A SCHOOLGIRL who showed great strength when her family lost everything in a house fire two weeks before Christmas has been described as an “inspiration to us all.”

Eleven-year-old Demi-Leigh Proud and her three younger sisters were thrown across the room when the washing machine exploded in their home in Crook last month. Their mother, nursing student Natalie Proud, managed to get the family out of the house unscathed but the fire and smoke destroyed all of the family’s possessions, including the girls’ Christmas presents.

However, it did not take long for people to come to their aid, and the family is now settling into their new home. Staff and pupils at King James I Academy in Bishop Auckland, where Demi-Leigh is a pupil, were among the first to help, donating essential items including clothing and uniforms, along with Christmas presents.

And earlier this week, thanks to various fundraising activities, headteacher Nick Grieveson presented a cheque for £2,000 to Ms Proud to help the family rebuild their lives.

Mr Grieveson said Demi-Leigh’s positivity during such a difficult time had impressed staff and her classmates, adding: “Despite this dreadful experience, Demi-Leigh was up-beat and back in school within days.

“She has demonstrated a level of resilience that is an inspiration to us all. We hope this money will show the family how much we care, and that it will help to make life a little easier as they begin a new year in their new home.”

Ms Proud, 30, said her eldest daughter had also helped her younger sisters through the ordeal.

“Demi has coped to well,” she said.

“She has been so strong and whenever her sisters mention what happened she tries to help them to look on the bright side of things.

“I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud of them all. For two weeks after it happened they didn’t know whether they were coming or going and had nowhere to call home.

“It’s so nice to see them settled again and giggling and playing together in our new home. I would like to thank all of the staff and children at King James, and everyone else who has helped us.”