A special constable and former soldier who was once homeless has won an award for supplying books for people detained in police cells.
Steve Whitmore, from Lambeth, has been announced as winner of the Festival of Learning Social Impact Award 2018 for his achievements in adult learning.
The award recognises people who have used learning to change their lives but have also “inspired others to embrace learning”.
Steve, 52, found himself homeless after leaving the armed forces, but was supported back into learning by the YMCA and became a qualified fitness instructor.
He completed several Level 2 and 3 fitness courses followed by a Level 4 cardiac exercise specialist course through the YMCA, becoming one of the first qualified cardiac exercise specialists in the country.
He also completed a degree and postgraduate qualifications.
Steve has been teaching on Central YMCA Club’s community programmes for 28 years, including the YMCA positive health exercise referral scheme, which offers healthy-living advice and structured activities to those suffering from HIV and Aids.
Steve also volunteers as a special constable for the Metropolitan Police and in 2016 established the Books in Nicks project, which supplies free books to detainees held in the Met’s 43 active custody suites.
Steve said: “Learning has become an important part of my life. It is a journey of self-discovery that continues to this day.
“To be able to teach other adults has given me a great sense of achievement.”
Steve has given more than 4,000 hours of his time to support and motivate hundreds of people.
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “Access to adult learning through the YMCA transformed Steve’s life. This sparked a passion and determination to support other adults in to learning, improve their lives and achieve their potential. Steve’s dedication to lifelong learning is outstanding and we are delighted that he is the winner of this year’s Social Impact Award.
“Festival of Learning is all about inspirational stories of people like Steve that show that anyone can benefit from learning. Lifelong learning is vital as jobs and society change around us.”
Details of hundreds of free activities in June can be found on the Festival of Learning’s Have a Go Month calendar or by visiting the website at www.festivaloflearning.org.uk.