A TRANSGENDER volunteer from Leamington has won a national citizenship award.
Ben Whelan, who volunteers with mental health charity Springfield Mind, was described as a ‘role model’ and ‘inspirational’ by judges.
The Markel Third Sector Care Awards recognise unsung heroes in the not-for-profit care and support field, and was hosted by Dame Esther Rantzen.
Th 37-year-old who came out as female to male transgender aged 23, hopes his volunteering will help him to gain paid employment in a mental health or social care setting.
He also volunteers with health and social care charity ‘Making Space’ supporting those with mental health issues, and regularly gives presentations and talks on behalf of the service.
Ben said: “It means a lot to have this appreciation for what I do, but I accepted this award on behalf of everyone I work with.
“Without the unending support of the staff, I wouldn’t have been in a position to win this award.
“I have grown so much through volunteering and I think everyone should volunteer.
“I want to use my life experience – good and bad – to help other people. To see someone smile or make them laugh is reward enough for me.”
Judge Kim Arnold said: “Ben portrays himself as a role model to inspire his fellow peers after overcoming adversity to regain his own citizenship.
“He is also enabling people who use services to contribute to society as equal participants.”
Visit makingspace.co.uk and springfieldmind.org.uk for more information on the charities.