Ballynahinch man Sam York has been honoured with a British Empire Medal (BEM) in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list for his services to the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service in Northern Ireland.
The service, which is unique to Northern Ireland, uses trained volunteers who support children and their families throughout the court process from start to finish, helping them through the often traumatic experience of having to give evidence. Last year alone volunteers supported 549 children across Northern Ireland and have worked with almost 2,000 children and young people in the last three years, running across all Crown, Magistrate and Youth courts.
Sam, aged 76, has been volunteering with the Young Witness Service since 2010 and has worked in courts in in Downpatrick, Newry, Craigavon, Belfast and Newtownards. The father-of-four, who actually heard about the Young Witness Service through his local newspaper, talked about receiving the honour for his services.
He said: “When I got the letter it was a bit of a shock. To be even thought of to be awarded something like that. It’s unbelievable, I still haven’t come back down to earth. I never thought I would get anything like that. I was over the moon.
“Throughout my life I’ve just been working and doing what I’ve always done… trying to do my best. So it’s really surprising that someone would nominate me for doing that. To be recognised like that is an honour and I’m very proud to get it, and also on behalf of the Young Witness service.”
NSPCC Young Witness volunteer coordinator, Billy Eagleson, said of Sam’s achievement: “We are delighted that Sam has received this much-deserved honour for his volunteering role within the service. Since Sam joined the Young Witness Service in 2010, he has been a dedicated member of the team and since 2015 alone has personally helped over 100 children who have been affected by going through the court process.
“At NSPCC we know how daunting having to give evidence can be for an adult, never mind a child.
“As one of our volunteers, Sam is a lifeline to those children, being a calm and consistent presence in a stressful situation, and supporting the child and their family throughout the entire process from start to finish.
“We know that Sam and our other dedicated volunteers have made an enormous difference to the lives of those children and their families.
“Not content with only giving his time to our service, Sam has also recently been fundraising to support NSPCC Northern Ireland. That is the type of man Sam is, he always wants to give more and as a charity we have seen the benefits of having him with us time and time again throughout the years. We are not at all surprised that he has been recognised.”
To find out more about becoming a volunteer for the Young Witness Service, or any of our services in Northern Ireland, visit: