Arnold sisters fighting plastic pollution awarded BEMs in Queen’s New Year’s Honours

Amy Meek, 18, and her sister Ella Meek, 16, are awarded British Empire Medals for their voluntary service to the natural environment.
By Matt Jarran, Local Democracy Reporter

Two teenage sisters from Arnold who set up their own charity to protect the environment have been awarded British Empire Medals in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.

The list, published every December 31, marks the achievements and service of ‘extraordinary people’ across the United Kingdom.

Six people across Nottinghamshire were handed the British Empire Medal – or BEM – for ‘meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown’.

They also include a campaigner who has helped thousands of women escape their violent partners for more than 40 years.

Also honoured is a 31-year-old probation officer who has worked tirelessly to rehabilitate prisoners across Nottingham.

Also given the honour are Arnold sisters Amy Meek, 18, and her sister Ella Meek, 16, for their voluntary service to the natural environment.

They set up the charity Kids Against Plastic in February 2016 and have watched it grow while juggling school life and homework.

The pair say scenes of beaches and beauty spots swarming with discarded plastic prompted them to act when they were still children.

Both sisters were home-schooled by their parents for three years and travelled across Europe and the UK in a caravan, where they saw first-hand the problems blighting the planet.

Their campaign to protect the earth has seen 1,300 schools sign up to reduce their plastic use and delivering sessions on how to make a difference.

They have also collected more than 98,000 pieces of discarded plastic themselves and got the subject of plastic pollution raised in Parliament.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has since commissioned a national review by young people of environment and climate policy.

Amy Meek told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have always had that love for nature and the environment.

“But when we spent this time travelling it shocked us. We would go to these beautiful beaches in France, and you would always see plastic pollution.

“When you are aware of it, it is really hard to ignore it. People were destroying the place they came to enjoy.

“It is about education. It is about engaging young people about these issues. When we are adults, you have bad habits, and it is hard to change that.

“But some adults have changed their attitudes because their kids come home and tell them about plastics.

“Plastic pollution is not going away. It is a persistent problem.”

Both are delighted with the award, but said it came as a massive surprise.

Amy added: “It is such an honour and a privilege at the age we are, but it is just a passion to protect the environment. We were not expecting recognition or any awards.”

Marlene Ferris, 75, from Lowdham, has also received a British Empire Medal for services to victims of domestic abuse.

A women’s refuge manager working for Newark Women’s Aid, she has helped around 5,300 victims of domestic abuse since 1980.

She helped the refuge achieve charitable status and is usually available 24 hours a day.

The last year has also been difficult, with a surge in cases of domestic abuse due to the Covid pandemic.

She said: “In 1979 there were very few refuges in the country, but Newark was one of them.

“It has been a privilege to support so many families over the years. So many barriers they have faced, and we have helped them to heal and rebuild their lives.

“I could not have achieved this on my own – my dedicated staff team and teams previously, the trustees and the local community where we have received tremendous support.

“When I got over the shock of being awarded a BEM, I was extremely honoured and overwhelmed.”

Lillian Malama, from Nottingham, was also handed a BEM for her services to volunteering and to the rehabilitation of offenders.

The 31-year-old is an offender manager probation service learner in Nottingham, who in her spare time gives up countless hours volunteering.

Her work includes the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration back into the community.

Her role is to also help family and friends of offenders when they visit them in prison as well as providing practical and emotional support.

She has also identified offenders who need support with literacy and has set up writing sessions as well as providing one to one support for those leaving the prison system with issues such as housing.

Other BEM honours were handed to Nicholas James Partridge, from Retford, for services to Public Libraries. and Meena Hanspal, a charity volunteer at the Guru Nanak’s Mission and Vegetarian Rasoi, who was awarded for services to the Sikh community in Nottingham.

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