2019 Churchill Fellowships announced

16 UK citizens have been awarded Churchill Fellowships to research new ideas for improving rural living, thanks to a partnership between The Prince’s Countryside Fund and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Churchill Fellowships offer UK citizens a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel the world and research a topic of their own choosing.

The issues being researched by this year’s Churchill Fellows range from rural isolation, to mental health services based on farms, from rural timebanking schemes, to the benefits of planting trees on farmland. They will use their findings from overseas to inspire positive change in the UK upon their return. See the full list of Churchill Fellows here.

Julia Weston, Chief Executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, said:

“Churchill Fellows are inspiring individuals who will scour the world for fresh approaches to the challenges and opportunities facing our rural communities. It’s a unique chance to make change happen, and every UK citizen over the age of 18 can apply. The next round of applications will open on 16 May 2019.”

Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said:

“The Prince’s Countryside Fund is delighted to be working with the WCMT on the Rural Living category. We are excited to see the research produced by these 16 worthy new Churchill Fellows, and particularly to see it put into practice to help sustain rural communities in the UK.”

The award winners and their projects include:

  • New technology used in health and social care: Lorraine Coe, a nurse from the Scottish Highlands, will travel to Japan. She will use her findings to inform the development of care services in rural Scotland.

Lorraine said: “I am passionate about improving health and social care within rural Scotland. My awareness of the ageing demographics, lack of care and lack of carers has led me to investigate how technological advances can assist the challenges we currently face in providing care in our remote and rural communities.”

  • Mental health services based on farms: Mary Houston, from Kendal, and the manager of an organic farm and mental health charity, will travel to Norway, the Netherlands and the USA. She aims to use her findings to develop new models of mental health support in rural areas.

Mary said: “I live on a farm in a rural, agricultural community in the Lake District. Mental health issues in the farming sector are well-documented, both in their prevalence and the subjects' reticence to engage with traditional support mechanisms. Building people's emotional resilience through meaningful activity and training is vital to their recovery and sense of purpose. I have seen, first hand, the results of this approach but it is formally established, and widely practiced, in the areas I have chosen to visit.”

  • Increasing the number of young people living and working in rural areas: Ruth Leahy, a council worker from Cumbria, will travel to the USA. She will use her findings to develop a pilot project in the UK to promote Cumbria as a desirable place to live and work.

Ruth said: “Without local action, our working age population will decline over the coming years. To create a sustainable rural economy, we need to increase opportunities for young people. A number of close friends have relocated to locations across the globe, including the Rockies, in search strong employment opportunities and career progression in bustling rural locations. I want to capture this spirit to retain and attract young people and ensure there are opportunities for everyone.”

Together, the 16 award winners will receive grants totalling over £110,000 and travel to 21 countries across five continents. They are among 150 people who were selected this year from almost 1,800 applicants to win a Churchill Fellowship to research issues across a range of sectors. The average length of a Fellowship is six weeks.

The next chance to apply for a Fellowship opens on 16 May 2019. Applications will again be invited in a special category dedicated to issues around strengthening countryside communities. Find out more.

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