Finalists of 2016 Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards announced

27 October 2016

Youth work professionals from 14 countries have been named as the Finalists of the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards.

Youth work professionals from 14 countries have been named as the Finalists of the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards.

This year’s shortlist showcases leading youth workers who use sport and creative arts to inspire and support the development of underprivileged adolescents and young adults.

Australia, Belize, Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, India, Kenya, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Tonga and the United Kingdom are all represented in this year’s awards.

The Commonwealth Secretariat announced the 20 finalists on 27 October – exactly two weeks before the Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year 2016 will be named during Youth Work Week, from 7-13 November.

As part of an awards ceremony on 10 November, Commonwealth Youth Workers of the Year for Africa, Asia, Europe, Pacific, and Caribbean and Americas regions will also be announced from among the Finalists. Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will present the awards.

All of the Finalists have founded or manage projects related to sport and the arts. Among them is the director of a theatre programme for LGBTI young people, as well as the founder of the first national para-climbing club in Pakistan.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said: “If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and end poverty and inequality, young people have an important role to play, as do youth work professionals who offer vital support and encouragement.”

“This year’s awards celebrate outstanding youth workers who use sport and the arts to engage young people and help them to express and promote their identities and talents. Their efforts contribute to the health, education, gender equality and social cohesion of communities and nations.”

The theme for Youth Work Week 2016 is ‘Empowering young people through sport and arts’, acknowledging the creative and innovative techniques that youth workers employ to deliver effective youth empowerment programmes.

The Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards recognise youth workers who are instrumental to the positive development of young people. Youth workers can be found in a broad range of civil society and voluntary organisations as well as government ministries and youth departments.

Victor Ochen of Uganda, founder of the African Youth Initiative Network and a former Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, was named the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year

The Finalists for the Commonwealth Youth Worker Awards 2016 (in alphabetical order) are:


Kunle Adewale (Nigeria)

Kunle is the CEO of Tender Arts Nigeria, a social enterprise focused on art therapy that has impacted 5,000 beneficiaries. He also runs the ‘Africa4Her’ project to mentor young girls in the arts.

Adam Masava (Kenya)

Adam is the co-founder of South B United Sports Academy, which to date has provided sporting opportunities to 250 young people in Kenya. He is also founder of the Mukuru Art Club.

Eric Nehemiah (Kenya)

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

Cindy Ross (South Africa)

Cindy is the co-founder and legal secretary of the Jala Peo Foundation in South Africa, an award winning sport for development programme, of which the Diepsloot MTB Academy is a flagship initiative.


Suleman Arshad (Pakistan)

Suleman is 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.

Shweta Roy Chowdhury (India)

Shweta is the creator of an experimental learning toolkit which uses art to empower Indian youth to solve civic issues. The programme is run in 21 schools and has impacted 8,000 young people so far.

Dinesh Gajendran (India)

Dinesh is the founder of the Audacious Dreams Foundation, a youth-led/focused organisation that uses sport for development and peace programmes to empower rural youth in India. Its projects impact 20,000 beneficiaries annually.

Gopi Shankar (India)

Gopi is the founder of Srishti Madurai, which works with activists and youth leaders to use sports as a tool for social change. Over 30,000 students have been impacted by its programmes to date.


Elsie Harry (Guyana)

Elsie is the host of a weekly television programme called ‘African Drums’, which focuses on empowering marginalised Afro-Caribbean youth in Guyana. She also co-founded the University of Guyana’s Drama Club.

Manuela Lue (Belize)

Manuela is a 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.

Gihon Mitchell (Jamaica)

Gihon Mitchell is a Youth Empowerment Officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. He is also the co-founder of the Jamaica Floorball Association, which uses sport to promote human rights among young people.

Michelle Alexis Thomas (Jamaica)

Michelle is the founder of ‘HerStory’, an initiative that uses art therapy to empower young single mothers and women in Jamaica. She is also the Director of Cultural Programmes of JAYECAN, a national youth-led organisation focused on culture and arts.


Briony Chamberlain (UK)

Briony has led youth empowerment programmes in schools, churches and communities with a focus on artistic and sporting endeavours. She currently works for the Eikon Charity

Robin Lockhart (UK)

Robin is the founder of Catalysts in Communities, a social enterprise which engages at-risk youth through creative arts and sports to promote their self-development. The projects impact 1,000 beneficiaries annually.

Sarah Spiteri (Malta)

Sarah is a youth worker with over 10 years’ experience. In her current attachment at Agenzija Zghazagh, she helps to lead its youth empowerment programmes related to drama and art.

Grace Louise Thoumine (UK)

Grace works with arts and sports-based charities to deliver youth engagement programmes. Her work is aimed at building social cohesion and empowering young people to fulfil their potential.


Elisha Bano  (Fiji)

Elisha is the founder of ACT: Fj, a youth-led NGO that empowers its peers through drama, poetry and story-telling to become youth advocates on social and development issues.

Morgan Butler (New Zealand)

Morgan is a Support Manager at Rainbow Youth, an organisation which supports queer and gender-diverse youth by providing/running training opportunities, peer support services and advocacy campaigns.

Russ Pirie (Australia)

Russ works as the YGLAM Project Officer for Merri Health, leading its theatre programme for LGBTI youth and supporting this marginalised community to develop drama skills and self-confidence.

Joshua Savieti (Tonga)

Joshua 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.