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Leeanna’s Wish

2020. Shelley Hayles

Shelley Hayles, from St Albans, is a social worker who has used her experience of growing up in care to create her charity ‘Leeanna’s Wish’ to support children facing adversity in St Albans.

Founded in memory of Shelley’s sister Cleo LeeAnna, who passed away in 2016, the charity improves access to education, training and learning support for 12-17-year olds. Shelley wanted to make the charity a core part of the local community, running a number of programmes and cross-generational social events such as a Saturday club and a women’s football team to help young and vulnerable people build stronger peer support networks. 

The charity has also been working with St Albans Museum, on a project funded and supported by the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, to explain and feature stories of people from the community.

In a personal letter to Shelley, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: 

“I want to thank you for the huge difference you have made for care leavers and disadvantaged young people in St Albans.

“Through your charity ‘Leanna’s Wish’ you have created a wonderful tribute to your sister Cleo LeeAnna, who had been so dedicated to helping others.

“Because of you, young people in your community are finding it easier to access education, training and learning support. They have a safe space to develop their skills and build the confidence they need to find their way in the world.”

Daisy Cooper, Shelley’s local MP, said:

“I’ve known Shelley for a number of years now, and I’ve seen the great work that she does across St Albans.  

“I’ve been to visit Shelley’s Saturday clubs that she runs as part as Leeanna’s Wish, and saw first-hand how she’s built a safe, inclusive place for young people from all cultures and backgrounds. What she’s been able to achieve in improving access to education, training and learning support for young people has quite simply been remarkable. 

“She’s also a prominent voice in the Black community in St Albans, having worked to hold ‘Black Futures’ events that celebrate the contributions of the Windrush generation. 

“Shelley is a local community hero in St Albans and thoroughly deserves the recognition from the Points of Light programme.”

Shelley said:

“It is an honour to be recognised with a Points of Light award for the work that we have carried out in my late sister’s memory. LeeAnna would have been proud to see how we have empowered people in my local community to get involved and shape the services for themselves. All people want is belonging, connection and to be heard. It takes a village to raise a child and to build a community and that’s what Leeanna’s Wish is all about. On behalf of everyone at Leeanna’s Wish and all our generous volunteers who dedicate their time and love – thank you for recognising our work.”

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The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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