RantzenandWebberarea distinctive pair of winners
DAME ESTHER Rantzen and Anne Webberwerehonouredfortheirrespective achievements of establishing Childline and co-chairing the Commission for Looted Art in Europe at Jewish Care’s annual Woman of Distinction lunch.
Addressing the 180 guests in central London on Monday, Ms Webber said: “Since the film [about the battle to reclaim a painting looted by the Nazis], people think my work is all glamorous. It is not.
“Our work is very difficult and we work in a tough environment, so it is a source of great encouragement to be recognised.”
Her biggest frustration was that “so many countries and museums won’t acknowledge what art they have and won’t make it possible for people to get back what belongs to them.
“It is very distressing for families. The meaning of objects is of great importance. From paintings of great value to books worth a pound, we fight hard for every single one.”
She was presented with her award by Susan Schlaen, 60, a resident at the charity’s Sidney Corob House in West Hampstead for adults with mental health issues, which will benefit from the event’s £55,000 proceeds.
Ms Schlaen lives with bipolar disorder and is remission from lung cancer. “I have been at Sidney Corob for eight years,” she said. “I have really bad anxiety and manic depressive attacks but the staff make me feel safe and at home.”
Another Sidney Corob resident, Leah Phillips, handed Dame Esther her award.
The recipient spoke both about Childline and the Silver Line, a confidential hotline for the elderly.
“After my husband died, when I downsized from my house to a flat, I was living alone for the first time and I was lonely,” she recalled. “There was nobody to talk to when I closed the door at night.
“So I did what I always, do, I wrote to the this time about the issue of loneliness. The Silver Line charity was born out of the response from the public.”
Dame Esther added that hearing guest speaker — mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin — talk about his experiences was a signal to others to be “more open about mental health problems.
“I had post-natal depression. There certainly was a stigma at that time and there still is one now.
“We hear from a lot of young people who get in touch with Childline who are suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts. I’m desperately aware of the stigma that silences them and prevents them from asking for help.”
Sandra Saintus, manager of Sidney Corob House, said: “As women who talk about mental health to local people in our community, it meant a lot to Susan and Leah to present awards to other women whose work for their community is being recognised.
“It empowers them and shows them that while they might struggle, they don’t have to feel like outsiders.”
Dame Esther Rantzen and Anne Webber ( second and third right) with award presenters and lunch committee leaders