Heroines and Heroes

Jonathan Brooks-Jones highlights some of the finalists in this year’s Inspire programme

At a glittering ceremony in Cardiff’s City Hall this evening we’ll be naming the winners of this year’s IWA Inspire Wales Awards. All the finalists can be seen on our website here. Each year, in association with the Western Mail, the IWA recognises the enterprising spirit of Wales’ unsung heroes.

One of the finalists in this year’s Young Achiever category, sponsored by Wales & West Utilities, is 18-year-old Tegan Morgan, whose voluntary work encourages young people in her home county of Torfaen to practice safe sex. This kind of peer-led advice avoids the feeling of being patronised by ‘controlling’ adults, and helps empower young people to feel they are making decisions for themselves.

Inspire Wales Awards 2011

The awards ceremony will be held tonight at Cardiff City Hall, hosted by Angharad Mair and with entertainment from the award-winning Only Men Aloud. Tomorrow we will reveal the winners for each category.

Finalists in the Environmentalist category, which is sponsored by Viridor, have brought thousands of environmental projects to over a thousand community groups in the last three years, and helped save three million tonnes of CO2 – 10% of the Governments’ target for emissions in 2010.

The Global Wales category, sponsored by the University of Wales, aims to recognise those who promote Wales to the world. Among the finalists this year are people who have set up online resources for Welsh-language learners. Another finalist has led a project to twin Welsh and Peruvian communities as part of a tree planting conservation project.

The Citizen’s Voice category, which is sponsored by Working Links Wales, rewards champions of citizenship. The finalists have overcome numerous challenges to help members of society facing difficult circumstances. For example, one has set up an Advocacy Group providing support for women fleeing human rights abuses and threats of deportation. Another has used her experiences of homelessness to advise school-children on how to avoid it and live independently.

The Sport category, sponsored by Sport Wales, recognises those who are making an impact on Wales’ sporting culture – the coaches, sportsmen and women, and club chairmen who are going the extra length to keep Welsh sport moving forward. One of this year’s finalists has worked tirelessly to break down barriers preventing ethnic minority groups in Swansea and Cardiff from getting involved in football, which led to the establishment of a South Wales multicultural football league.

Among the finalists in the Educator category, again sponsored by the University of Wales, are individuals who have made it their business to provide hands-on education outside the classroom, whether it’s curriculum-based at the Darwin Centre in Haverfordwest, or professional advice in the form of the high-profile ‘Real Apprentice’, which is due to be rolled out across the UK.

The Arts, Media & Creative Industries category, sponsored by Orchard, recognises those who have worked hard to project Wales’s culture and arts to the world. Finalists include the founding member of the independent publisher, Parthian books, who has brought the work of Welsh authors to an international audience, translating books into nine languages. Another finalist in this category is founding chair of National Theatre Wales, which has garnered unprecedented national and international attention in it’s first year.

The Science and Technology category, sponsored by University of Wales, rewards those in Wales who have made a difference to the global scientific and technological community. One of the finalists is credited with an invention which has been utilized in hundreds of millions of tests worldwide, bringing £20 million to Wales in patent royalties. Another finalist has developed refrigeration technology  which will help billions of people in remote places with little or no electricity.

The Business Leader category, sponsored by Leadership & Management Wales, rewards those who have made strong efforts to drive the economy whilst also driving innovation in the private sector. One of the finalists in this category took his military background to install organizational discipline and transform a previously demotivated company into a united one with real team spirit, and with highest profits it had seen in 40 years.

Finally, the Welsh at Work categories, for large and small businesses, both sponsored by CAD Centre, rewards businesses in Wales who have taken substantial steps to use the Welsh language, and offer a Welsh-language service to their customers. Among the finalists in this category are South Caernarfon Creameries, 90 per cent of whose 150 staff are Welsh-speakers. Another finalist is Carmarthenshire County Council, which has been offering Welsh language services for years, and contact centre staff speak Welsh and wear ‘happy to speak Welsh’ badges. They also provide courses for staff wanting to brush up on their Welsh, making learning Welsh as accessible as possible.

While there can only be one winner per category, all the finalists have made outstanding contributions to Welsh civil society, and for that we congratulate them all.

Jonathan Brooks-Jones is sub-editor for ClickonWales.org

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