A 19-year-old from Bournemouth who supports young people with disabilities while herself living with Asperger syndrome is the latest winner of a new volunteering award, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced.
Joely Colmer, who hopes to publish a book about her life with Asperger Syndrome, has today become the latest UK Point of Light, an award which recognises outstanding individual volunteers and people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.
At the age of two, Joely was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, clinically deaf and remained unable to speak until the age of six. In the hope of giving back some of the help she has received over the years, Joely began volunteering with Bournemouth YMCA’s ‘The Chatterbox’ project, a youth-led magazine for young people with disabilities.
It was at Bournemouth YMCA where Joely was able to create disability awareness events to inspire other young people and where she designed the ‘Safe Places’ scheme, helping young disabled people feel safe and independent when in public. She works tirelessly to motivate other young people to overcome the negatives of their disabilities, and focus on the positives while raising awareness of this right across the country.
The new award has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA, which has recognised over 5,000 individuals. The US programme was established by President George H. W. Bush, and both he and President Barack Obama have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. Each day, someone somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
David Cameron said: “Joely has not just overcome huge personal challenges in her own life, she is helping other young people in a similar position. Through the Safe Places scheme she is helping young disabled people to feel safer and more independent in public. Her courage and determination is inspiring and I am delighted to be recognising Joely as a Point of Light.”
Joely added: "I was over the moon when I found out that I had won this award because it's great to be recognised for something I feel so passionate about. I love volunteering, and it’s amazing to receive an award for doing something I adore! If winning this award helps others become more aware of the beauty within disabilities, then it's a double bonus."