Rotary Showcase | Young people

Meet the inspirational Rotary Young Citizens 2019

Meet the inspirational Rotary Young Citizens 2019

Remarkable young people from across Great Britain and Ireland are being recognised with Rotary Young Citizen Awards.

From the youngster who’s helping others while battling childhood cancer, to the 11-year-old who bakes and delivers special cakes for free to those going through a tough time, to the dynamic 14-year-old wheelchair basketball player who’s won a gold medal, to the “Plastics Warrior” who’s campaigning to clean up beaches worldwide, to the teenage Peace Advocates changing their school, this year’s Young Citizens are truly amazing.

The accolades celebrate the positive citizenship and responsibilities that are shown by many young people through hard work, inspirational ideas and a determination to help others.

This year’s awards include the first-ever Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award, and the return of the Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award, jointly sponsored by the UK wheelchair sports charity, WheelPower.

They will receive their awards from BBC TV Presenter Ellie Crisell at the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Conference and Showcase in Nottingham on Sunday, 12th May, 2019.

So, let’s meet them!


Rotary Young Citizen Award winners

Kira Noble, aged 15, from Edinburgh, nominated by Leith Rotary Club

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Whilst in hospital receiving treatment for an aggressive form of cancer, Kira Noble offers support to other sufferers and their families.

Nicknamed “Kira the Machine”, 15-year-old Kira Noble from Edinburgh has courageously faced the rare and aggressive cancer Neuroblastoma since she was 11-years-old. She has now been told that her cancer is incurable. After doctors failed to initially recognise that she had the condition, she has campaigned for more awareness and training of medical professionals to save lives. She launched a Childhood Cancer campaign and joined forces with an Edinburgh mum whose son died of leukaemia.

Despite 20 rounds of chemotherapy, conventional radiotherapy and additional Proton Beam Therapy to her abdominal area and four major abdominal surgeries, Kira’s cancer has returned three times making her currently in her fourth journey with the disease. Whilst in hospital, she offers support to other cancer sufferers and their families as well as raising awareness of her condition through social media.

Scans in January 2019 revealed that Kira’s cancer has continued to grow and progress further despite PBT in the US. Doctors have now told her that her cancer is incurable and Kira herself has taken the decision to try an experimental drug which is an ALK inhibitor. Reacting to the news, she said: “I don’t like being negative because it isn’t going to get me anywhere.”


Alana Habergham-Rice, aged 11, nominated by Rotherham Rotary Club

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Alana’s Caring Cakes delivers surprise cakes to special and isolated individuals in her community.

11-year-old Alana Habergham-Rice from Rotherham is driven by a passion for what is fair and a desire to help people whom she believes aren’t as fortunate as her. This is against a backdrop of personal struggles, she is currently on the pathway for an Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment.

When Alana was just 6, she decided that she wanted to do something for charity, so she set up her first Charity Cake Stall which has now become an annual event. She raises money for a girl at her school with cerebral palsy, helping to fund her therapy and specialist equipment, and funds for Sheffield Hospital’s Charity as well as other charities.

In 2017, Alana decided she wanted to do more than just have a cake stall and Alana’s Caring Cakes were born. Alana’s Caring Cakes are free of charge and anybody can nominate someone to receive one of Alana’s special cakes but key is surprising the individual who has been nominated. Alana has delivered to people in care homes, people in the middle of chemotherapy, staff at a hospice who had cared for somebody who had recently died, people caring for family members with a terminal illness and people who go the extra mile for special friends.

Alana views what she does as being nothing special as she feels everybody should do nice things for people. She said: “It just makes me really happy that I can do something to make their time when it’s tough, better!”


George Husar, aged 15, nominated by Roundhay Rotary Club, Leeds

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From being excluded from school, George Husar has turned his life around to become Volunteer Assistant of the Year at Leeds-based charity CATCH.

15-year-old George Husar had a bad start to life, he was excluded from school and in negative social peer groups, but has now turned his life around after being referred last year to CATCH, a volunteer-led charity in Leeds.

He has taken on a leadership role supporting other young volunteers, becoming a strong team leader at youth club sessions and other activities. George was asked to become an official CATCH Volunteer Activity Assistant. He recorded the highest hours as a young volunteer at CATCH and was crowned CATCH Volunteer Assistant of the Year 2018.

George carried out outreach work to attract more young people off the streets into CATCH and encourages other youngsters to register, particularly those who are harder to engage with.

He said: “I am thrilled to receive this award. It will improve my confidence, looking to the future and it will help me to inspire other young people who may be struggling with their life choices.”


Emily Stevenson, aged 21, nominated by Rotary in the SW Peninsula (Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly)

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Emily Stevenson has a passion for protecting her environment and stopping plastic waste from ending up in beaches, oceans and rivers.

21-year-old “Plastics Warrior” Emily Stevenson is being recognised with a Rotary Young Citizen Award for her mission to end single-use plastic. Emily, who grew up and lives on the north coast of Cornwall, has been picking up plastic from beaches for over half her life. She set up the Beach Guardian project in Cornwall and has also worked with Nissan as part of her beach cleaning campaign.

The former marine biology student from Trevone Bay wants to stop plastic from ending up on beaches worldwide. She has received a letter of thanks from none other than Sir David Attenborough.

Emily attracted international media attention when she wore a dress made from discarded Walkers crisp packets to her graduation ceremony at Plymouth University. Since then, Walkers has pledged that by 2025 they will make all packaging 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.

Nissan, after spending time with Emily and Beach Guardian in 2018, now give all their employees worldwide two days of volunteering time each year as well as offering support to beach cleaning groups worldwide and increasing the recycled plastic content in their vehicles. They also developed a 2-minute film about Beach Guardian’s work.

Emily said: “I am so proud of the work I have done so far, but it is absolutely only just the beginning. With this recognition from Rotary, it only empowers me to work harder for longer to protect the environment against the plight of plastic.”


Sophie Alderton, aged 22, nominated by Thorpe Bay Rotary Club (Essex)

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Sophie Alderton has been volunteering for almost a decade, supporting various groups and causes in her community helping children with disabilities.

Sophie, who’s 22, has been involved in charity work since she was aged 13. She was bullied at secondary school because she had a sister with special needs and that focused her on wanting to make a difference for those less fortunate. She started off by volunteering for Southend Junior Phab Club, a charity helping children with disabilities.

At 17, she was asked to take over another club in Southend called Pholk, to get a group of young adults with disabilities out into the community. Sophie soon realised not only that there wasn’t enough things for people with disabilities to do, but also there wasn’t enough equality in our community. She now runs Pholk, having made it into a registered charity, bringing those with and without disabilities together on equal terms.

As Pholk relies solely on donations to keep it running, Sophie organises at least three fundraising events annually, along with setting herself a new personal sporting challenge each year, including a Triathlon and a 75-mile bike ride.


Charlotte Keane, aged 24, nominated by Clonmel Rotary Club in Ireland

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Charlotte Keane (left) was put forward for this award by her best from Emma Lacey (right).

Charlotte Keane, who was head girl at school, was put forward for the Award by school friend Emma Lacey (right) as “an inspiration to all that come in contact with her”.

Emma says Charlotte has been a loyal best friend standing by her since the age of 17 when her life dramatically changed after an emergency back operation which marked the start of a never-ending ordeal due to two spinal diseases and a brain condition leaving her disabled and bed-ridden. Charlotte helped set up the Emma Lacey Trust to raise funds to provide an accessible downstairs extension for Emma and to cover future medical costs and continues to give her constant support.

Emma said: “Charlotte doesn’t care how sick I am, she always adapts to every situation with incredible compassion and maturity. Life can be lonely being confined to bed but Charlotte always manages to bring the light of the outside world to me with her friendship.”

Clonmel Rotary Club were so impressed by the strong recommendation from Emma, made from her hospital bed, that they had no hesitation in nominating Charlotte for the Award.


Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award

Anastasia Blease, aged 14, nominated by Flint and Holywell Rotary Club

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After taking up wheelchair basketball aged 8, Anastasia has quickly become an integral member of Team GB’s European gold medal winning team.

14-year-old wheelchair basketball player Anastasia Blease from Carmel, near Holywell in Wales, who was born with spina bifida, is fast becoming a sporting hero after returning home with a gold medal from the European Championships in France with Team GB’s Junior Women Under 24s. She is the youngest player currently selected for the squad and only began playing six years ago aged 8, she helped her squad achieve the top podium spot during the games.

Anastasia has played nationally for Wales under 15s team every year since she was 9, winning silver as Vice-Captain for the last two years in the Lord’s Taverners Junior Championships. She will trail this month for Wales under 18s for the first time since ageing out of the under 15s. The schoolgirl, who plays for North Wales Knights, is hoping to one day represent Great Britain in the Paralympics.

She says: “I want to be an inspiration to younger people and I like to show them that they can achieve anything they want.”

The Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award is jointly sponsored by Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland and the UK wheelchair sports charity, WheelPower.


Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award

Coláiste Mhuire Buttevant Peace Advocates nominated by Mallow Rotary Club, Ireland

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After completing the course themselves, Coláiste Mhuire Buttevant pupils are in the process of training their classmates to become fully qualified peace advocates.

A group of Irish pupils, aged 15 and 16, who are peace advocates at Coláiste Mhuire Buttevant school in County Cork, surveyed their school to find out what pupils were concerned about and found issues included online safety, phone/gaming overuse leading to sleep deprivation, anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.

The Peace Advocacy Group raised the issues with the school Principal who organised a workshop with a forensic psychologist doing sessions with students and parents.

The group is now in the process of training all year two students and also their teachers with the aim to have every student in the school trained to be fully qualified peace advocates by 2020. They are organising a Pride Day at the school where students can celebrate their diversity, taking pride in their uniqueness and diverse community.