A group of Sunderland youngsters who gave up their time to help bring some festive cheer to the city’s homeless have been honoured at the North East Prince’s Trust awards.
The seven-strong Marley Park Team 5 spent two days with residents at Swan Lodge last winter, helping lift their spirits in the run-up to Christmas.
The group - John Anderson, 25, Zak Craig, 16, Louis Escudie, 19, Nathan Ferguson, 19, Amber Nundy, 20, Amber Robson, 21, and Catherine Ward, 25 - were presented with the Dell EMC Community Impact award at a special ceremony.
Team member Nathan said: "It was winter and they’d been quite a lot of snow, so we wanted to do something that would lift the spirits of some of our city’s most vulnerable people.
"Swan Lodge is a homeless hostel in Sunderland. It’s run by the Salvation Army and helps homeless people get their lives back on track.
“It struck a chord with us because we were trying to improve our lives too."
Amber said: "We wanted to make them feel special, so we got hold of some toy donations, prepared three different quizzes with chocolates as prizes, and booked in two days to spend with them."
Catherine said: "I was worried about meeting homeless people – I think most of us were – but they were just like you and me.
“The snow gave us something to talk about initially, but then they just started telling us about their lives.
"They were just normal people who had fallen on tough times for various reasons. It was humbling and helped put our own problems into perspective."
Zak, the youngest member of the group, added: "We got a lot out of our time at Swan Lodge.
“Us visiting meant a lot to the people there, and that felt good. It also made me more determined to straighten my life out, and now I’m hoping to get on a course to study counselling."
The majority of the group have now gone on to access further education, voluntary work, training or employment.
Dayne Turbitt, Senior Vice President at Dell EMC, said: "I am proud to congratulate Marley Park Team 5 on winning the Community Impact Award.
“They have demonstrated how, by working together, they can make a positive difference to their community whilst also learning new skills themselves. Well done to a thoroughly deserving team!"
To find out more about the Prince’s Trust, visit its website HERE.