Moray aid worker receives BEM for work with British Red Cross and says possible Israel–Gaza War call-out "doesn't frighten me"
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A MORAY aid worker and senior NHS Grampian figure has been honoured for touching thousands of lives while facing a possible Middle East deployment amid the Israel-Gaza War.
Liz Tait (65) was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) at a ceremony at Dr Gray's chapel – which she helped raise funds for – on Friday (November 9).
Scheduling the event was tricky, she said, because 2023 has seen already her in Sudan, supporting those fleeing war and facing "the most terrifying journeys", and caring for people in the aftermath of devastating wildfires in Rhodes.
And she was also facing the prospect of being called to the Middle East to provide humanitarian support amid the Israel-Gaza war.
"If the crisis escalates, I will be deployed to one of these areas," she said.
"That doesn't frighten me – because it's humanitarian work that I do, whether that's locally or whether that's internationally.
"That's what I feel I've got a skill for, and the contacts, so it doesn't frighten me.
"It used to frighten my kids about where I was going next.
"But now, my kids now just know that's what mum does and don't hold her back."
Liz's BEM recognises 50 years of volunteering at home and abroad with the British Red Cross (BRC), often working alongside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, along with services to the NHS in Moray.
As an emergency support volunteer within the psychosocial team, the Lossiemouth woman has: supported displaced Afghan refugees in Dubai; cared for those impacted by the Grenfell Tower tragedy; and delivered support after the Manchester Arena Bombing.
She was first deployed through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to support people fleeing Beirut in 2006.
And, since, she has also provided care following the Chinese earthquake in 2008, the Tunisia terror attack in 2015 and Hurricane Irma in Dominica in 2017.
But on the day she was handed her BEM she wondered: "Well, do I really deserve it?"
Serving those in the greatest need is "a real honour", she said, and: "I don't need any other honour to be happy about what I do."
But, she added, receiving the BEM among her family, friends and colleagues was a "great privilege".
Along with more than 20 NHS Grampian colleagues, she was joined by husband Alex and daughter Susanna Miller with her other two daughters watching by video link.
"I find it such a real honour to help people at the worst times of their life, whether that's a patient locally or in a disaster zone," Liz said.
"But I count it a great privilege to actually be able to get this medal.
"It was good to have my friends and colleagues there who have supported me to do the work I've done.
"Because I don't actually think it's just for myself, it's for the whole team of people that work alongside me.
"I know that's what a lot of people say, but I really mean that. And for my own family too."
Born in Kilmarnock, but having lived in Moray since 2000, Liz said she was grateful for NHS Grampian giving her the space to volunteer across the world.
"What I learn from those situations allows me to bring those skills back into the NHS – that compassion and empathy," she said.
"My background is nursing, so that is always there, but it means I can hone in on those skills.
"And I can know the appropriate thing to say – and what not to say – in very, very difficult circumstances."
Following a speech by Margaret Stenton, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of Moray, Liz was handed the BEM by Moray Lord-Lieutenant Major General Seymour Monro CBE LVO.
Mrs Stenton praised Liz's "unwavering support of thousands of displaced people" during her 2019 service in Dubai and said she was "highly respected" by "patients, staff and families" in Moray.
Also highlighted was her work in creating and running volunteer groups during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I have obviously been involved in the nomination process," Maj Gen Monro said.
"I couldn't have been more thrilled when she was mentioned in the announcement about the King's Birthday Honour's List.
"She has done so much, often in very dangerous places.
"And she is such a brave person, looking after often very vulnerable people."
Liz volunteered to be on shift throughout the week of Queen Elizabeth II's lying-in-state in London, supporting those who had been queuing for up to 24 hours to pay their respects.
She has also given in-person support at hearings, and on the medical support line, to those involved in the Infected Blood Inquiry.
And, over the last year, Liz has been supporting asylum seekers who have arrived in Elgin.
She is "delighted" to hear success stories of Moray's refugees, including an Afghan doctor who now works at Dr Gray's and Ukranian refugees who have transferred their university degrees to continue their careers.
Despite saying the successes are "absolutely nothing to do with me", she added: "It floats my boat".
Liz also thanked those in the community who have helped her to fundraise considerable amounts, including the Friends of Dr Gray's.