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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Village award after family helped
Hassan playing with his brother
Hassan's cancer is now in remission
A village in Kent has won an award for the way its residents welcomed a family from Pakistan.

Hartley, near Swanley, won a Muslim News Award after residents helped the family settle into the community.

When the son of Dr Hashim Risa and his wife Annie Fatima developed cancer in 2001, villagers rallied to help.

The family was so touched by the level of support from the local community, practical and emotional, they nominated the village for the award.

The whole village was like an extended family
Dr Hashim Risa
The Risa family moved into the village, described in the citation as "close-knit and friendly", in 1997.

The family have three boys, and it was the middle one who developed bone cancer four years later.

The local community, and particularly churchgoers from the parish, responded immediately, offering "not just practical help but also tremendous emotional support and understanding", said the newspaper, The Muslim News.

Dr Risa, who is a psychiatrist, said the rector's wife created a rota of local mums who would collect the other children from school and look after them while he and his wife took their sick son, Hassan, to hospital.

"They would take them home and feed them according to Islamic sensitivities," he said.

'Caring community'

A local garage owner even loaned a courtesy car to the family when their own vehicle broke down.

"The whole village was like an extended family for us," Dr Risa said.

The rector of Hartley, Reverend Richard Worssam, said the village had been "absolutely thrilled" to receive the award.

"We're part of this very caring village community, and we find that we can draw together people to help others in need.

"The Risa family are much loved within our community," he said.

Hassan, whose cancer is in remission, is now aged nine and back at school.

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