Sharon Lovell, National Executive Director Wales, has paid tribute to colleagues and fellow activists after being awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

Sharon, who received the award in recognition for her services to children and young people, hopes the MBE will create a platform to advance and promote children’s rights work, including independent professional advocacy.

After joining NYAS Cymru 15 years ago as a Project Coordinator with responsibility for setting up an advocacy service in Caerphilly, Sharon has gone on to lead some of the charity’s key projects in Wales. These include the Unity Project – a pioneering initiative aimed at supporting young care experienced mothers, promoting gender equality and encouraging healthy relationships; and a Wales-wide action plan, setting out practical steps to reduce the number of care-experienced young people who are criminalised or at risk of exploitation.

Prior to working for NYAS Cymru, Sharon was employed for a local authority, managing youth service provision and she also spent time at The Children’s Society. She began her career working with young homeless people, many of whom were care experienced, motivating her to help improve the lives and prospects of children in care.

Sharon played an instrumental role in lobbying for independent professional advocacy to become enshrined in legislation and was part of the advocacy movement in Wales that resulted in every child and young person having an active offer of advocacy when they first come into care. She credits the support she received from youth workers herself as the inspiration for the work she does today and her ongoing commitment to ensure that the voice of children and young people is heard.

Commenting on the MBE, Sharon Lovell said, “I was incredibly surprised, shocked and humbled to be informed that I had been nominated for an award in the Queens New Year’s Honours List.

I am incredibly proud of the work of NYAS Cymru and all that we do to promote the rights and voice of children and young people who are care experienced. I hope this award will demonstrate the importance of advocacy and show that, as an organisation, we will always be on the side of the child/young person and act on their views, wishes and feelings.

“The award is for all the staff and volunteers in NYAS and throughout NYAS Cymru, as you can never create change on your own. I am privileged to work with so many activists who work tirelessly to change systems, practice and law to protect and advance children’s rights work.”