I have never hidden the fact that I am a big fan of the Beacon Fellowship.
Twice over the past year I have promoted the awards and asked for everyone to put in nominations. Some 800 or so nominations were received and they are awe-inspiring. Please, please, please put all of these stories of achievement together into a book ... they are wonderful.
Last week saw the announcement of the winners. One of them highlighted the impact that seeing charitable work at first hand can have over the long-term.
Niall Quinn, the former Sunderland, Manchester City, Arsenal and Republic of Ireland footballer was awarded a testimonial by Sunderland FC, the proceeds of which have traditionally been used to boost pension and retirement funds. Instead, Quinn set up the Niall Quinn Children's Charity prior to the game played on 14 May 2002.
The testimonial game, held at The Stadium of Light, Sunderland, raised more than £1m. Charities that have benefited from Quinn's generosity include City Hospitals, Sunderland; Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin; and GOAL, a humanitarian organisation. The money was used to improve the quality of life for impoverished and disadvantaged children in urban areas.
Quinn's philanthropy has set a trend among fellow players to also donate their testimonial proceeds to charity, including Gary Kelly and Tony Adams.
In the very early days of his career, while still a teenager, Quinn says his manager used to take the players into the community to ensure they gained a perspective of how fortunate they really were. The visits to sick children made such an impression that, even at that age, he swore to himself that he would "put something back".
It is hugely important that we ensure as many young people as possible have a better understanding of the world of charity than our current generation.
This is where an area of work that the Giving Campaign carries out is so vital.
Investing in the future
Giving Nation is the brand name of a set of complex and sophisticated efforts to try to engage with school children through the national curriculum.
Recently, new father Gordon Brown presented the first G Nation awards to schools that took part in G Week. Sadly, many charities have, at worse, viewed such an initiative with suspicion, or at best, caution, as if this might compete with their own school fundraising programme. G Nation takes a longer-term approach, changes attitudes and invests in the longer-term future. As Quinn's experience shows, it will reap rewards over time and when least expected.
Any charity of any size can help promote G Nation through its own relationships with schools. Congratulations to the Red Cross, which had the vision to support the initiative and offer the winning school a trip to see their work in South Africa. If plans come off, then the nation's children will be able to see their work on primetime children's TV next year. Go to www. g-nation.co.uk and prepare to feel old!
A lifetime's achievement
Back to the Beacon Fellowship. The lifetime achievement award was given to David Morley. Now in his eighties, he is a founder of charities, author and expert in the medical field. He set up clinics for the under-five's in Nigeria that trained local women to immunise their children and learn about family health, founded on the belief of the capacity of people to help themselves. Since their operation started in 1950, these clinics, including the weighing and chartering of children's growth, have now spread worldwide.
Professor Morley is also responsible for designing and developing low-cost, simple health accessories such as the two-ended sugar/salt spoon for mixing rehydration fluids and a scale that allows women in developing countries to monitor a child's weight and growth. He has also developed innovative medical kits from everyday objects, such as a fly trap, water purifier and asthma inhaler made from old plastic drink bottles. These low cost inventions have helped save the lives of many thousands of children.
If you want to be inspired by the rest of the award winners and their stories, go to www.beaconfellowship.org.uk.