25-year-old Thornton Heath woman who set up an organisation to empower the voices of forgotten young people has been honoured with a civic award.

Shaniqua Benjamin,  who started Young People Insight which raises awareness about issues affecting young people,  was named the Young Achiever of the Year.

She said: “For almost two years, I have been fortunate enough to hear from amazing young people at discussion groups and poetry nights I have put on under my youth platform, Young People Insight (YPI).

“I started YPI to ensure young people felt heard and were making their voices known in a society that often ignores and discredits them. The sole aim was to make a difference in my community and spread more love in the world, so to be recognised for this work was extremely humbling.

“My emotions were running high and tears sprang to my eyes, because it meant a lot to be appreciated for the work I do in the borough I love, especially this year when I have struggled a lot emotionally and almost gave up on my platform entirely.

“However, I want to continue making a difference and using the gifts God has blessed me with to empower a greater number of young people.  My work would be impossible without them.”

Mum-of-two Sparkle Bulku (pictured left) won the Mayor of Croydon Civic Awards 2017 – Don’t Mess With Croydon, Take Pride category after starting up North Croydon Community Group in Selhurst.

She said: “It is a real honour to be recognised for the hard work I have put in to improving aspects of my local community. I moved to Croydon four years ago and felt very isolated but now I have so many friends and have been welcomed by the wider community.

“The efforts and achievements I have made this year such as starting up North Croydon Community Group, creating a community garden and organising a football family fun day at Wilford Road Recreation Ground wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the wonderful people of Croydon.

“I would also like to say a big thank you to the Mayor of Croydon, Toni Letts who is an inspiring public figure and great champion of aspirational women in Croydon.”