BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment email@example.com
LONDON, England — Jamaica has been lauded for having two of its young citizens selected earlier this year as recipients of the Diana Award, the first non-British nationals to be so honoured.
The award, created in honour of the late Princess of Wales to recognise young persons with a spirit of volunteerism or those who have excelled despite adversities, started in Britain in 1999 and has since been given to 36,000 British youth, with the first Jamaican recipients being Alex Newman and Chrislyn Winter of the not-for-profit organisation, Rise Life Management.
Project director for the award programme, Tessy Ojo, on Monday praised Jamaica for being the first international country to receive the award since it was opened up last year to recipients outside of Britain.
"Jamaica is fast at everything and this is why they have seen the vision quicker than other countries," Ojo said.
Daughter of Jamaican music icon Mikey Dread, Dionne Campbell, who was the second recipient of the award 12 years ago for work done throughout her London community, also expressed delight that Jamaicans are the first international recipients.
"It makes me proud that Jamaica is the first country to take up the award because there are so many positive things being done by Jamaicans," she said.
Campbell was given the award at age 16 for a campaign she started against sexual harassment of women.
"I wanted females to be empowered and so I put together a DVD and went around to schools talking to kids," she told the Jamaica Observer, adding that she was surprised to later discover that she was nominated for the award by a teacher.
"It was really nice to be recognised as it is usually the negative things which are highlighted," she said.
The 29-year-old, who was nominated to be a torch-bearer in the just-concluded Olympic Games, credited this foundation with influencing her career choice.
Now a senior commissioner with the British Government, Campbell is responsible for writing policies to reduce sexual exploitation and teenage pregnancy.
The Diana Award is given to young people between the ages of nine and 18 years who have made outstanding and selfless contributions to their community, made a contribution that is over and above what is usually expected of their age group, shown exceptional personal qualities and skills and who act as positive role models.
The two Jamaican awardees received scholarships to pursue studies at the University of Technology (UTech), courtesy of the Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) and its UK-based subsidiary Victoria Mutual Finance (VMF).
"We consider it a great partnership for UTech to collaborate with the Diana Award as both institutions are in the business of developing young people, bringing out the best in them and creating opportunities for them," said Dr Colin Gyles, dean of the Faculty of Science and Sport at UTech.
Gyles told the Jamaica Observer that the link was first made when the Diana Award committee sought an international ambassador and the university was able to connect them with Jamaican Olympian Asafa Powell, a graduate of the university who still trains at the institution.
"Powell was selected as an appropriate ambassador based on achievement and profile and hence the partnership began," he said.
At the same time, Jackie Knight-Campbell, project director for UTech's Road to Olympic Glory Legacy Programmes, said the university has established a relationship with the Diana Trust as part of its Olympic legacy initiative.
Knight-Campbell said VMF and VMBS have been strategic partners who have supported the university in various initiatives, such as $1.2-million worth of scholarships to finance the university's legacy programme to assist young people in developing their sporting talents. The financial institutions also enabled UTech to participate in various activities in London during the Olympic Games.