A North Wales health visitor who gives struggling families a flying start has been handed a top award.

Miriam Williams has been named the National Stars in Our Lives winner for Wales, after being nominated by Gwynedd families she has helped.

The awards recognise the dedicated team of Wales Flying Start health professionals who work all out to improve families’ lives and support children’s development.

Miriam, a health visitor with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board who is based in Bethesda, said she was humbled to think the families had  put her name forward for the accolade.

Miriam, who has been a nurse for more than 20 years, says her health visitor role is incredibly rewarding. She added: “I started my career as a nurse, a community sister on Anglesey but about 10 years ago I became a health visitor.

“I cover the community of Bethesda and I have made many friends here but the last thing I ever expected was to be nominated for an award like this. I feel so honoured to think that families I’ve worked with have got behind me like this. It’s a real privilege to receive the award but it’s not just for me, I see it as being a tribute to all Gwynedd health visiting and Flying Start teams.

“We all want the best for our young families and this award is a real sign that they appreciate the work we put in.”

Flying Start is a Welsh Assembly Government funded programme aimed at improving health visitor and other services for children aged under four and their families in the most disadvantaged communities in Wales.

Several agencies work together, including health visitors, midwives, childcare providers, social care professionals, language and play co-coordinators. The aim is to ensure children in all registered families have a flying start in life by developing their language, emotional, physical and social skills so they are ready to start school.

Miriam said the scheme is hugely beneficial, especially in areas where other resources are scarce.

She said: “It provides that extra level of support that so many families need. Young families know that we are there for them and they can turn to us any time for advice on a whole range of issues. Even if they just want to have a chat to someone over the phone, or their self-confidence is wavering, we are here to listen and to support them in any way we can.”

Miriam advises new mums on all aspects of child health care from health, nutrition and behavioural patterns to education and communication issues.

She said: “Our role can be immensely challenging and emotional, but it is also hugely rewarding, seeing families thrive as a result of the support we can offer. No text book can ever tell a new mum everything she needs to know. Having a baby completely changes your life. It’s a delightful time but it’s also a shock to the system like no other.

“As health visitors our aim is to help families best cater for their child’s needs and also to ensure the mum gets the most from this precious time. We offer a mix of practical and emotional support, but most of all we give our mums the reassurance to know that they are not on their own.”

Miriam still sees some children who she visited years ago as babies.

She said: “They are taller than I am now. It gives me a real sense of job satisfaction to see them thriving and doing well.”

Miriam, who grew up on Anglesey, is now a mum and grandmother herself, and lives in Caernarfon with her husband Richard.

She said: “My family were all delighted when I won the award. They are my support and I want to thank them for all the help they have given me throughout my career.”

One family who nominated Miriam joined her at a ceremony in Llandudno, when she was handed her honour before a gathering of colleagues from across Wales.

A spokesman for the families said: “Miriam is an amazing lady who goes out of her way to help others, not just because it’s her job, but straight from the heart.”

BCUHB team manager for Flying Start Gwynedd, Janw Hughes Evans, said Miriam was a much deserved winner.

Janw added:  “Miriam is indeed a real star, one of the most dedicated health visitors I know. She always goes that extra mile to help the children and families she works with. We are all delighted that she has had this recognition for the tremendous amount she has done for her local community over the years.”