A YOUNG woman from Henllan has received a UK-wide award for her work with the NSPCC in helping vulnerable young people.

Naomi Lea, 19, from Henllan, was awarded the NSPCC’s Outstanding Young Volunteer of the Year award at the charity’s Childhood Champion Awards at Banking Hall, London when.

Naomi, a former Ysgol Glan Clwyd pupil currently studying at the University of Cardiff, has been volunteering for the NSPCC’s Participation Unit as a Young Ambassador for three years, a role that has led her to become involved in social media campaign work, interviewing senior staff and trustees, helping to design NSPCC campaigns, as well representing the views of young people at NSPCC speaker events for issues such as online safety, domestic violence and mental health.

Naomi, who previously won the NSPCC’s Wales Outstanding Volunteer of the Year in April, said: “This has come as a complete shock to me and was a really lovely surprise, I am truly honoured. I don't do any of this to receive recognition, I do it to make a difference.

“In my eyes anyone who volunteers is incredible. I'm constantly inspired by everyone at Childline, the Participation Unit and in other organisations I volunteer with.”

Naomi had struggled with mental health issues when she was younger, an experience that led to her becoming an ambassador for young people. Naomi said: “When I was around 14-years-old I began really struggling with anxiety and panic attacks to the point where I turned to self-harm as a way of coping and was struggling to stay in lessons in school.

“From here I became really passionate about young people and their wellbeing and it just so happened it was the NSPCC was running its Participation Unit and so I took it.”

Naomi is also a weekly Childline counsellor at the charity’s Prestatyn and Cardiff bases, speaking with young people on a one-to-one basis to support them with any issues they are facing, such as bullying, abuse, mental health and suicide, work that has also contributed her award.

Speaking about her work with Childline, Naomi said: “I'd used Childline when I was really struggling and really wanted to give back for how much they had changed my life being the first people I ever spoke to about what I was going through.

“I became more and more involved and the more I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and challenged my anxiety the more I found myself doing, taking every opportunity that came my way.

“Volunteering truly changed the course of my life and I'm forever thankful to those who supported me and pushed me to challenge myself to build my confidence back up.”

Liane Smith, head of volunteering at the NSPCC, said at the event: “We have around 11,000 volunteers across the NSPCC – incredible people who are committed to sharing their passion, skills and time.

“Without all of our amazing volunteers we simply wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do for children and we’re thankful for what each and every single one of them is able to give.”

The event also featured presentations by Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline; and Mark Wood, chairman of the NSPCC.

Speaking on what people can do locally, Naomi said: “I think living in quite a rural area the sense of community is really important but it's okay to push beyond those boundaries. We are all capable of creating a change locally and nationally and so if there's something you're passionate about doing or helping with then grab the opportunity and go for it.

“Volunteering truly changed my life and I really do believe that all young people should have the opportunity to take part in some for of social action. It has so many benefits in making friends, gaining skills but also for our mental health and wellbeing.”

There are many ways to support the work of the NSPCC – for example by volunteering to help teach children about the signs of abuse through the Speak Out Stay Safe service, volunteering for Childline or taking part in an NSPCC event.

To find out more visit www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do