Young March mum in contention to win YOPEY award which showcases outstanding young Cambridgeshire people

Gemma Sommersby with Lesley Parkinson (right).

Gemma Sommersby with Lesley Parkinson (right). - Credit: Archant

A Fenland mum who helps a woman with learning difficulties is through to the final of a contest that showcases outstanding young people in Cambridgeshire.

Lesley Parkinson, 23, of High Street, March, will find out if she has been crowned Ferrier Pearce Young People of the Year and won the top prize of £800 at an awards ceremony in St Neots on October 23.

Miss Parkinson manages to fit her volunteering around her home life with partner Mark and three-year-old son Aiden.

Suzanne Lombardo, volunteer co-ordinator at Cambridgeshire Mencap, nominated 23-year-old Miss Parkinson for her devotion to 29-year-old Gemma Sommersby.

She takes Miss Sommersby out two or three times a week shopping, to a dance for people with learning disabilities, for a meal or to a fitness class.

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Without Miss Parkinson’s support Miss Sommerby would not be able to do half the social activities she does and this would affect her confidence.

Miss Parkinson found out about the YOPEY scheme when she passed a Mencap office and saw they had a notice asking for volunteers.

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She said: “I thought I would give it a try and it’s the best thing I did.

“I feel that I have made a difference to someone else’s life, being able to give them an opportunity to socialise and do things that they feel they are not capable of doing by themselves or do not have the confidence to do.”

Miss Parkinson’s help goes beyond befriending - she has helped the charity with fundraising.

One day she gave up six hours to rattle a collecting tin in a supermarket in March, when volunteers are asked usually to give up only one hour.

She also does admin work in the charity’s March office.

Mrs Lombardo said: “This is all above and beyond what is expected. It’s really refreshing to have someone who is young and wants to volunteer but also goes that extra mile in helping the befriendee.”

In addition to Ferrier Pearce, this year’s Cambs YOPEY is supported by, among others, Hutchinsons crop production specialists of Wisbech, Peterborough City Council, Chatteris firms ALS, Ely companies, The Micron Group and G¹s, Wisbech-based Kier Construction and Waldeck consulting engineers.

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