Soroptimist International ‘Young Woman in the Community Award’ awarded to Harrogate Grammar School student.
Soroptimist International is a global women’s charity that aims to improve women’s lives through schemes of social and economic empowerment.
There are almost 80,000 Soroptimist members in over 120 countries worldwide, including a local branch in Harrogate. The name of the organisation, Soroptimist, means ‘best for women’, which is the idea behind the huge organisation: ‘women at their best, working to help other women to be their best.’
Ellen Young, a year 12 student from Harrogate Grammar School, was nominated and won Soroptimist International of Harrogate & District Young Woman in the Community Award for charity work that she has done in the local area and for roles she has taken on to help global projects.
In 2014, Ellen established Harrogate Grammar School’s Food Bank, which to date has collected over one tonne of food for local homeless and vulnerable people and works in conjunction with the local Trussell Trust Food Bank, an organisation that works tirelessly to help people in need put food on their table. On the last day of each half term, Ellen organises a food bank drive where 100-150kg of food is collected with considerably more at Christmas time. In the emails sent home to alert parents Ellen states that ‘if each student can bring in one item, together we can collect 2000 items’ which receives an overwhelming response on collection days.
In 2014, Ellen also established a local climbing group, Harrogate Climbing Team, which now has 35 team members ranging in age from 15 to 45. Ellen has been climbing for around 5 years and has previously competed regionally and nationally. However, one thing that struck Ellen was the fact that many climbers find it difficult to meet like-minded people to climb with and are not aware of how to go about competing or organising climbing meets. Consequently, Harrogate Climbing Team was born!
The group meet once a month for a climbing session and Ellen says, “it is fantastic to see people around the local climbing centre exercising together after having established great friendships.” With the climbing team in 2015, Ellen organised a sponsored climbing challenge in response to the Nepal Earthquake. This consisted of the team completing 1000 routes over the course of a day, more than the height of Mount Everest, and Ellen personally contributed 100 routes! Local people and climbers received this challenge very kindly, raising over £1100 for the Disasters Emergency Committee with the money going towards helping the Nepalese people rebuild their homes, infrastructure and towards healthcare professionals responding to the crisis.
Other work that Ellen was commended for included a bucket collection that was organised in school in response to the Refugee Crisis for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which collected around £900. Her work with Harrogate Grammar Schools Charities Committee for the past 2 years which has helped organise many fundraising events and also local roles such as volunteering at Harrogate Hospital, a local care home and weekly paired reading tutoring.
Ellen has always been brought up with the belief that if you can help, you should help. It really is as simple as that: Ellen is lucky enough to be in a position whereby she can help others by giving time, there are many others who are not as fortunate. Small efforts cumulate over time and have great knock on effects for others; those receiving food at the Food Bank or those fleeing conflict who have been rescued from the Mediterranean by the MSF rescue ships.
Ellen says, “To know that other people have food on the table from coordinating the Food Bank project at school sometimes feels unreal and is the ultimate feeling of satisfaction and gratitude, knowing my efforts have made a difference to improving the life of someone else. Winning this award, to me feels like a hug from the people receiving food at the Food Bank and a warm handshake from those in Nepal. It feels like a big well done from Soroptimist women all around the world and a message of gratitude from all those affected by my efforts and those who have helped me in my projects.”
When Ellen leaves Harrogate Grammar School, she hopes that the Food Bank project will continue and knows that the Charities Committee will be in safe hands with many younger students becoming involved over the past few months. Ellen would like to study medicine at university so that she can continue to help other people and make a tangible difference to others’ lives. It is a simple thing, doing something nice for other people, and something Ellen never expected to be rewarded for.