Derry man Malcolm Hewitt was still in shock this week after being told he’d been nominated for a Pride of Britain award.
Malcolm’s just one of four nominees on a shortlist from across the North in line to receive the award.
Together with his wife Irene, the Waterside father of three has worked tirelessly for over 20 years as part of the Ulster Project. The Ulster Project was started in 1975 by Rev. Kerry Waterstone, a Church of Ireland cleric in Tullamore, to provide a safe place in America for teenagers from the North to discuss the climate of The Troubles facing them at home. Its original success in Connecticut led rapidly to member cities across America and today young people from the North West are hosted in locations from Chicago to Indiana.
Malcolm and Irene coordinate the North West section of the popular project and as far as Malcolm’s concerned, his nomination for one of the UK’s most prestigious awards is a massive boost for the organisation locally.
“I’m delighted with the nomination but also delighted with the fact that it’s getting news about what we do out there. We’re a totally non-funded organisation and all of our income has been from donations or raised locally, to date amounting to over £600,000. It hasn’t always been easy to continue to send our young people to America but with help we always get there and this is great recognition.
“All through The Troubles we’ve had young people from the Cityside, the Waterside and both traditions and they’ve always worked together. We have young people who would never have gotten to know one another if it wasn’t for the project. We’ve also had young people who’ve come from America and seen just how big a change there’s been here in Derry, in a city that was once a bombed-out shell.”
Malcolm joined hundreds of young people at All Saints Clooney on Thursday as tv cameras filmed footage for a programme due to air on UTV in the coming weeks. An independent panel of judges will make a decision on the winner who will then travel to the major awards ceremony in London to represent Northern Ireland.