Belfast Telegraph

William has power talks with world champion who triumphed after being homeless

The Duke of Cambridge met a woman who went from being homeless to a world champion powerlifter as he presented awards to young people who have defied their troubled backgrounds to become "beacons of hope" for others.

William was joined by celebrities Jonathan Ross and Sara Cox at a glittering ceremony in central London to honour young people who have overcome homelessness to turn their lives around, helped by the charity Centrepoint.

Among them was Monique Newton, who was recognised for her sporting achievements.

The 23-year-old, from Fulham, was thrown out of home at 15 and after two years of being homeless was admitted to the Priory for mental health issues.

After treatment the charity gave her stability, a home, and the chance to discover a love of weightlifting - and now she is a four-time world champion, breaking a host of British and European records along the way.

As well as training twice a day, Ms Newton works for a charity which offers activities and services for other youngsters, including providing 3,000 meals for homeless people.

She said: "I don't know where I would be without Centrepoint. Everyone has the potential to do whatever they want, but not everyone has the courage or determination.

"But if you put your mind to it you can do anything."

The awards, the charity's first, recognised success by young people it has helped across a number of categories.

Sade Banks, who turned her life around to work in the theatre, was recognised with the art award, while Othman Ali overcame a troubled start to gain a masters degree from Oxford University and work for the BBC and in the health sector.

Ezat Gulzaman, who came to the UK from Afghanistan, was honoured in the education category, Rebecca Stephenson for personal development and Sophia Kichou received a media award.

Alex Bonnick overcame being forced out of his home to run his own personal training business and become a long jump athlete - with an eye on a spot at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 25-year-old, from Bermondsey in London, said: "My life has changed dramatically. I am independent, have my own business and my own place. I have a lot to thank Centrepoint for."

Ross, an ambassador for the charity, poked fun at the Duke as he hosted the awards, receiving a wry smirk when he asked him if anyone ever called him Bill, later joking that they and Centrepoint chief executive Seyi Obakin should leave the stage to singer Keesha Simpson or they would be in danger of joining the "world's worst boyband".

But he also highlighted the "frightening statistic" of Centrepoint having to help 7,000 young people every year.

The Duke, the charity's patron, said people should "draw courage" from the inspiration the young winners had shown in turning their lives around.

He said: "The young people commended this afternoon have each had to overcome their own seemingly insurmountable challenges.

"But crucially in doing so, they have not allowed homelessness to destroy their ambitions or determine their futures.

"They are proof that when given the right opportunities, they can not only recognise their potential, but achieve so much more."

Mr Obakin added: "A quarter of young people who come to Centrepoint can't read or write properly, at least half of them have some health need, 10% have health needs."

Applauding the winners for grasping the opportunities they had, he said they were a fine example to other young people.

He said: "It is very challenging to overcome these things and then turn your life around, particularly in society where the narrative about young people is generally negative.

"Tonight is about celebrating these young people who have done exceptionally well, to turn their talent and determination and hard work into something concrete for themselves.

"They are beacons of hope for the others."


From Belfast Telegraph