PASSION: Alli Hammett recently won a Community Service Award.ALLI Hammett has been volunteering since the ripe age of eight, yet 40 years later she is still giving back to the community.

Ms Hammett, 48, came to Australia with her Welsh parents at the age of three and settled in ‘‘a one-horse town’’ near Campbelltown, Sydney.

‘‘I used to help mum at a disability service for children,’’ she said. ‘‘It was a very rich childhood and it helped me with my communication skills. I guess I was lucky to find my passion at an early age.’’

Ms Hammett moved to Newcastle in 1981 to study for an arts degree at the University of Newcastle and also completed a Bachelor of Teaching. During her studies she continued her voluntary work, about 10 to 20 hours every week.

‘‘If you’re happy in both it doesn’t feel like work,’’ she said.

In 1994 Ms Hammett ‘‘fell into community education’’ and began work as one of the first road-safety officers in NSW.

‘‘There was very little work done in road education before that,’’ she said. ‘‘We did a lot of work on fatigue and seatbelt use.’’

In 2000 Ms Hammett had a stroke and despite the serious predicament she found herself in, she said it was ‘‘the best thing that ever happened to me’’.

She was completely paralysed down her right side and imaging on her scans suggested she would never walk again.

‘‘I thought ‘that’s a pile of bullshit’, I wasn’t ready to accept that,’’ she said. ‘‘I fought tooth and nail to get back to work. It was a really big shock but our brains are built to function and I wasn’t going to give up.’’

Her recovery has astounded stroke specialists and Ms Hammett continues to work on committees to assist in changing how stroke and heart patients are treated in emergency wards.

After her recovery, Ms Hammett returned to work and even took up a position as CEO for an organisation.

She said she didn’t let her goals lower even after her health scare.

Not long after Ms Hammett returned to her roots and worked in Wales with disadvantaged youths.

There she became involved in the Village SOS program, which awards grants to rural villages in the UK to revive their community through new business ventures.

She became the village champion for a Scottish village named West Wemyss and helped its residents make business and financial plans. The village was one of six winners of a grant worth more than $500,000.

Ms Hammett returned to Newcastle to retire but she still does community work and is chairperson at Octapod, which runs community events in the Hunter including the This is Not Art festival.

She presented at the TEDxNewy conference last month on the topic ‘‘Let’s Make Stroke Sexy’’.

Ms Hammett received recognition for her 40 years of work in the community when she was presented with a NSW Community Service Award by Newcastle MP Tim Owen two weeks ago.

‘‘It’s the first award I have ever received for my work and the only one I want,’’ she said. ‘‘I don’t do this for awards, I do it because I love it.’’