YCW leaders and other young people from all over the country gathered together last month to celebrate their achievements at the “Million Minutes” awards night.
The ceremony saw hundreds of young people, youth workers and teachers, family and friends gathered in London to celebrate the inspirational lives of so many young people. The 2019 Celebrating Young People Awards, hosted by Million Minutes and with guest of honour Cardinal Vincent Nichols, highlighted some of the amazing young people across England and Wales who are transforming lives in their local communities.
There is a special Joseph Cardijn Award for those young people who protect the dignity of workers. This year there were plenty of worthy nominations and winners, including St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School in Newham who successfully managed to convince London City Airport through song to raise the wages of 100 workers. The group’s song, titled “Realise”, and its message has been supported by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The group were inspired to take up the cause as their school community is directly affected by low-wages, with many parents working 2-3 jobs. The Airport is also the largest employer in the area, with 60% of its staff living in its vicinity. The school successfully negotiated with the Airport to become a London Living Wage employer in March 2019.
Their teacher said “As students at a Catholic school, the children are encouraged to put their faith into practice by engaging with the community and serving in whatever capacity they are able to. Working with Newham Citizens and the Living Wage foundation, the group have been able to represent many members of their school and parish community, give testimony on the experiences of low income earners and be the voice of those who are not able to speak for themselves. By looking to Jesus' example, dedicating his life of servitude, our students have been generous with their time and energy.”
Fellow winner - Daisy Alston-Horne - an 18-years-old from Prior Park College made an immediate impact on the community by her commitment to speak out for justice and her ability to inspire others. She dedicates herself to the dignity of other students - and primary children - acting as a peer listener, as a member of the student council and by engaging in in the local Youth Parliament. Daisy has said that growing up in South Africa meant there was no choice about being politically interested.
As an example, she has led the ‘Bus Campaign’ fighting for raise the age of child bus fares to 18 - ensuring that all can afford to travel, especially for work, and that the rights of her fellow students are recognised. She has advocated to leaders in this field and has contributed to British Youth Council to push forward this motion. She has also spoken to students at Prior Park and other local schools about the importance of youth participation.
There were also awards in other categories for YCW leaders and companions, including Dawn Wilkinson who has committed every Sunday for the last 16 years to the St Monica’s Impact Group in Flixton, Manchester. Through her time with the YCW she has helped enable hundreds of young people from the primary school to stay connected to the parish and to their primary friends, as well as walk a journey of faith and action together. The first generation of this young group are now well into their twenties and still think fondly of their time in the group.
As well as accompanying the young people Dawn has been an active member of St Monica’s parish. She established a mother and toddler group which she ran for over 10 years, accompanying young families and helping them to feel fully welcome and part of the parish community. She has been part of the parish forum group which has reached out to parishioners in the local area, visiting them at home and inviting them to church events. She also helped her parish to become the first community to sponsor a family to come from Syria and settle in the UK.
Others who were “highly commended” also had an opportunity to be celebrated at the event. Another YCW/IMPACT group was in this category - Guardian Angels Impact group in Bury. They responded to their local bishop, John Arnold’s invitation to all parishes asking them to think about our world in light of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. The Group took their first step towards answering the call by creating a "Bugingham Palace Hotel" for creepy crawlies and a new wildlife-friendly garden space within the parish.
The local councillor and MP came to open the new Bugingham Palace Hotel. Following this, the group have been going for about a year and having made a great start they plan to do more. Their Parish Priest - Fr Paul Cannon said, “The group is over the moon to be commended for their project. I believe it will enhance their work for the local community and give them a sense of achievement for the great work they are doing caring for the environment.”
President of the YCW, Marc Besford, who helped to present some of the awards on the night, said: “It was fantastic to be able to celebrate all the amazing young people who work to make our world a better place. They are an inspiration. And can I also thank all the team at Million Minutes for their hard work in putting this event on and for supporting our work at the YCW.”