|OBE for Wigan Childcare Champion
Aukje with mums and children at the Children’s Centre.
A CHILDCARE champion who settled in Wigan after leaving her native Holland over 40 years ago will be presented with one of the country's highest civilian accolades next week.
But for Aukje Clegg, there will be no greater honour than to receive her OBE at the Children's Centre where she has devoted her working life surrounded by the children she is helping to nurture together with her English and Dutch families, parents, friends and colleagues.
Westfield Young Persons' Centre Manager Aukje will be presented with the award by the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester Mr William J Morris J.P, for services to children and families, at a special ceremony at Westfield School in Wigan at 10am on Thursday April.
Aukje, who has retained her Dutch nationality, joins a select number of non-commonwealth foreign nationals to receive the honour.
In 1967, at the age of 23, Aukje left her native province of Friesland to follow her husband Alan Clegg, a young RAF serviceman from Stockport, back to England.
Alan left the RAF for a career in teaching that led to him becoming head of Pemberton Community High School.
For 14 years Aukje ran 'Mrs Clegg's' at Pemberton, before becoming head of the Young Persons' Centre, when it was set up 10 years ago to offer affordable childcare, holiday and after-school care.
In 2006 it became part of the new Westfield 'extended' school but is still referred to as 'Mrs Clegg's' by many parents.
Speaking about the honour, Aukje says: "When I got the letter I was amazed and overwhelmed. An OBE for doing what I have loved doing? I cried, I couldn't believe it."
"Working with children is an honour and a privilege and I have been lucky enough to make this my career. There can be no greater achievement than to watch a young child begin to take those first steps to achieving their full potential."
"To be presented with the award at the Centre really is the icing on the cake."
Aukje comes from a heroic Dutch family tradition of helping and supporting others.
During the war, her father, who owned and managed a timber factory in Friesland, was involved with the Dutch resistance.
Her family sheltered Jewish families and Allied airmen, until they were liberated by the Canadians.
Chair of Governors at Westfield, Maggie Coghlin, says: "But for her efforts, many parents would not have been able to get a job or training and would not have been able to provide a better start for their children."