A nine-year-old who fundraised to help koalas in the Australian wildfires, a man who wheeled four marathons and six half marathons after being diagnosed with a brain tumour and the former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas who revealed he was HIV positive to help break the stigma of the condition are among the winners of the Mayor’s Citizenship Awards 2020.
The awards, organised by Bridgend County Borough Council, recognise the outstanding achievements by local residents who have put their community on the map, or regularly go the extra mile to make a difference.
The Mayor of Bridgend County Borough, Cllr Stuart Baldwin, said:
“The awards ceremony had been due to take place in March but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“However, we want to announce the winners now as it’s important to recognise the work that goes on in the community all year around.
“The last 12 months has been an incredible time for acts of kindness, bravery and phenomenal achievements.
“We look forward to holding a celebration event for our winners when it is safe to do so.”
This year the youngest award winner is seven-year old Amira Barry, from Maesteg, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in July 2018.
Amira who has been supported throughout her treatment by the Welsh children’s cancer charity, LATCH, was so determined to help the charity support others in similar situations that, together with her friends and family, she has helped raise more than £15,000 for them. She also recently became LATCH’s youngest ever ambassador.
In total there are 13 winners of the Mayor’s Citizenship Awards 2020.
Simon Green who is chairman of the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People is among the winners, being recognised for the help he has given to local residents as well as his incredible fundraising activities.
In April 2018 Simon was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given six months to live but following an operation he has not only recovered but also undertaken four marathons, six half-marathons and twenty-two 10km races in his wheelchair, raising thousands of pounds for local causes.
In 2019, he also won gold and bronze medals at the UK Para Dance Championships and gold at the British Open Championships, having first got involved to help a local resident fulfil her dreams of learning to dance.
Meanwhile in his role with the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, he is highly regarded, raising awareness on many issues affecting disabled people both in Bridgend and across the UK, campaigning for better accessibility and inclusion in communities, and helping support people with benefits forms and appeals.
The former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas who is from Bridgend has won a mayor’s award for his courageousness and his role in raising awareness – last year he revealed he was HIV positive last year to help break the stigma of the condition.
Furthermore, following a hate crime attack in Cardiff city centre where he was attacked due to his sexuality, the former Wales captain, also known as Alfie, chose restorative justice with the people who did it, meeting those involved because he wanted to spread a positive message.
Restorative justice brings those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to enter a dialogue.
Among the other winners of the 2020 Mayor’s Awards are Oliver Davies, a 14-year-old at Bryntirion Comprehensive School, who has worked hard to raise awareness of young carers not only in his school but also in the wider community and across Wales.
A member of the Welsh Youth Parliament, Oliver has taken part in consultations with Assembly Members and other young carers to help shape future policy. He is the young carer representative on his school council, a member of the Welsh Youth Care Council and is a mentor to younger carers.
At home Oliver helps out with household chores and cares for his sister while his mum looks after his younger brother who has complex additional needs.
The Young Carers at Pencoed Comprehensive School have also won an award, having produced a video for YouTube to raise awareness of what it means to be a young carer. The group of children, aged 11 to 16, care for a parent or sibling on a daily basis.
As well as having an input into young carers’ days and wellbeing lessons, they have organised cake sales and raised money to have a day out at a local theme park. Whereas once being a young carer would have been a stigma, these children have now earned the respect of their peers, to such an extent, they are now designing a hoodie to wear to show how they are proud to be a carer.
In Porthcawl, Keith Duggan has been running the stroke club for 20 years while his wife Mary, has been involved for the last six years.
The couple organise talks, singers, demonstrations and quizzes as well as trips.
Those who attend it say the group feels more like a family and has helped to transform their lives receiving help and support.
Shirley Humphreys who nominated the couple said: “Without Keith and Mary Duggan we wouldn’t have such a wonderful group, I always say they saved us when we moved to the area a few years after my husband’s stroke.
“The best way to say ‘thank you’ and ‘we love you’ is to nominate them for this award.”
Meanwhile in the Ogmore Valley, Scott Harris has won an award, being the coach at Valley Footie Pups. Scott set up the club which runs at weekends for two to six-year-olds. Its ethos is around developing the skills, ability and confidence among the young players.
In Bridgend, 14-year-old Isabella Evans has won an award for raising awareness of the Makaton sign language. Isabella who has a younger brother with Downs syndrome taught herself Makaton Sign language in order to communicate with him.
Seeing the effect it had on her brother, Isabella decided to document her progress on social media – she currently has over 100,000 followers. Last year she also launched a petition calling on the Welsh Government to consider the teaching of sign language in all schools.
And, earlier this year, the devastating wildfires in Australia received widespread news coverage prompting one nine-year-old Oldcastle Primary School pupil to ask herself what she could do to help.
Writing a heartfelt letter to her headteacher, Niamh Mackleworth asked if the school could hold a non-uniform day with pupils wearing the Australian national colours of green and gold, and fundraise to help the animals affected by the fires.
Raising awareness of the wildfires and explaining how the school could help, she gave a presentation to the whole school during an assembly, later going onto give a talk to students at Cynffig Comprehensive School about the issue.
As part of her letter to the school headteacher Niamh wrote a poem: ‘The fires are burning forests, as far as the eye can see. I would like to at least do something, would you help raise money with me!’
The Leader, Cllr Huw David, said:
“We are very proud of all our award winners, it’s wonderful to celebrate the outstanding contributions of so many inspiring local residents of all ages.
“We’re looking forward to holding our awards ceremony as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
The full list of the 2020 Mayor’s Citizenship Award winners:
Amira Barry – Amira has become the youngest ever ambassador for the Welsh children’s cancer charity, LATCH, and raised thousands of pounds for the charity.
Simon Green – As chairman of the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, Simon is being recognised for the help he has given to local residents as well as his outstanding fundraising efforts.
Gareth Thomas – The former Wales rugby captain has campaigned tirelessly to include homophobic abuse in the 1991 Football Offences Act. In 2018 he was the victim of a hate crime in Cardiff city centre, later meeting the 16-year-old boy through restorative justice. Last year he revealed he was HIV positive to help break the stigma of the condition.
Niamh Mackleworth – Nine-year-old Niamh saw the Australian wildfires and took action, writing a letter to her headteacher asking if her school could have a non-school uniform day and raise money for the people and animals affected. She gave a talk in front of the school and also went into a nearby comprehensive school to raise awareness of the devastating fires.
Oliver Davies – Fourteen-year-old Oliver has worked hard to raise awareness of young carers not only in his school but also in the wider community and across Wales.
Chris Leyshon – Chris has helped raise tens of thousands of pounds for charity by climbing to Everest base camp and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as well as organising fundraising bike rides and walks. He is the founder of the Big Walk, a charity walk from the Principality Stadium to Kenfig Hill Rugby Club as well as the Five Valleys Sportive which both raise funds for Prostate Cymru. Meanwhile he completed the climb of Mount Kilimanjaro and Everest base camp to raise funds for the Welsh children’s cancer charity LATCH.
Mark Parry – Since retiring 15 years ago, Mark Parry has picked up litter around his village, North Cornelly, on a daily basis, keeping the streets clean and tidy for everyone.
Scott Harris is a coach at Valley Footie Pups in the Ogmore Valley. Scott set up the club which runs at weekends for two to six-year-olds. Its ethos is around developing the skills, ability and confidence among the young players.
Allan Peet – Allan has been a volunteer for SSAFA Armed Forces for nine years, often being the first point of contact when a veteran is in need. In bidding for various grants, he has helped secure tens of thousands of pounds for the charity. He also helped to secure funding for the Royal British Legion and the Motivation and Learning Trust, and organises various battlefield tours overseas for students.
Fiona Burlingham – as chairman of the Westward Community Centre in Bridgend, Fiona oversees the running of the centre, opening it at all hours for dozens of wellbeing services and activities, and ensuring the building is well-maintained and sustainable.
Pencoed Comprehensive School Young Carers – the group who have an input into young carers’ days and wellbeing lessons, have produced a video for YouTube to raise awareness of what it means to be a young carer. The group of children, aged 11 to 16, care for a parent or sibling on a daily basis.
Keith and Mary Duggan – Keith Duggan has been running the stroke club in Porthcawl for 20 years while his wife Mary, has been involved for the last six years. The couple organise talks, singers, demonstrations and quizzes as well as trips.
Isabella Evans – 14-year-old Isabella, from Bridgend, taught herself Makaton Sign language in order to communicate with her younger brother who has Downs syndrome. Seeing the effect it had on her brother, she now teaches people sign language on YouTube. Last year she also launched a petition calling on the Welsh Government to consider the teaching of sign language in all schools.