Lanai Collis-Phillips, 19, who is helping protect young people in her community with her youth social action and volunteering work has won a Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Young Citizen Award.
Lanai has been volunteering for over five years at the nationwide charity Volunteering Matters. Within that organisation, she is involved in Women Against Sexual Exploitation and Violence Speak Up (WASSUP), to raise awareness of domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual violence.
She has helped deliver “Gang Grooming” workshops to more than 1,500 schoolchildren in Suffolk and was part of the presenting team for Crucial Crew showing children how to protect themselves and others. She is the first young person in Suffolk to become a representative on the local safeguarding board.
In 2019, Lanai became an #iwill UK Ambassador for Youth Social Action. Lanai has chaired a number of high level #iwill campaign meetings in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and chaired a discussion panel on growing up black in rural areas.
During the pandemic, she spent four months as a full-time carer for her 92-year-old grandmother in Croydon while still being a volunteer doing everything virtually in Suffolk.
She was a research assistant at the University of Suffolk looking into the impact of COVID-19 on young people in Suffolk. She has just started a children’s nursing degree at Birmingham City University.
Social action for me, it’s kind of a step up from volunteering in the sense that it’s so essential that whatever we’re doing makes direct change in some way.”
Ipswich Wolsey Rotary was so impressed by Lanai that they nominated her for a Rotary Young Citizen Award 2021. Their involvement with Lanai began when she was sponsored by the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner to attend the District Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) event in 2019 and was mentored by the Wolsey Club.
Lanai said: “Social action for me, it’s kind of a step up from volunteering in the sense that it’s so essential that whatever we’re doing makes a direct change in some way. And so for me, I have been able to have a platform. And I feel this duty and responsibility that I have to use that to raise others’ voices that don’t yet have the opportunity. And I won’t stop until every young person is able to be heard in whatever way they would like.”
She added: “My family are Ghanaian and Irish. And, so I think being part of the black community has definitely influenced a lot of what I do because we face a lot of oppression and I have myself in my life. And so I feel it’s really important that I am able to make sure as well that, young people, especially young black people, don’t have to experience things I’ve experienced and my family have and our community have.”
Lanai was presented with her Award at a Virtual Rotary Young Citizen Awards Ceremony hosted by BBC TV Presenter Ellie Crisell on Saturday. She received a trophy and certificate and £300 to go to her chosen charity or project from Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland.
The President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Tom Griffin said: “What better way for awareness of domestic abuse and sexual violence to be raised among young people, than by a young person themselves? Lanai’s commitment over the years is an example of young people themselves addressing serious issues which affect them.”