Prince William tells Norfolk teenager: “My Mother would be so proud of you”
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'My Mother would be so proud of you' Prince William tells Norfolk teenager who has refused to let her painful health condition stop her from helping other young people and raising cash for charity and who has won a Legacy Award.
An inspirational teenager from Norfolk whose own experience of living with a painful health condition has inspired her to fight for other young people and raise money for the hospital that treats her has been given a Legacy Award in memory of Princess Diana.
Norwich High schoolgirl Ezara-Mai Downes, 15, was one of 20 outstanding young people who was awarded the prestigious honour at the award ceremony last week.
Prince William hosted a reception for the nominated youngsters at Kensington Palace, telling them that the awards were a continuation of Princess Diana's legacy and her belief that young people have the power to change the world for the better.
The Legacy Award is handed out every two years, and winners are only eligible if they have previously received a Diana Award within the two-year period. This year's winners include young people from the UK, Canada, Tanzania, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria and India.
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Winners are determined by an independent judging panel, which included Baroness Lawrence, Holly Branson, and Alex Cruz.
After the reception with the Duke of Cambridge, where he congratulated each of the winners and spoke to them about their work that had led them to receive the award, Ezara-Mai and the other young people were presented with their awards by Earl Spencer, Princess Diana's brother.
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Ezara-Mai received the Legacy Award for her successful efforts to make changes within the health sector to ensure every young person's voice is heard, working closely with the young people's forum at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
She is a committed fundraiser for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and works closely with geneticist and educating young people on genome testing.
The teenager has an extremely rare condition called Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM) which affects the muscles and skin and can cause a range of symptoms, the worst of which is extreme muscle pain - but she has refused to let her diagnosis rule her life and in addition to her charity and youth work is an award-winning dancer with a cabinet full of trophies.
Through Team Ezara, she has raised over £17,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and her goal is to raise £100,000 by 2025 and by raising awareness and increasing learning in professionals working in the genetics field, and the wider public she is building a future for high-quality genetic research, aiming to improve treatments and services.
Tessy Ojo, chief executive of The Diana Awards said: "This is a landmark event for The Diana Award as we celebrate our 20th anniversary year. This ceremony is about celebrating young people for their selfless contribution to society, their courage and bravery, and demonstrating to young people that we value them.
"We believe that valuing young people means investing in them so we are delighted that our Legacy Award recipients will have access to our unique development programme ensuring they continue to be positive trailblazers for their generation."
The Award recipients will have access to a two-year development programme which will look to enhance leadership, community development, social entrepreneurship and technology.
"It is an honour to receive the legacy award in memory of Princess Diana. I have had such an amazing few days networking with inspirational change makers, taking part in workshops and developing my skills," said Ezara-Mai.
"I have been so inspired by all the other recipients of the award who I can now call my friends."
The Legacy Award is the most prestigious accolade a young person can receive for their social action or humanitarian work. The Diana Award fosters, develops and inspires positive change in the lives of young people through three key programmes which include; a mentoring programme for young people at risk, a youth-led anti-bullying ambassador campaign and a prestigious award which publicly recognises young people - The Diana Award.