King Charles’ coronation exemplified the best of British with the exquisite pomp and pageantry that the royal family is famous for – and there was certainly no let-up in royal appearances in the days that followed.
The annual garden parties at royal residences across the UK have started to take place, with the Princess of Wales, 41, and the Duchess of Edinburgh, 58, leading the way in beautiful blue dresses at Buckingham Palace last week.
In a sleek and co-ordinated look, the two women both chose outfits they had previously worn at Royal Ascot, while Prince William, 40, and Prince Edward, 59, looked dapper in top hats and tails.
Accompanied by the Princess Royal and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the group welcomed hundreds of people invited into the grounds of the palace, including several Coronation Champions.
Back in February, OK! helped to launch the Royal Voluntary Service’s Coronation Champions Awards, which were set up by Queen Camilla to celebrate the “herculean efforts of our nation’s volunteers”.
An incredible 500 winners were crowned and were either invited to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Holyroodhouse or Hillsborough Castle, or to the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle to watch the likes of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Take That perform.
Among those at Buckingham Palace was Lemona Chanda, 39, who was nominated for the amazing work she has done to promote women and young people’s economic empowerment through civil organisations and grassroots-level activism.
Speaking about receiving her award, Lemona told OK!, “I am truly honoured to be a Coronation Champion as I represent the countless faceless, voiceless women of the Commonwealth who face gender stereotypes every day.”
As well as this, Lemona works with the minority communities in Bangladesh including the LGBTQ community, sex workers as well as religious and ethnic minorities through her campaign “SheOwns” to reform land and property laws and “Literacy as Inclusion” to promote financial-digital literacy.
Another volunteer who has been heralded for his contributions is Fynn Watt, 22, from Oxfordshire. After war broke out in Ukraine, Fynn wanted to play his part and has helped to evacuate 101 Ukrainians to the UK.
Fynn, who made seven visits to the country, told us, “It’s been an interesting year, mainly focusing on doing convoys of vehicles across to Ukraine with different people from all over the country. There have been 35 vehicles, including ambulances, evacuation vehicles and working with helicopter evacuation teams. We’ve managed to raise £250,000 so far.”
A third deserving winner is Amneet Graham, 31, who was invited to celebrate at the Coronation Concert. After suffering a miscarriage in 2017, Amneet fell pregnant again the following year but quickly realised there was no support for families who are going through a new pregnancy having had a previous loss. In December 2019, she launched Willow’s Rainbow Box, which supplies comfort packages to families who are currently on that anxious journey.
“I was so nervous, I didn’t know where to turn for support, specifically that first trimester,” she explained. “I decided to set up this charity and we started to operate in Newcastle. We have now built a network for people so that they don’t feel like they’re alone.”
Thanks to Amneet’s hard work, the boxes are now available to families all over the UK. As for the benefits of volunteering, Amneet added, “What I love about it is how it opens up so many doors, opportunities and networking, and you meet so many new people. But also projects like these can get off the ground and exist because of volunteers.”
Also honoured is Georgia McAllister, 53, for the inspirational way she supports vulnerable people as they recover at home following a hospital stay. After suffering a massive stroke at the age of 29, Georgia was left disabled and is registered blind but still tirelessly dedicates her time to help others.
Upon receiving her award, she told us, “It’s absolutely incredible. I was so overwhelmed. I cried with happiness. I remember saying I can’t believe I’ve actually won an award – I never win anything! To know that I was going to receive my beautiful pin and a letter signed by Their Majesties was just so exciting.”
Phoenix Stewart, 37, was another of the amazing volunteers recognised for his work with Swindon & Wiltshire Pride, an LGBTQIA+ charity. Having volunteered for the organisation for 11 years, Phoenix told us about his proudest moment.
"Back in 2018 I put together a proposal to install a piece of artwork called Rainbow Walk. I never thought it would get signed off, but it did. Rainbow Walk was installed by the Swindon & Wiltshire Pride committee of 2018, along with friends of Pride. It represents Swindon's continuing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community. Volunteers help each year to clean and repaint the artwork so that it is always shinning brightly.
"I also set up an LGBTQ+ safe space called 'The Pride Hub. The hub is a place for queer people to pop along for a chat, get advice or pick up leaflets. The space also acts as a mini shop where Pride related merchandise can be purchased to help us raise much needed funds to run our charity and our events."
And finally, Luke Montgomery, 31, was awarded for his work helping vulnerable adults who face everything from addiction problems to mental health struggles. Speaking to OK!, Luke explained how he became involved with the charity. He said: "I went through a rough patch in my life after a bad relationship – I didn't fall into drugs or have severe mental health issues, I just ended up becoming very anxious
"I ended up coming to the Crossfire Trust and it's where I live, work and volunteer. I've been here for three years now. So and I work with vulnerable adults who struggle with addictions, mental health issues or the loss of their house or something similar and we'll have around 10 people here at any time."
He continued: "I feel that this award is very good even for the charity because people people staying here feel safe and it's a real testament to what we do."
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