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16 June 2011

OBE awarded to young people’s champion Andy Hawthorne

Andy Hawthorne, founder ofThe Message Trust has been recognised for his outstanding work with disadvantaged young people in Greater Manchester.

Working for nearly 20 years with young people in the area, his youth initiatives have been particularly directed at children and young adults who are traditionally difficult to reach, including those in prison or from disadvantaged communities. 

Speaking to the Evangelical Alliance, Andy said on receiving his OBE: "It was a total surprise - I feel very encouraged but a bit of fraud to be honest! I've been bombarded with emails and letters saying: 'I was in tears when I heard the news'. People have captured our vision so much and so many people have grafted living on tough estates, working in prisons - it's wonderful."

A former member of the band World Wide Message Tribe which once hosted Christmas Day house music style worship on Radio 1 in the 90s, Andy's youth work has successfully grabbed the attention of young people through a recognised balance of being cool and current while upfront about its Christian message.

Asked how the landscape has changed over the years, Andy said:

"We have been going for 19 years and now the landscape is very different. The Church is far more missional and engaged in a totally different way of thinking of how to serve the poor and I love to think that we have been a provocation of that. Before, on the tough estates you couldn't find a lively church anywhere - now, there is a genuine community."

The Message Trust runs school bands as well as over 15 projects with young offenders and has been recognised for its work by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police Peter Fahy.

Doing this kind of work according to Andy, is "a gospel imperative - if you follow Jesus, you love the poor and your heart is totally God's heart. In Psalm 37: 4 where it says God will give you the desires of your heart, that's a God send - because the more we worship the more we get to see Jesus' heart for the poor."

Others awarded honours included Charles William Victor Harris who received an OBE for his work at the Christian-based The Rank Foundation which develops young people in leadership, disadvantaged young people and the promotion of Christian principles in the media.

Youth for Christ's Prison Ministry, Director Geoff Baxter was also awarded an OBE for his services to youth justice. Through Urban Skillz Music, theatre programmes, life skills and outreach projects, Reflex work with over 4,000 young people every year in Young Offenders Institutes alongside Youth Offending Teams.

Cherron Inko-Tariah also received an MBE this year and was honoured for her pioneering youth work in Walthamstow and advisory role with the Department for Communities and Local Government on the Big Society.