Fen and Ely teenagers are rewarded in prestigious YOPEY awards which recognise the county’s young unsung heroes
- Credit: Archant
Two teenagers from Fenland have scooped a top award at the annual ‘Oscars’ for young people who give to others.
Fourteen-year-olds Corben Russell and his friend Tiffany Baldwin both from Ramsey picked up the Junior YOPEY prize in Cambridgeshire’s Young People of the Year Awards for their community work in setting up a befriending scheme between young and old.
And others teenagers from across the area including: Whittlesey, Chatteris and Ely all picked up runners-up prizes at the prestigious presentation ceremony.
Corben, of Great Whyte, read on social media that many young people in his home town of Ramsey were engaged in anti-social behaviour.
He then witnessed a group of boys taunting a pensioner in a sheltered housing scheme in the town and he knew something had to be done.
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Corben discussed this with friend Tiffany, of Fellowes Drive, and they came up with the ‘Connecting the Community’ project to bring people together. They presented the idea to most age groups at their school, Ramsey College, and recruited 30 volunteers, including older sixth-formers and a few adults.
They go along to Jones Court sheltered housing in Great Whyte and Ramsey Day Centre in Stocking Fen Road, both in their own and school time, and play board games with the old folk, make crafts, bake, swap tales, and even knit together.
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Corben said after the awards ceremony, which was held at St Catharine’s College on Tuesday: “We want people to be at peace in the town. We don’t want all elderly people to think all youth are bad.”
Tiffany said their project also combatted loneliness. “It’s really valuable – it’s good to have links with others instead of feeling like you’re alone.”
The Bishop of Huntingdon, the Rt Revd David Thomson, who was on the judging panel, said: ”Corben and Tiffany have changed the youth culture of their town and the image of youngsters there in a way many would have regarded as impossible.”
Corben and Tiffany were presented with their £300 prize by Captain Victor Lucas, the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire. He said: ”This is a great idea that could be developed in a lot of other areas in our communities.”
They have donated £200 to community projects in Ramsey and they will be spending £50 each on themselves.
The runners-up, each receiving £100 for themselves and their good causes, were:
Elle Purchase-Francis, 15, from Witchford, who is a carer to parents and speaks for young carers locally and nationally.
Seventeen-year-old singing duo Charlie O’Connor, from Ely, and Molly Armstrong, from Little Downham, who have raised over £5,000 for Arthur Rank’s new hospice in Shelford.
Abbie Wiles, 18, from Whittlesey, who is passionate about teaching first-aid skills and growing numbers of St John Ambulance cadets.
Royal British Legion youth members, ages 12-17, who are ensuring Chatteris fallen of WW1 are not forgotten.
Former Peterborough Regional College student and ‘activist’ Sirina-Monique Prescod-Sebastian, 19, who sings and campaigns for minorities.
Amy Bland, 18, from Comberton, who is a Girlguiding leader, ran a kids’ steel pan band, and is a fundraiser for good causes.
Evan Rees-Humphreys, 13, from Gamlingay, whose battle against cancer has inspired others to raise £12,000 for Addenbrooke’s.
Lydia Hayler, 17, from Chesterton, who is a young leader ‘doing an adult role’ in Cambridge scouts and wants to be a vicar.
Founder Tony Gearing said: “We like to think YOPEY is creating the great citizens of tomorrow today. All these young people are amazing.”
Amira Haque, 20, of King Hedges Road, Cambridge, won the top ‘Senior Yopey’ prize of £500, £400 she is donating for further campaigning, the remaining £100 is for herself.This was the 10th year in Cambridgeshire of ‘YOPEYs’ – Oscars for young people who give to others. Founder Tony Gearing, who held his first YOPEY in Cambridgeshire in 2006, said: “All the young finalists are winners, because all are doing something positive to give young people the fairer image they deserve.”
The YOPEY judges, who included the Queen’s representatives in Cambridgeshire, religious leaders, mayors and MPs, as well as young people, were particularly impressed by Amira’s “relentless drive to help others. She is a real dynamo”.