Good Causes

Farming couple among this year’s National Lottery Award winners

An inspirational couple from Herefordshire, who help people in the farming sector with mental health problems, are among the winners of this year’s National Lottery Awards.

Sam Stables and his wife Emily, who run the organisation We Are Farming Minds, were presented with the award at their farm by broadcaster and presenter John Craven OBE. Their project, which helps raise mental health awareness in rural Herefordshire and supports the wellbeing of farmers across the country, won the Community category in the 2022 National Lottery Awards.

Sam and Emily are just 2 of the people doing extraordinary things with the help of funding made possible by National Lottery players. From Signkid, the deaf rapper and producer using his art to make the music world more accessible, to Sal Chebbah, who holds community gardening workshops in the vicinity of Grenfell Tower, the winners of this year’s National Lottery Awards are truly inspirational.

Sam and Emily set up We Are Farming Minds in September 2020 after the pressures of running a farm pushed Sam to the brink and saw him attempt suicide. Realising it would have helped to have someone to talk to about mental health issues, Sam and Emily created a project aiming to break the stigma surrounding loneliness and depression in the farming community.

Funding made possible by National Lottery players has enabled We Are Farming Minds to provide a dedicated 24-hour helpline staffed by Sam, Emily and a team of specially trained volunteers. The project also funds counselling and gives mental health awareness training to people in the agricultural sector – vets and feed reps, for example – who are in regular contact with farmers.

Emily Stables said, “Sam and I are delighted to be announced as winners in The National Lottery Awards. It’s nice to be recognised for the work we’re doing to raise awareness of, and support people with, mental health problems in rural communities within Herefordshire.

“Our mission is to reach out to as many people as possible in the farming community to break down stigma, open up support and say to every farmer ‘it’s OK not to be OK’. The National Lottery funding is enabling us to do exactly that and we are now able to reach more people.”

Presenting Sam and Emily with their award, John said it recognised their “outstanding efforts in establishing a much-needed resource to support people suffering with mental health issues and isolation in the farming community.” He added, “It’s truly inspirational and humbling to see how they have turned what was one of the darkest chapters of their lives into something so positive. They, and the community in Herefordshire, should be really proud of their efforts.”

The National Lottery Awards are the annual search for the UK’s favourite National Lottery-funded projects. They celebrate the ordinary but inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.

More than 1300 nominations were received for this year’s awards. As winners of the Community category, Sam and Emily will receive a £5000 cash prize for their organisation and a National Lottery Awards trophy.

Read more about Sam and Emily's nomination here.

The other winners of The National Lottery Awards 2022 are…

L-R: SignKid, Eric Sproul, Sal Chebbah, Clive Gray, Emily Stables and Sam Stables.

Eric Sproul – Sport

Eric has had scoliosis, which causes twisting and curvature of the spine, since he was 14. He said, “I was in constant pain which made me angry. I just wanted to fight everyone.”

Eric, 53, was diagnosed at the age of 16 and prescribed strong painkillers. But he still endured pain for 15 years which caused him to be depressed and even suicidal at times.

When Eric’s mother passed away in 2016, she left him some money and suggested he buy a bike. He said, “She knew I’d loved cycling as a kid and thought it could help”.

After experiencing a huge boost in his fitness and sense of well-being as a result of cycling, Eric signed up as a cycle leader at Easterhouse Phoenix Community Centre. Now he teaches others how to ride and maintain their bike.

Signkid – Arts, Culture and Film

Deaf rapper Signkid is on a mission to make music more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people. The 31-year-old – real name Kevin Walker – has integrated elements of British Sign Language and UK Sign Slang into a visually based language that allows deaf music fans to access the lyrics of their favourite songs.

He said, “I don’t hear everything completely but I feel the vibrations. I read the lyrics and match them to the beat. Hearing artists often look at people like me and think that we can’t do music, but I want to see the number of deaf UK artists growing.

Signkid, from London, has been deaf since the age of 3, after contracting meningitis. But he hasn’t let it hold him back – writing, producing and recording music and performing at major festivals alongside hearing artists.

He also recently starred as himself in a musical short film called Silent World, made with the help of a grant from The National Lottery. The film won him the Arts, Culture and Film category in this year’s National Lottery Awards.

Clive Gray – Heritage

Retired Royal Marine Clive Gray is using the past to build better futures for the people of Blyth in Northumberland.

As the CEO and founder of the Blyth Tall Ship project, Clive teaches maritime skills like engineering and shipbuilding to help transform the lives of local people in a town facing high unemployment.

A key part of the organisation’s mission since its launch in 2009 was to restore a 100-year-old tall ship – a project supported by National Lottery funding. It was a tribute to Blyth’s proud history as a shipbuilding town, and local sailor Captain William Smith’s historic 1819 voyage to the Antarctic on a vessel built locally.

Clive, 58, said, “The apprentices are building relationships with male and female volunteers with a lifetime of experience in engineering. It helps them to mature.”

Over 80 per cent go into employment and many go on to further learning. Success stories include a 20-year-old single mum who secured an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce.

Clive said, “Winning the National Lottery Heritage Award is a huge boost for the team. We know we’re changing lives.”

Sal Chebbah – Environment

Living in the vicinity of the Grenfell Tower, Sal Chebbah saw a community shattered by the tragedy. Now she’s helping residents heal through a nature project that’s inspired people across the Lancaster West Estate in West London.

As project manager of Growing with North Kensington, Sal helped install a mushroom garden in the grounds of the estate and also supports the community with regular gardening workshops, which help bring people together.

The project, supported with the help of National Lottery funding, supplies residents with grow kits. It’s inspiring them to create one of the greenest estates in London.

Sal, 45, said, “There are so many therapeutic benefits to urban gardening. It connects people. And when an area becomes more attractive, we all want to take better care of it.”

Sal also teaches people about the eco and health benefits of mushrooms via her company Elysian Roots, showing how easy and cheap they are to grow – even in an urban tower block.

Now affectionately known by locals as The Mushroom Queen, she is delighted to have won the Environment category in this year’s National Lottery Awards.

Avye Couloute - Young Hero

Like any 15-year-old girl, Avye Couloute often spends weekends hanging out with friends, watching her favourite Marvel movies, and enjoying sport. Unlike most 15-year-olds, the teenager from Wimbledon, South West London also has an impressive side hustle: running Girls Into Coding, a not-for-profit social enterprise that organises regular robotics, coding and computing workshops and events for girls aged 10 to 14.

It’s all part of Avye’s mission to directly engage 1,000 girls a year with the world of tech – improving their digital skills and encouraging them to consider studying, and pursuing careers in, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Importantly, Avye also aims to help build the girls’ confidence and resilience.

Her campaign so impressed the judges of this year’s National Lottery Awards that she’s been crowned winner of the Young Hero category.

She said, “I started coding and creating robots when I was 7, and just loved the experience of building something and bringing it to life.”

Sharing her passion by running coding sessions at a local library, she noticed that the majority of those who attended were boys. Avye is aiming to redress this imbalance. She said, “Before the age of 6, boys and girls have equal interest in technology, but by the time they are 9 a gender gap appears.”

She added, “Technology is the future, so it’s really important we break down the current stereotypes and have an equal mix of boys and girls taking part. I want to help make computing accessible, equal and comfortable for everyone.”

Originally published 22nd November 2022. Updated 25th November 2022.

The National Lottery has been changing the lives of winners and supporting good causes across the UK since 1994. In that time, there have been more than 7,200 new millionaires created and by playing The National Lottery you raise over £4 million for Good Causes every dayΔ.

Discover more
Please wait