BY NEWS REPORTER
A student at St Paul’s Academy in Abbey Wood has won a Jack Petchey Outstanding Young Leader award for her tireless work helping disabled children in sport.
Lora Umelue, 17, from Greenwich, was recognised for her work with sporting charity Panathlon in a ceremony at John Lewis Stratford City, overlooking the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park.
The awards recognise outstanding achievers across London and Essex. Lora received her trophy from Panathlon ambassador and Paralympic Games gold medallist swimmer Liz Johnson, and Jack Gair, the 2015 winner of the same prize.
Lora has helped deliver the Sport Inspired Community Games Festivals for the past two years, which saw more than 200 children with special educational needs take part.
Before this, she attended training courses to enable her to help pupils compete in boccia, new-age kurling, polybat, tri-golf, athletics, dance and many more events.
She used these skills to help deliver Panathlon multisport competitions at St Paul’s for the past two years.
Panathlon gives more than 13,000 children with disabilities and special educational needs every year the chance to engage in competitive sport.
Lora said: “I was delighted to get the opportunity to train as a Panathlon leader. We learned about all the sports, about non-verbal communication, using your body language in the best way to offer encouragement.
“Being a young leader at the competitions was really interesting; being given the opportunity to work with disabled children, putting smiles on their faces, and [seeing them] excel at sport. It’s a great way of including a wide range of abilities. Sport is a language that everyone can speak.”
Lora is also a health and well-being ambassador and sports leader, helping deliver activity sessions to pupils at her school’s weekly health and well-being club. She is a tireless supporter of fundraising enterprises at the school, often coming up with concepts herself.
These include a rowathon in aid of mental health charity Mind, a Race for Life for Cancer Research UK involving 400 pupils (organised in conjunction with Panathlon) and a School Advent Charity appeal, which raised £3,000 and saw Lora train pupils and organise enterprising fundraising activities.
Her aim is to study medicine at university and become a nurse in Nigeria, the birthplace of her parents, and help improve the country’s healthcare system.
Johnson said: “Panathlon mirrors the experience of the Paralympic Games by creating that multisport environment where competition is key while experiencing new team-mates, venues and challenges.”
The awards sponsor, the Jack Petchey Foundation, has supported Panathlon’s work in providing sporting opportunities for disabled young people in London and Essex for 13 years. In March it handed over a cheque for £106,300, bringing its total investment in the charity to £700,000.