Ella McKenzie is one of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners of 2016. Ella is a young adult carer (YAC), who has been looking after her mother, who has fibromyalgia, since the age of 17. Ella lost her father at the age of 18 and started attending a local YAC group.

She now works with the Carers Trust on a range of projects and has addressed MPs about the needs of young carers, while running the Take the Lead project at Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, a leadership project for YACs. Here she speaks about her experiences of being a carer for her mum.

In her own words: Ella McKenzie, Queen's Young Leader 2016

At the Take the Lead project, which I run at the Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, we teach young adult carers leadership skills so that when they go out into the world of work they feel more confident.

The project also gives them a chance to make new friends and take part in a three-day residential where they are able to take part in a wide range of activities that they may not have had a chance to do before, such as canoeing and high ropes. This is a great way to face their fears and demonstrate the leadership and team skills that they have been learning.

Being chosen as one of this year’s Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners has helped me to raise more awareness for carers

Having friends that understand what you are going through is important when you are a young carer, but I also think that it is crucial that other people across the country understand what carers do, so that all of the ‘hidden’ young carers out there are able to get the support they need.

I feel that being chosen as one of this year’s Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners has helped me to raise more awareness for carers and has hopefully encouraged ‘hidden’ carers to ask for assistance.

I want to raise awareness of the challenges carers face and to show other young people in a similar position to mine that they are not alone.

The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. Winners of this prestigious Award will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from Her Majesty The Queen. Find out more on The Queen's Young Leaders' website.​