Social enterprise founder is named Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year

Robin Lockhart, the founder of a social enterprise which supports at-risk teenagers and young adults through music and sport, has been named Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year.

ytwThe Briton, who was born in Zambia, received the accolade at the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards. He was one of five outstanding youth workers recognised in today’s awards, which this year celebrate those using sport and the creative arts to inspire and support young people.

The director of Catalyst In Communities, a social enterprise based in east London, works with football clubs, musicians and other artists to help young people reject crime and abusive relationships and aspire for a better future.

On receiving his award, he appealed for greater investment in youth work as a means of supporting young people and addressing divisions in society: “It is an honour to receive an award such as this,” he said. “Youth work for me is investing in the future. Nobody goes into this field of work for awards, we do it because we’re passionate and we care.”

Mr Lockhart drew parallels between his profession and the Commonwealth, saying: “We are in a time when we need more unity. Communality and respect for others runs through all youth work – and the Commonwealth seems to have that at its heart,” he said.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who presented the awards at a ceremony on Thursday 10 November at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters, Marlborough House, in London, stated:

“I salute the hugely impressive recipients of these 2016 Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards. They represent thousands of youth workers across the Commonwealth whose work to empower and engage our young people too often goes unsung and unrecognised. It is of immense and enduring value in building resilient communities and overcoming the economic and social divisions that create vulnerability – locally, national and globally.”

“Through these annual awards, the Commonwealth seeks progressively to raise the profile of the youth work profession, a sector which makes a real difference to individual and national wellbeing. Let the commitment and impact of the youth workers we are recognising be an inspiration to policy-makers, peers and young people everywhere.”

The Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards were announced during Youth Work Week 2016, which runs from 7-13 November. The theme of the week this year is ‘Empowering young people through sport and arts’, acknowledging the creative and innovative techniques employed by youth workers to deliver effective youth empowerment programmes.

During the ceremony, regional awards were presented for:

Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year for Africa

Eric Nehemiah (Kenya), the co-founder of Mathare Foundation, which has supported over 100 young people in Kenyan slums to channel their talents through providing training in photography and art.

Mr Nehemiah said: “Society depends on young people, so if young people do not get a good foundation then our society will be in a mess. Being recognised as the overall winner for the Africa region is not something I take for granted – it’s not about me, however, it’s about the other 60 young people that I represent. With or without recognition, we as youth workers should keep on pushing.”

Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year for Asia

Suleman Arshad (Pakistan), the founder and president of Pakistan Para Climbing Club, the first club of its kind in that country. As a visually impaired athlete, he works to promote inclusive sports empowerment programmes.

Mr Arshad said: “For those young people who did not had any sports opportunities, this club has not only empowered them but also provides them with opportunities which they did not had before, demolishing their negative image and creating a positive impact on society. This award proves that I am doing something good. I feel very encouraged and I believe that this will tremendously improve my work. For me it will remove hurdles and will also help me in achieving my milestones.”

Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year for Europe and Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year

Robin Lockhart (United Kingdom), director of Catalyst In Communities, a social enterprise with programmes which use sport, music and the arts to engage young people to reject crime and abusive relationships. The organisation supports around a thousand young people a year, working with football clubs, musicians and other creative professionals.

Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year for the Caribbean and Americas

Manuela Lue (Belize), director of the Energy for Life programme, which mentors and tutors under-privileged Belizean youth in handicraft production, connecting them with their culture and enabling them to earn a living.

Ms Lue said: “Youth workers do an extremely important job which is moulding the minds and shaping the hearts of all these young people. It is very important as there’s a lot of work that goes into making these young people productive and responsible citizens. I hope to go back with more ideas about how to grow the programme and how to make it bigger and better.”

Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year for the Pacific

Joshua Savieti (Tonga) is the co-founder of ICON Creative Tonga, an NGO which uses dance and music to engage disaffected youth and promote the development of their leadership and artistic skills.

Mr Savieti said: “To get the call and be recognised as a youth worker was a massive deal for me. I know it’s given the youth leaders I’ve been working with a sense of purpose, because looking through their eyes we don’t get recognised for a lot of the work we do. To get a little bit of recognition means the world to us. It gives us that passion and drive to continue forward.”

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