Young Citizen: South Woodford church member raises hundreds for Ilford's homeless day centre
PUBLISHED: 15:26 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 07 August 2019
A young South Woodford church member who raised nearly £800 for a homeless day centre in Ilford after cycling 30 kilometres from Hertfordshire to London is this week's Young Citizen nominee.
Joshua Smerdon, 13, attends Woodford Baptist Church and often visits the Welcome Centre in Ilford with the church's youth leader to spend time with rough sleepers.
Joshua said: "If I was in that situation, I would want somebody to help me and that's why I felt I should give back."
This was Joshua's first fundraising feat, raising £783, but he hopes to organise a charity event every year.
"It started off at school asking teachers to sponsor me," he said. "People were very generous. Even if they give a little, it will help the cause."
Joshua set up a page online where friends and family could donate and a big source of funding came from their church and a bake sale.
"I was so happy when I got to £500 and then it started escalating," he said. "People were very generous. I enjoyed it so much."
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Joshua and a group of his friends started the ride in Waltham Abbey, where Joshua lives, and cycled along the River Lea until it joined the River Thames, finishing the ride in Poplar, east London, in just under four hours.
Welcome Centre's manager, Sonia Lynch, said: "People are so proud - it's quite exceptional what you've done.
"We're always particularly happy when young people see the plight of homelessness and feel moved to do something about it. The more awareness we could raise from a younger age, the better, so we have a better tolerance and understanding of homelessness.
"I also think young people can get bad press, so when something like this happens, we need to celebrate and encourage it. We're absolutely overjoyed."
Mark Andrews, chairman of Healthy Living Projects, which runs the Welcome Centre, also thanked Joshua.
He said: "Every pound raised is always put to good use to help our clients. He is clearly an impressive young man and his parents should be very proud of him and his achievement."
The Young Citizen Award is about celebrating the amazing young people in our borough, run by the Recorder in conjunction with Redbridge Rotary Club. A monthly winner will be chosen from the nominees, the finalists will be invited to the Mayor's Community Awards night in March and the overall winner will be announced. The winner will receive £100 from Redbridge Rotary Club and will, along with the runner-up, go through to the national Young Citizens final run by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland.
You can nominate any person from Redbridge, as long as they are under-25, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.