The inaugural British Citizen Youth Awards – honouring young people who have positively impacted society, communities, charities or other good causes – took place this week at the Palace of Westminster.
Twenty youngsters – from across the country – were honoured, with each having their own unique and inspiring story, including 14-year-old Bethan Rees in the Lower Fifth.
The medal presentation ceremony, which is in association with Specsavers, cast a light on some of the nation’s brightest stars of the future.
The awards were presented by Kimberly Wyatt of the Pussycat Dolls, whose band has sold over 55 million records worldwide.
Bethan became involved with the charity Educate the Kids, which helps provide an education for desperately poor children in Kenya, following a family holiday to the country in 2009. She was inspired by her grandmother, local fundraiser Sue Stevens, and motivated by the sight of young children in Kenyan villages whose families simply can’t afford to send them to school.
Since then, Bethan has been helping with fundraising and raising awareness of the charity at every opportunity. Events have included coffee mornings, charity shops, car boot sales, plant sales, jewellery stalls and multiple tombolas and raffles every year. When Bethan was just 11-years-old, she completed a 10km swim and raised enough money to sponsor a child’s education for several years. She is planning a further sponsored event next year to continue to pay for 10-year-old Deborah Chome’s education.
Bethan has recently been doing the administration and publicity work for her grandmother who has organised a recent tour of the Burnham-on-Sea area for 23 children, known as The Singing Children of Africa. The Singing Children of Africa is a choir chosen from the 700 pupils at Jolaurabi School. Bethan has also travelled to Kenya on several occasions assisting with vital work at Jolaurabi Kindergarten and Primary School.
Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, said: "The society we live in tomorrow will be shaped by the children of today, which is why championing amazing young role models is so very important."
"The young people that become the recipients of the first British Citizen Youth Awards will, I am sure, inspire other youngsters to emulate their good work and embody the spirit of transparency, integrity, determination and achievement that define these awards."
"Whatever it is that they have done to make a significant impact on society, their community, a charity or other good cause, it will have been with a selflessness and commitment that deserves to be publicly acknowledged. These unsung heroes are the rising stars of the future – let us shine a light on them and celebrate!"
Photo: Kimberley Wyatt (left), Bethan Rees (centre) and James Cathcart (right)