Cumbria Women of the Year 2010 Winner
Deb Muscat would never, in her wildest imagination, have envisaged the challenges that lay ahead when she became ActingDirector of the Cumbria Community Foundation.
On Thursday 19th November 2009 England’s worst recorded day of rain occurred across the fells of the Lake District. Described as a once in a 600 year event, prolonged heavy rain swelled the becks and streams tumbling down the mountains; lakes reached unprecedented levels and rivers burst their banks. Floodwater surged through nearly 1400 homes in Keswick, Cockermouth, Workington and many other smaller Cumbrian villages and hamlets. Residents were homeless and heartbroken. Shops and businesses were inundated and livelihoods ruined at a time when they were already facing the deepest recession since the 1930’s. Bridges were washed away or damaged beyond repair leaving the infrastructure of Cumbria in total disarray; in Workington, heroic police officer PC Bill Barker was tragically swept to his death. These were scenes of utter devastation.
Deb Muscat spearheaded the multi-million pound flood recovery appeal and was the public face of the Foundation. Drawing on the harrowing experience of the Carlisle floods of 2005, a recovery fund was established within four days and made available emergency grants to affected individuals, families and community groups. Within ten days £1 million was raised, eventually rising to over £2.8 million. Deb headed up a team of stuff and Trustees at Dovenby Hall, remaining cool, calm, collected and well organised throughout the following weeks and working morning, noon and night. Her unflappable temperament and communication skills inspired all around her. Following her example, staff too, worked long and hard. Combining empathy and steely determination she kept the plight of flood victims at the forefront of the public imagination, never losing her sense of humour and zest for life. She attended events in the evenings and weekends, personally overseeing tender documents, advising those without insurance, and ensuring that individual properties and housing estates were surveyed by specialist flood consultancy firms. Such was her commitment that the High Sheriff of Cumbria, James Carr recognised her with a special award.
Since 1996, Deb has lived near Allonby with her husband, three dogs and two cats. She has spent most of her working life in the charitable sector and ince 2007 had been Grants Development Officer at the Foundation working with a wide range of people from the High Sheriffs to local authorities and business partners.She is also passionate about the countryside and wildlife and a keen and talented natural historian. She has just completed her thesis for her Master’s degree on mosses and is a volunteer bat worker for the Cumberland bat group. To unwind, she walks her dogs in the Cumbrian countryside or along the beach at Allenby.
She is swift to commend her team, saying “the Cumbrian flood recovery fund is very much a team effort – its success is not down to one individual but to the staff team at the Cumbria Community Foundation, the 5000 people and organisations who made donations to the fund and to all the voluntary and community groups that have supported and continue to support the affected communities.”
Clearly, though, to make something work so well excellent leadership and communication skills at all levels, strength and tenacity, are essential. In recognition of all these admirable qualities and exceptional achievements Deb Muscat was awarded Cumbria Woman of the Year, 2010.