BHP supports UNESCO Youth Forum

28th April 2015

Two teenage friends brought together through sport and a shared health challenge are heading to Russia after being chosen to represent the UK at an international youth forum.

Aidan Hewitt, 17, of Darlington, and Ross Beall, 15, from Billingham, both suffer from type 1 diabetes, but it has not stopped them hosting international visitors at an annual World Youth Exchange and playing their favourite sports ice hockey and football. 

In fact, their strength of character and resolve in coping with type 1 diabetes on a daily basis contributed to them being chosen as the only young people from the UK to join the UNESCO Youth Forum in St Petersburg in April 2015.

The boys have already raised £1,000 towards the trip after regional legal practice BHP Law donated £500 from its grassroots fund with County Durham Community Foundation. 

Their friends & families have organised fundraising activities and Ross's school, St Michael's Catholic Academy in Billingham, and his mum's work colleagues have also made donations. 

The boys met at the Most Education World Youth Exchange based at Durham University and instantly connected through their shared condition, which sees them having to monitor their blood sugar levels and self-administer insulin regularly throughout each day. 

Aidan, a former pupil of Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington, said: "In the past we've been the hosts, showing international students around the sights of Durham and building friendships through sport and education. It's going to be brilliant to be the ones being hosted and having the chance to learn about life in Russia, to visit the museums and make even more new international friends." 

The boys will be accompanied by Michael Briton, of North East charity Youth World Foundation, and will live with host families in St Petersburg during their five-day trip. Aidan is hoping to see FC Zenit Saint Petersburg play and Ross, who plays for Billingham Stars U16s, wants to go to an ice hockey game. 

"I'm most looking forward to the experience of being able to represent the UK, to give the best impression and also to make young people from other countries see that having a condition like type 1 diabetes doesn't have to hold you back. If there is anyone else there with diabetes it would be good to get to know them and find out how they handle it," said Ross, who was diagnosed when he was three. 

Aidan, who was diagnosed nine years ago, added: "I expect Russia to be very different but that's what's exciting - I'm going there to experience a different way of life. I went to Bulgaria last year to see friends I'd met through summer camp and it was amazing. 

"I've had to give up college due to health reasons and I'm hoping the trip will help open new doors for me. I'd love to do a job working with international students. " 

His mum Melodie added: "Aidan tries to not let this life-threatening disease affect his day to day life, even though it obviously does. He is keen to show people that he controls his diabetes and tries not to let it control him. Diabetes is not going to rule his life or influence the choices he makes and the whole family is very proud of him." 

Claire Hewitt, business development manager at BHP Law, said: "The boys are an inspiration in how they overcome their conditions on a daily basis to get the most out of life. The trip is a fantastic opportunity and they are amazing ambassadors for the UK, so we were delighted to be able to support them." 

Keith Allan, British Consul General in St Petersburg, has confirmed the attendance of the Youth Forum and is looking forward to meeting a small delegation from the UK.