Image by Chidera Anyakora

WINNERS have been announced in a media competition for young people on the subject of biodiversity, run by the Columban Missionary Society in Britain and Ireland.

Young people age 13 to 18 were asked to produce a piece of writing or an image that demonstrates an awareness and understanding of the issue of biodiversity, and which highlighted people, communities and organisations trying to build a sustainable future. Protecting biodiversity, which humanity relies on for health, food and well-being, is a mission priority of the Columbans.

The competition attracted 223 entries across Britain and Ireland.

In Britain, entries from 29 schools were judged by media experts who praised the high quality of all the entries shortlisted. The judges were Ruth Gledhill, Assistant Editor at The Tablet, Josephine Siedlecka, Founder and Editor of Independent Catholic News, Jao Resari, a Columban lay missionary in Taiwan who is also an artist, and James Trewby the Columban Education Worker. In addition, Mary Colwell, author and champion for curlew recovery and nature education provided expertise on the theme of bidiversity. “We were very happy with the quality of entries and I was amazed at their energy and thoughtfulness”, said James Trewby.

The winning article came from Austin Beenham of Holy Cross Catholic High School in Chorley, Lancashire. It was described by Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet as “an outstanding piece which incorporates calls to action, strong arguments and personal experience along with knowledge and accurate citation of Catholic Social Thought.” Austin himself said, “I am very thankful that I have been able to raise awareness on the biodiversity crisis and hopefully made a difference.”

Second and third prize winners were Anna Cookson of Notre Dame Sixth Form College in Leeds, and Sarah Ashcroft of Loreto Grammer School in Altrincham. Justine Barlow, Principal of Notre Dame College said, “it is fantastic news; what an achievement for Anna to come second in this important competition.”

Becki Bradbury of the RE Department at Loreto, one of many RE teachers who promoted the competition, congratulated Sarah and said, “we feel that the competition has allowed our students to fully consider the issue of biodiversity within our world and engage with Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ letter which serves as a reminder to all of us how important care for our common home is.”

With her winning image (see above), Chidera Anyakora, also from the Loreto School in Altrincham, said, “In this piece I wanted to present a diverse range of wildlife that mirrors the diverse and unique nature of our world as biodiversity can come in different forms.” Judge Mary Colwell said: “I really liked the imaginative approach and the message. By using the image of a heart wrapped in nature, it made the point that saving the natural world is as much about the heart as about rational thinking and science. That is the message of Laudato Si, too. And I like the variety of creatures used.” Josephine Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News felt the image showed “love of the world.”

Second and third prize winners in the image category were Megan-Rose Ibus of Loreto College in St Albans and Charlotte Moyes of St Edward’s in Poole. Megan commented that “beauty lies in diversity”. Charlotte said that in her hourglass drawing: “I wanted to show how time was ticking and that we urgently need to make a change and raise awareness about the impact we are having on biodiversity and that we should all play our part to protect our planet for future generations.”

The Columbans thanked all the young people who entered the 2024 competition and the judging panel. Previous competitions have focused on Climate Change, Migration, Throwaway Culture, Racism, 21st Century Changemakers, and Peace.

* See the winning images and read the winning articles here:

* Source: Columban Missionaries in Britain