British Sign Language Youth Champion
1542. Sophie Billinghurst
Sophie Billinghurst, aged 17, from Swansea, is a British Sign Language youth advocate with the charity ‘Talking Hands’ and raises awareness of the importance of Sign Language.
Sophie started working with Swansea charity ‘Talking Hands Deaf Children, Young People and Family Services’ in 2014, after struggling for years with her confidence due to growing up with a speech impediment. Sophie was elected as a member of the Welsh Youth Parliament in 2018, using her platform to be the first person to use Sign Language in the The Senedd. This year, during the pandemic, she has been active in supporting people access transparent masks to enable those with hearing impairments continue to lip read whilst staying safe from Coronavirus.
In a personal letter to Sophie, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“I was inspired to hear of your own personal story learning sign language and using it in the Welsh Youth Parliament.
“Your advocacy work with ‘Talking Hands’ is a fantastic way to break down barriers to inclusion. You are showing young people with hearing loss, like your sister, that they are part of the nation’s conversation.”
“I honestly can’t believe that I have been chosen for this award! It’s amazing, thank you so much. I’m so proud to volunteer with ‘Talking Hands Deaf Children, Young People and Family Services’, I believe learning sign language is such an amazing life skill that everyone should have. Plus all the work I’ve done with the Welsh Youth Parliament working together to get more awareness for young people who suffer with mental health.”
Helen Robins, Project Manager of ‘Talking Hands Children’, said:
“We were so pleased to hear about Sophie being given an award from the Prime Minister, Points of Light, a huge achievement for what has been a difficult year for all volunteers and the services they support.
“We hope Sophie will continue promoting British Sign Language and mental health support for young people.”