Community group win international competition

Lincolnshire community group Off The Bench (OTB) has won recognition in a worldwide competition aimed at rewarding innovative young people.

OTB’s Maaike Veenkamp (23) entered the Zeitgeist Young Minds competition, hosted by Google and YouTube, due to her contribution in helping the group.

Entrants had to upload a one minute video detailing their work, and how their job makes a positive change.

Veenkamp was one of 10 winners, aged between 18 and 24, chosen out of thousands of entries.

She said: “I was encouraged by the rest of the team to put an entry in and I had a lot of fun making it.

“Although it’s my name that goes down as winning the award, I think the success is testament to the work everyone does at Off The Bench.

“It’s a real team effort, and working at OTB to make positive change in the community is such exciting and rewarding work.”

Veenkamp is behind a number of initiatives at OTB, put in place to help tackle antisocial behaviour by youths in the city.

One of her initiatives is the upcoming coffee shop, and securing the £43,000 needed to get it off the ground.

With OTB, Maaike also managed to keep other city youth groups running, maintaining a volunteer base and working alongside youths with disabilities in Lincolnshire.

OTB Chief Executive Pete Genders said: “I can’t express how proud I am of Maaike and the whole team on this outstanding award.

“The work that Maaike and OTB are doing is absolutely phenomenal and she truly deserves this worldwide recognition for her part in not only making a difference in Lincolnshire but in changing the world around us.”

As part of her prize, Veenkamp will be attending one of Google’s prestigious events, Zeitgeist Europe 2012.

Zeitgeist Europe brings together a number of inspirational figures, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, Professor Stephen Hawking and inventor of the Internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Watch the video below to see Veemkamp’s entry: