An inspirational Ribble Valley teenager, who campaigns to raise awareness of invisible illnesses in schools and education, is the proud winner of a Points of Light volunteering award, Prime Minister Theresa May announced.
Sophie Ainsworth, from West Bradford, is the founder of RaiIse – a pioneering project aimed at better supporting students who suffer from invisible illnesses.
Following her diagnosis of lupus and the misunderstanding of her conditions amongst her teacher and peers, 19-year-old Sophie decided to campaign to change these misconceptions.
The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers – people who are making a change in their community. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
In a personal letter to Sophie, Prime Minister Theresa May, said: “Through ‘RAiISE’ you are changing the mindset of the teachers and peers who misunderstood your lupus diagnosis. Your organisation is challenging the misconceptions of invisible illnesses and giving young patients and their families invaluable support.”
Taking to Twitter on the morning she received the special surprise, she said: “The morning post was far more exciting than normal today as I received a lovely letter from @theresa_may as today’s@pointsofLight winner! Perfect for today which is the first day of #LupusAwarenessMonth.
Speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, Sophie, who is currently studying English Literature at Durham University, said: “I’m so delighted to have been awarded the Points of Light award. It’s incredible, and a little bit unbelievable, to know that my small organisation is getting recognised by the Prime Minister. It’s fantastic to have this awareness of both invisible illnesses and lupus. It was made particularly special as I received the award on October 1st, the first day of Lupus Awareness Month, which I was diagnosed with in 2014.”
A former pupil of Bowland High School, Sophie also advises the NHS’ Institute for Health Research as one of their ambassadors, ensuring that young patients and their families have a voice in new innovative research.
Through her work with RAiISE, Sophie has attended various health conferences in Greece, Italy, Spain and the US, as well as the UK, to lobby influential healthcare professionals for change and has won praise and many awards for her work so far.