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Sandra Graham

Social worker and community activist;

Born: November 9, 1951; Died: October 24, 2012.

SANDRA Graham, who has died aged 60, was a charity worker and community pioneer. She was a driving force in the transformation of the part of Glasgow's west end where she lived and throughout her working life, particularly in the children's organisations Aberlour Child Care Trust and Barnardo's, she improved many lives.

Born in the city's east end, she attended Our Lady and St Francis school before working in the civil service and moving to Shetland. From 1982-1986 she studied social anthropology at Aberdeen University, then went to live in a Christian community in India. Her time there was to have a profound effect on her.

After returning to Glasgow she qualified as a social worker and worked for many years with Aberlour Child Care Trust – helping to improve the lives of women and children affected by drug and alcohol use. For much of her career she was involved directly with families, working in and managing residential homes and on outreach projects in some of the city's most deprived areas.

As a development officer, her focus was on providing greater social provision across the city, improve service quality and developing innovative methods of care.

She helped set up Aberlour's Bridges project for youngsters aged three to eight, which aims to improve life chances by increasing resilience through the promotion of their health, educational attainment and social wellbeing.

She saw true value in simple things like healthy eating, good company, exercise, walking and fresh air – and would take the children she worked with on outings and on holidays.

Her calm, individual style of management meant she always brought out the best in people: her co-workers, vulnerable parents and the children.

She joined Barnardo's in 2009 as a senior practitioner but her illness conspired to limit her time in that post even though she made a big impact on the staff team, families and carers with her clear understanding of the value of foster care and what it could offer to children and young people who had experienced trauma.

From 2000, she was also an influential and effective force in her west end neighbourhood.

Always a tenacious advocate for improving the quality of life, she was a founding member of the GOW Triangle Community – successfully helping to transform her backcourt from a miserable dumping ground into the warm, welcoming, well-tended community resource it is today.

For her fearless approach to confrontation – always tackling things head on in a gentle but firm manner – she became known among neighbours as The Lion of Westbank in reference to the road where she lived. She also helped establish and develop the Gibson Street Gala, a key event in Glasgow's annual West End Festival.

She was also a very spiritual woman, quietly observant of her Catholic faith. Since her days in Shetland, she had practised transcendental meditation; it became an integral part of her life and a great comfort during her illness.

In her most challenging times, living with cancer, she remained more concerned about others than about herself. In her memory, her family and friends have already raised more than £2000 for the cancer support charities Friends of the Beatson and the Maggie's Centres. She is survived by her brother, Brendan, and her sister, Ann, plus her nephews and nieces.

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