord Mayor you quickly understand that 70 per cent of our services in the city which support elderly people, teenagers or anyone with special needs are provided by volunteers and charities.

"This really shows commitment - you appreciate what people are doing for no return, apart from wanting to do it.

"Without that, the city couldn't run. We certainly could not afford to pay for what those people do for us."

CAPTION(S):

A YEAR TO REMEMBER: Lord Mayor Ken Taylor dons his civic robes for one of the last times (above); with the Lady Mayoress, his wife Mary, meeting young refugees from north Africa (left); and the "momentous occasion" when Sheikh Tal El Sider and rabbi Michael Melchoir (right) received the Coventry Peace Prize. Main picture: RICHARD NELMES
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 14, 2003
Words:645
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Next Article:Geoff looks back on a year of highs and lows; OUTGOING MAYOR REFLECTS ON A HECTIC 12 MONTHS IN NUNEATON AND BEDWORTH.


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