The REACT Foundation charity has been awarded a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given to UK volunteer groups (equivalent to an MBE).
Pete Woolaghan, co-founder and chairman of the REACT Foundation, which inspires young people around Cumbria to enjoy science and engineering, said the award was recognition for the amazing job done by the group’s volunteers.
He set up the foundation along with pioneering business REACT Engineering’s co-founders more than 15 years ago. H said: “This award is about the volunteers. They are the people who give the REACT Foundation life. It is their creativity, their ingenuity and their energy which keeps it fresh.”
Kayleigh Daniels, a volunteer and trustee, said: “The Foundation raises young people’s aspirations. They can see that the whole world opens up for them and encourages young people to be the best they can be.”
The Foundation was set up in 2004 when forward-thinking Cleaton Moor-based REACT Engineering (www.react-engineering.co.uk
), a specialist in nuclear clean up, wanted to mark its 10th anniversary in a meaningful way.
Mr Woolaghan continued: “I didn’t just want to have a cake and a party — I wanted the REACT Foundation to open young people’s eyes to what opportunities are out there so they can make informed decisions. I don’t want one young person in Cumbria growing up not knowing about engineering and science. It may not be for them but I want to make sure they know it is an option, and therefore does not miss out on opportunities.”
The charity runs an extensive, targeted programme of events for young people including annual Science Shows
sponsored by E.ON and the University of Cumbria, and led by outreach developers from the national Science Museum in London. The Science Shows
have grown to now reach 7,500 young people in Cumbria each year and more than 84,000 students since they began.
The charity also runs ‘ICanToo’ programmes with local schools as well as a midweek REACTioneers evening club for young children in the community (this was visited by Princess Anne last year).
It also held a ground-breaking Infinity Science Festival
in Cumbria attended by Professor Brian Cox. All the activities are run by volunteers, including visits to science events around the UK.
Ms Daniels added: “The REACT Foundation gives me an opportunity to make a difference, and to me, giving young people in this area these opportunities is the best thing I can do.”
Luke Todd, won a Sixth Form Award bursary with the REACT Foundation and has just finished his first year studying Mechanical Engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University. He said: “It was the REACT Foundation which helped me realise my true potential by showcasing what a future in engineering might look like.”
Phil Redfern, managing director of REACT Engineering who supports the REACT Foundation with both time and financial backing, said: “We support the REACT Foundation because we fundamentally believe in what it is trying to do.
For us, supporting the charity is not about ticking a box, it is real — it is in the DNA of our organisation and people, that we want to help others.
“As a company we will certainly be continuing to support the Foundation and look forward to seeing what direction the volunteers take it in, and what new ideas they come up with.”
Pat Graham, chief executive of Copeland Council, which nominated the REACT Foundation for the award said: “The work REACT Foundation does both excites and inspires, it has been established with a desire to help the community at its heart. That ethos is hard-wired into the people involved in the chairy.
“Everyone involved has a passion to make a positive difference in our community. And they are doing it for all the right reasons, because they want to, not because they think they should.”
“It’s a real feather in Cumbria’s cap to have an organisation like the REACT Foundation being recognised in this way and receiving The Queen’s Award.”
Caroline Hamilton, chief executive of the Safety Assessment Federation and member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, said: “The IMechE West Cumbria has a long-standing relationship with the REACT Foundation, regularly sharing STEM ambassadors for events.
“I cannot stress enough how thankful I am to REACT, and its commitment to deliver high-quality STEM experiences in this rural community.”