Wales

St David Awards: LGBT activist and warzone surgeon win

The St David Awards ceremony was held at the Senedd in Cardiff
Image caption The St David Awards ceremony was held at the Senedd in Cardiff

An LGBT activist who was inspired to join the police after being attacked and a warzone surgeon were among the winners at the St David Awards.

Cairn Newton-Evans, of Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, won the citizenship award and Dr David Nott, from Trelech, took the international award.

The annual ceremony took place in Cardiff on Thursday evening, with winners in nine categories.

It recognises the achievements of people in Wales from all walks of life.

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Media captionSurgeon David Nott travelled to Turkey to find an injured baby he helped

Winners:

  • Bravery: Billy Connor and Gary Slack
  • Citizenship: Cairn Newton-Evans
  • Culture: Prof Jen Wilson
  • Enterprise: David Banner
  • Innovation, Science and Technology: Prof Meena Upadhyaya
  • International: Dr David Nott
  • Sport: Wales football team
  • Young person: Savannah Lloyd

While eight categories were nominated by the public, First Minister Carwyn Jones personally chose Sir Karl Jenkins and Dr Mererid Hopwood for his special award.

They composed the music and words for Cantata Memoria, a piece of choral work to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Aberfan disaster.

All of the winners were chosen from nominees which included Mr Newton-Evans, a passionate advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

He was inspired to join the police force aged just 18 after being violently attacked in his hometown the previous year.

The 25-year-old said he joined the Special Constabulary for Dyfed-Powys Police as a volunteer in a bid to stop that kind of attack happening to other people.

"At the time I felt let down by the criminal justice system and was scared to leave the house. It really started to affect my mental health and wellbeing," he said.

"I decided to turn that negative experience in to a positive one."

He is now a trained hate crime support officer, the deputy lead for the force's LGBT staff network and has formed an LGBT social project in Carmarthenshire to support and counsel people.

"After being a victim, I understand the damage that can have on an individual, their community and family and friends," he said.

"The opportunity to try and make a difference in my community, and in Wales as a whole, is really important to me."

Mr Newton-Evans is also the youngest special chief officer in England and Wales, having been recently promoted to the highest rank possible within the Special Constabulary.

And alongside volunteering up to 50 hours a month with the police cadets, RAF cadets and as a theatre technician, he is also studying for a degree in law and public service at the University of Wales Trinity St David.

Another winner was warzone surgeon Dr Nott, who received the international award.

He is a consultant surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, performs vascular and trauma surgery at St Mary's Hospital and cancer surgery at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

For the past 23 years, he has been undertaking humanitarian work around the world, providing surgical treatment to victims of conflict in countries including Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Haiti and Iraq.

He now teaches warzone surgery on the frontline, most recently teaching 63 Syrian surgeons on the Turkish-Syrian border.

But he also trains surgeons brought to the UK under his charity, The David Nott Foundation, which he founded with his wife Elly two years ago.

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Media captionWhy British surgeon David Nott cannot forget this girl

He said his work "leaves a legacy" by teaching doctors the skills needed to treat thousands of patients, who can then teach other doctors.

"I did my first mission in Sarajevo in 1993 and it lit a small humanitarian flame in my head which I was never able to put out," he explained.

"I work nine months of the year in the NHS and the three months I devote to humanitarian work.

"I just love it, it's a great thing to be able to treat people who can't have access to healthcare. Everybody deserves healthcare wherever they are in the world."

Another nominee among the finalists was Nizar Dahan from Swansea.

The 29-year-old from Sketty had been working in property development as a marketing consultant when the harrowing images of a three-year-old Syrian boy found drowned on a beach in Turkey drove him to act.

It led to him establishing the Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project - otherwise known as Sharp - made up of some 20 volunteers.

The project collects, sorts and delivers donations to displaced and vulnerable people in Swansea, across Wales and as far afield as Syria, Greece, Jordan, Libya, Syria and Ghana.

To date, it has sent out more than 130 tonnes of aid, helped more than 55 resettled families in Swansea and Mr Dahan has personally raised more than £100,000.

"Seeing the difference we have been able to make, as a small collective of normal people, to people around the world and in our local community, that's my main motivation," he said.

Mr Dahan has also set up a kitchen on the Island of Samos, Greece, feeding 1,500 people on a daily basis.

Since August 2016, he has worked for the Human Relief Foundation, going on several aid missions to Iraq.

"We were actually attacked by an Isis drone in the first week of February when we were out there," he said.

He explained how they were at a checkpoint in Mosul, helping to deliver clean drinking water as part of a joint project with Unicef, when the drone went off "literally 1km from where we were standing".

"I do [fear for my safety] but at the same time one of my colleagues when we first landed in Iraq said 'if you want to help other people, sometimes you have to risk your life'.

"I strongly believe in that. To me, it's important to get the help to the most vulnerable people out there."

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