Charlie from Murrow picks up junior Cambridgeshire Young Person of the Year award at prestigious ceremony

Charlie Calvert.
Charlie Calvert.

Leader of Wisbech Police Cadets, Charlie Calvert, has been recognised at a prestigious awards ceremony designed to celebrate young people.

Teenager Charlie Calvert, 15, from Murrow, together with Lucy Stafford, from Cambridge, were the big winners at a glittering awards evening.

But they were just two of the five fantastic finalists from the county to be honoured at the Lifeplus Young People of the Year awards ceremony or ‘the YOPEYs’ – Oscars for young people who give to others.

Held in the awe-inspiring surroundings of the Old Divinity School, in Cambridge, and hosted by young people from the city’s Long Road Sixth Form College, it was a night to remember for the five plus their family and friends among a crowd of 200 people, including many civic dignitaries, who came along to give moral support.

Charlie is a member of the Cambridgeshire Volunteer Police Cadets. When he was only 13 and the youngest member of the Wisbech unit he was voted head cadet by the older members.

He has led the 23-strong unit for two years. Despite his youth his leadership is marked out by its subtlety and support for others.

He shows similar compassionate leadership at his school, Neale Wade Academy, in March.

He has raised money for police cadets through a sponsored night in the cells at Wisbech police station, put on a summer camp at his parents’ smallholding and is now helping to induct new recruits as well as supporting a second unit of disabled police cadets.

The cadets also visited an old folk’s day centre and Charlie was the bingo caller, even though he has never played bingo in his life. The unit is now working with the charity MIND to put on a ‘Day in the Past’ event for elderly people with dementia.

At school Charlie is head of the Diana Anti-Bullying Group which supports students affected by bullying, is a member of H-2-L which stands for Here To Learn, and encourages other students to overcome issues that are affecting their ability to learn.

Charlie was presented with the junior Cambridgeshire Young Person of the Year award by Richard Pemberton, the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire.

Richard was one of nearly 50 judges, including mayors and MPs and young people who have taken part in past YOPEYs. The High Sheriff said on behalf of the judges that Charlie ““has shown exceptional leadership skills for his age and has used these so wonderfully to provide opportunities for others. I suspect this is the first of many such leadership roles in his life. A really impressive young man!”.

Charlie said he loves working with the police. “It gives me a sense of pride that I am helping the community. I enjoy all of the extra experiences. I have learnt to work with new people. It gives me huge amounts of confidence.

He was excited about winning the £300 award. “I am honestly shocked that I have won it but the good skills I have obtained with the cadets has helped me through and that’s helped me a great deal.

“I feel really honoured and proud to have picked up the award and it has been an amazing experience coming to these awards and I will carry on doing my volunteering and enjoy myself,” he said.

Seventeen-year-old Lucy, from Hills Road, Cambridge, won the Cambridgeshire Senior YOPEY award. Lucy, who has major health challenges, is helping other young people cope with long stays in hospital and particularly the “in-betweeners” – the young people too old for children’s wards, and too young for adult wards.

She creates ‘Hospital Love Bundles’ – goodie bags filled with essentials, like slipper socks, and little luxuries like chocolate bars.

Despite being on an antibiotic drip, fighting a serious infection and being fed through a tube, Lucy keeps her spirits up by keeping other young patients’ spirits up.

The teenager set up a website to publicise the scheme and appealed for funding and invited nominations and requests for Love Bundles to be sent to recipients.

Lucy has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome or EDS which she has suffered from birth. It causes her digestive tract to fail and she has to be fed via a tube to her intestine and suffers dislocations of her joints most days.

But even when she has been hooked up to tubes in a hospital room, Lucy has continued her school studies. At the same time she has also been masterminding her Love Bundles which were inspired by her own stays in hospital.

Lucy was presented with her prize by Tracy McBride, International Marketing Director of one of the sponsors, Lifeplus, a vitamin supplements company based in St Neots.

After receiving the £500 prize, Lucy said: “I am so honoured, shocked, amazed and excited to receive the award and it’s fantastic to see so many young people doing great things.

“It’s difficult to put into words but it inspires me to do more and expand the project a bit more and reach more young people.

“I will put the money from the award towards the Love Bundles.”

Lucy said she was hoping to take up a career in medicine when she leaves school after having to shelve her hopes of becoming a doctor because of her illness for perhaps a medical research role.

The three other shortlisted finalists were Sophie Frear, 16, from Chatteris, who is a self-taught musician who helps her pupils and the community; Darrius Pearson, 16, from Peterborough, who is autistic but leads the form of children with special needs at his mainstream school, Nene Park Academy; and Jessica Nix, 19, from Huntingdon, who is a young carer and a stalwart volunteer at the Fusion youth club in the town.

Sophie said: “It’s a big thrill to be part of the awards and I have loved it and I have been telling everyone that I have been shortlisted which is a great honour.”

And the teenager added that the awards ceremony inspired her. “The event reminds you why you are doing these things. The other stories also inspire me to do more.”

During the evening Tony Gearing, who founded YOPEY in 2004 and was awarded the MBE by the Queen this year, said that it could be the final year of the county-based awards.

He said: “But it is not the end of YOPEY. Moving forward I want to focus on growing YOPEY Befriender as I want to use the army of young people I have recruited through YOPEY to end the loneliness of the elderly.”

YOPEY Befrienders are young people who volunteer to befriend lonely elderly people and are trained and supported by YOPEY to visit elderly people with dementia in care homes.

“I am still happy to put on Young People of the Year awards but they will be for whole region rather than counties. I hope to launch an East of England YOPEY.”