Young Citizen Awards: The Leeds schoolboy shot in Syria – BBC News


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Media captionMohamad’s story

Mohamad Khalil was 10 when his school in Syria was attacked – he was shot in the leg and saw friends die.

He had to pretend to be dead in order to survive but his family fled the civil war and later settled in Leeds.

Now 16, he helps support his family by working in a restaurant and is pledging to dedicate his life to others.

Mohamad is among seven people from the UK and Ireland whose achievements have been recognised at the Rotary Young Citizen Awards in Manchester.

After starting school life at Leeds City Academy in November 2014, he faced yet more challenges when his father was injured at work and his mother discovered she had cancer.

Mohamad’s experience, says his teachers, “is what pushes him… what makes him want to change things” and help other people who have trouble managing.

“I cry when I sleep,” Mohamad says. “I can remember my friends.”

But he goes shopping for his family and looks after his parents at home – all while studying for his GCSEs.

Thinking about the future, Mohamad says: “Sometimes I feel like I want to earn a lot of money – I want to help charity.”

Six others winners, who have each been deemed to have made outstanding contributions to their community, were presented with trophies at the 10th young citizens awards ceremony hosted by BBC’s Ellie Crisell.

Sophia and Amber Cowburn

Sisters Sophia, 25, and Amber, 24, founded the mental health charity the Invictus Trust in 2011.

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Media captionAmber and Sophia’s story

Their 18-year-old brother, Ben, – who was Sophia’s twin – had killed himself in a psychiatric unit in Cornwall a year earlier.

The sisters felt the facilities and care available to Ben had not supported him properly. Then, after hearing other young people had taken their own lives in the same unit, they decided something had to be done.

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Image caption Sophia and Amber

They have raised more than 100,000 and have been campaigning for an NHS mental health unit in Cornwall for 18-25 year olds.

Molly Comish

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In 2015, Molly Comish from Bray in Ireland, saw a lot of homeless people sleeping on the streets and felt compelled to help them.

The 18-year-old came up with the idea of “dignity packs” – bags of essential personal items including toothbrushes, deodorants and hats to distribute before Christmas in 2016.

Saving all her tips from her part-time job, Molly was able to create 120 packs, which she put in backpacks.

She is now in the process of setting Dignity Packs up as a charity.

Aidan Jackson

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Aidan, who lives in Widnes, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2011.

In 2014 his close friend – Olivia Alice Walker, who had severe disabilities – died.

Olivia’s family set up a charity in her memory and Aidan, 14, was inspired to fundraise.

In just over two years, he has raised more than 16,000, despite facing his own challenges.

Kare Adenegan

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Kare Adenegan is no stranger to awards. At the Rio Paralympics in 2016, the 16-year-old won silver and two bronzes, in the 100m, 400m and 800m respectively in the T34 class.

Born in Coventry, Kare has cerebral palsy diplegia, which affects her legs and mobility and means she uses a wheelchair.

She was inspired to try wheelchair racing after watching the London 2012 Paralympic games.

Harry McCann

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Media captionHarry’s story

At just 18, Harry McCann from Naas in County Kildare, Ireland, is already a tech entrepreneur.

He founded his first business, Kid Tech, in 2013. It designs and delivers courses in technology and coding for children aged between seven and 14.

Harry has introduced hundreds of children to coding and has developed courses being used in schools today.

In 2016, he co-founded a news website for young people –, which exceeds 30,000 hits per month.

Abbey Booker

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Media captionAbbey’s story

Abbey Booker from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, is in care. But at 14 years old she also dedicates her time to working to ensure other children have the best experience in care they can.

She spends her free time volunteering with several schemes, including a befriending service for young people in care.

Abbey sits on the Care Counts Youth Council and has helped change the way adult professionals in the care service deal with young people in care like her.

  • WATCH the ceremony live at 10.30 BST on Saturday, with repeats at 20:30 on Saturday and 16:30 on Sunday here.

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