Two Northumberland men are among six people in the North East to receive a prestigious award.
Ian Brown, of Lee Moor Farm, Rennington, and Rothbury-born John Harrision have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship, an annual award which offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel the world and research cutting-edge solutions to important topical issues.
Ian, chairman of the Forestry Commission’s North East Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee, will travel to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania to explore the benefits of planting trees on farmland.
He will share his findings with the farming and forestry sectors in the UK.
John, who now lives in South Shields and is executive lead for the homeless charity Emmaus North East, will travel to Belgium, Canada, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands to investigate how involvement in farming practices can improve wellbeing.
He will use his findings to implement a project in the UK aimed at supporting homeless people’s mental health and offering them pathways back into employment.
He said: “A few years ago I worked in farming and my current role is working for a charity involved with homelessness.
“I have always believed that farming can be much more than an economic activity and really want to dig deep into its potential for social good.
“Many of the homeless people would, I believe, benefit from the opportunities, engagement with farming through interactions with animals and the natural environment can give.
“I am really looking forward to visiting a prison island and farm in Italy to see how it operates and the impact that livestock and farming have on the inmates. Does it help people find meaning and what impact does it have on re-offending?”
Together, the six will receive grants totalling more than £38,000. They are among 150 people from all regions of the UK who were selected this year from almost 1,800 applicants.
Julia Weston, chief executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, said: “Churchill Fellows are inspiring individuals who scour the world for fresh approaches to today’s crucial issues.
“It’s a unique chance to make change happen, and every UK citizen over the age of 18 can apply.”
The next chance to apply for a Churchill Fellowship opens on May 16, and includes new categories on Palliative and end-of-life care and Physical activity: Making moves for healthier lives. Application details are online at www.wcmt.org.uk