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THREE people from Neath Port Talbot, including a 12-year-old boy recovering from cancer who saved a man from drowning, have been shortlisted for the Welsh Government’s annual St David Awards, due to be announced on March 24th this year.

Ethan Hutchings, from Port Talbot, who rescued a drowning man from a river in Cwmavon, Port Talbot, has been nominated for a Young Person Award.

Ethan, who had been receiving treatment for thyroid cancer, was meeting up for the first time since the first lockdown eased last summer with his step-mother and young sister. They met for a paddle at a local spot where people swim in the river at the Gorad, Cwmavon when Ethan noticed ta the man was in trouble in the water.

The 50-year-old man became unresponsive after diving into the cold water and was drowning. Quick thinking Ethan jumped into the water and swam under the man, bringing him to the safety of the river bank where Ethan was joined by others in giving the man CPR – something he had learned at school.

His nomination for the award states: “With no thought to his own safety, Ethan’s brave and swift actions that day saved the man’s life.”

Angharad Paget-Jones, a disability rights campaigner from Port Talbot, has been nominated for a Humanitarian Award. She has used her own experience of living with severe sight loss to raise awareness of the issues facing those with sight impairment.

She has campaigned for improvements on many issues including a campaign about banning A-Boards in Wales as they take up valuable pavement space and cause an obstruction for many people including older people, parents with pushchairs as well as people with limited sight.

She led 100 Guide Dogs and their users to Westminster to lobby against access refusals, an issue she herself has faced.

She is also working with Wales’s four police forces to raise awareness of disability hate crime following abuse she faced in the first Covid-19 lockdown. She wrote to MPs and Members of the Welsh Parliament to highlight these issues, which has led to Members of Parliament asking questions in the House of Commons to highlight this issue.

John Puzey of Pontardawe has also been nominated for a Humanitarian Award, He is a prominent housing campaigner and was director of Shelter Cymru, Wales’ leading independent housing and homelessness charity, for more than 30 years until his retirement in October 2020.

He oversaw the growth and development of the charity to providing a wide range of housing advice services as well as increasing its campaigning and policy profile. Shelter Cymru began delivering advice in five local authority areas and has grown to provide housing advice across the whole of Wales.

Under his leadership, Shelter Cymru responded swiftly to the Covid-19 crisis, ensuring all services remained in place and were able to continue to advise and support people in housing need.

He has served on a number of Welsh Government advisory groups most recently the Housing Ministers Homelessness Action Group. He was a founding chair of Rough Sleepers Cymru and Housing Forum Cymru.

In his spare time, he is Chair of the Pontardawe Film Society.

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, Cllr Peter Rees, said:

“I want to congratulate the nominees from Neath Port Talbot and I’m sure we wish them every success when the awards are announced.”

Announcing the nominations, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“This year’s St David Awards finalists are an inspiring group of people that we are lucky to have lived and working in Wales.

The past year has been incredibly challenging for many of us. The coronavirus pandemic has brought much sadness and heartbreak – but it has also brought out the best in many people. This group of people from across the whole of Wales, are a true inspiration to us all.”

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