Inspiring young people and volunteers were recognised at the DofE’s inaugural This Is Youth Celebration at London’s Postal Museum in November. The DofE’s Chair of Trustees, Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL, and CEO Ruth Marvel presented accolades to winners in a fantastic evening’s celebration event. Every unique DofE journey can lead to amazing stories, and hundreds of young people were nominated across the UK as outstanding examples of the heights DofE participants can reach.
With eight categories from the All-Stars of the Year to Innovator of the Year, winners were chosen for the impact, resilience, community spirit and teamwork they’ve shown through their DofE journeys.
Meet some of the winners:
Change Maker of the Year: Sharandeep Sahota, from Coventry
Gold DofE Award holder and Young Carer Sharandeep organised social events for fellow young carers and delivered monthly food parcels to those experiencing homelessness for her DofE Volunteering section. Alongside running activities, Sharandeep established a council to advocate for young carers and joined Carers Trust’s national Youth Advisory Panel. During the pandemic Sharandeep also created care packages for children in hospital and volunteered to combat social isolation.
Sharandeep said: “The thing I most enjoy about volunteering is contributing to something bigger than myself. I think it’s important to give back when you can and it brings me a lot of joy. And I think I’ve helped demonstrate that young people are capable of making change in our community.”
Innovator of the Year: Theo Holroyd, from Cambridge
Theo, a blind student from Cambridge, used his Volunteering section to develop a revolutionary computer programme that allows visually impaired young people to fully participate in science lessons.
After finding accessible scientific scales didn’t exist for visually impaired people, Theo created Talking Balance – a programme that can run on any laptop and connects to scientific scales to read the weight out. The only additional equipment needed is two connecting wires, meaning the software can be accessed easily and visually impaired students can take accurate readings for experiments and projects.
Theo said, “It felt amazing to win Innovator of the Year. Not being able to weigh something may seem like a small thing, but it’s just one more way that blind people are excluded. Plus, it felt like it came at the price of my independence, because at A-Level you need to be able to do practicals totally independently.
“I think Talking Balance will make a difference for blind people around the world. It was an incredible feeling to use it for the first time and be able to weigh things in science like everybody else. I realised that I’d overcome the roadblocks and did something that nobody else has done or even thought to do.”
Trailblazer of the Year: Hannah Chowdhry, from Ilford
Unable to sit her GCSEs because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and dealing with debilitating arthritis, then 16-year-old Hannah, decided to launch ‘Meals for the Homeless’ as part of her DofE Volunteering and Skills activities. This project ensured those experiencing homelessness would have two meals a day, helped them find accommodation, and also offered cookery classes to enable them to learn a key skill for their futures. Three years on, those originally supported by Hannah’s project are now sharing the skills they learned with others in need, keeping Hannah’s vision and legacy moving forward.
Hannah said: “I’ve been volunteering with the British Asian Christian Association for several years and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved – we helped guarantee a meal for over 100 people every day during the pandemic and we found accommodation for 22 people who otherwise would have been on the streets. Volunteering with homeless people has inspired me to study law and I hope it will help me continue to support others going through difficult situations. That’s all I really want to do. I want to give back and help others.”
Life Changer of the Year: Faye Bishop, from Leeds
Faye, an NHS worker, took mentoring to the next level. A DofE Leader at the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, she guides and supports young people with complex health needs to achieve their DofE Awards while receiving treatment. Thanks to her selfless volunteering, Faye inspires the young people at the hospital to overcome personal challenges, build self-esteem, and develop life-changing skills as well as helping alleviate their isolation during their treatment. Faye has led young people to successfully achieve Bronze and Silver Awards, making Leeds the first hospital in the UK to achieve this.
Faye said: “It’s an honour to be recognised by colleagues right across the hospital and to know they are seeing the impact of the work that we are doing. This job can be stressful, but I come to work because I love my job and because I see how the DofE transforms young people’s lives.
“A young person that we’ve had most recently through the DofE Award said that this was the first time he’s been with young people his own age for three years and this was life changing for him. Other young people have never been away from home, so they are overcoming personal challenges before they even start the Award. They gain independence and confidence – using public transport to come to sessions, learning to cook and for the first time, some are managing their health independently.”
Read more about the amazing winners and meet some incredible special mentions.