TWO inspirational men have been praised for bringing smiles to the faces of people in south Essex.

Dedicated karate instructor Marc Grayston, from Basildon, and selfless teacher Ray Coe, from Thundersley, were named in the 2014 Happy List, compiled by the Independent on Sunday as a contrast to rich lists and celebrity lists.

It celebrates 100 people across Britain who have helped others, without thinking of their own personal gain.

Mr Grayston, 28, runs Maru Karate Kai, which puts on classes at Fairhouse Infants School, in Long Riding, Basildon, Whitmore Way Junior School, in Basildon, and Luncies Road hall, in Pitsea.

He puts on free sessions for disadvantaged children and runs self-defence workshops for women.

Mr Grayston, who juggles a full-time job in London with family life, said: “I am incredibly humbled to even be mentioned in the same breath as some of the inspirational people on this list, but this is really a recognition for the kids who take part in our classes and the ladies who attend our self-defence classes. They are the real stars.”

Teacher Mr Coe, 53, who used to work at the Deanes School, Thundersley, stepped in to save one of his pupil’s lives after learning she was desperate for a kidney donor.

Thirteen year-old Alya Ahmed, from Stratford, suffers from hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.

Mr Coe, now a special educational needs co-ordinator at Royal Docks Community School, London, returned to work last month after a successful transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Other people on the list included teenage cancer sufferer and fundraiser Stephen Sutton, and Olympic diver Tom Daley.