Sometime in July last year, BBC World turned the spotlight on a 24-year old Filipina who, in the thick of the global health crisis, raised funds to organize a food program that at one point was able to distribute over 200,000 bags of food and relief to tens of thousands of her kababayans in Cainta, including those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
Fast forward to almost a year later and that young lady is among the 400 inspiring young people of the world picked to receive The Diana Award 2021. “I am blown away,” Shawntel Nicole Martinez Nieto told ANCX when asked how she felt about being given the honor. She was nominated for the award by her colleagues under the Global Changemakers Association and the Dalai Lama Fellowship, two organizations that trained her the past few years. “My heart is full. I'm filled with gratitude for the recognition I've received, pride for having finally seen the name of the Philippines included in the Diana Award's Roll of Honor, and so, so much humility.”
Named after the late Princess Diana, the award is “the most prestigious accolade a young person can achieve for their social action or humanitarian work globally,” according to past awardee Dan Lawes, co-founder of Youth Politics UK and host of this year’s virtual event. The Diana Award is given to young campaigners, volunteers, fundraisers and activists creating a positive change in their lives and the lives of others around them, embodying Diana’s qualities of “kindness, compassion, and service.”
This year’s awards is pretty special because it took place just a few days before the late Princess’s 60th birthday. Her son, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, made a special appearance to deliver a message to the awardees, thanking them for being invaluable assets to their community. Diana was known as a great philanthropist and social worker who showed up for people suffering from AIDS and hunger, even those in the midst of war. The Diana Award recipients are seen as the ones who are continuing her legacy.
Shawntel, a former badminton Lady Eagle, was singled out for her work in the One Cainta Food Program and the Society of Sustainability Practitioners also in Cainta.
“I received my Diana Award for my work supporting communities and frontliners throughout the pandemic and for working with the academe, with corporations, and with the public towards elevating the field of sustainability in the Philippines,” said the young social worker. “However, if there's anything the Diana Award reminds me why I received it, it's not just that it's a job well done but rather that this is just the start and there's so much more room to grow.”
Shawntel is especially honored receiving an award named after the late Princess. “Growing up, I used to think that Princess Diana was adored because of how beautiful she was,” the Filipina told ANCX. “It was only when I took up my own journey towards the service of others that I realized people loved her because she loved people so much, because she utilized everything she had and everything she was to serve and shed light on the marginalized.”
Meanwhile, the food program Shawntel started is alive and continues to change lives. So far, reports Shawntel, their group has distributed 1.1 million goods to about 350,000 individuals in her hometown of Cainta and six other cities. “We have also been providing support to frontliners in seven hospitals across Luzon.” Donations and assistance are most welcome. “We're still accepting partnerships and donations from anyone who might want to help support communities, frontliners, and essential workers.”
Shawntel is currently president of the Society of Sustainability Practitioners and hosts a podcast called SustainaRumble which tackles sustainable development in the country. She is also finishing her graduate trainee program in JP Morgan.
But with her inclusion to the Diana Award circle, it seems many more opportunities await Shawntel. The award comes with a mentoring program geared toward fostering the growth of the recipients in the area of leadership. “I don’t know the specifics yet but I’m excited to see what’s in store,” said this inspiring Filipina. “I’ve seen how previous Diana Awardees were able to grow their work with the support of the Diana Awards community and I hope to be able to do the same.”