Chris Hickford, founder and chief executive of The Eikon Charity, has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list in recognition of 35 years of service to children and young people.
Chris has dedicated his life to children and young people since his first volunteer youth work role in the mid-1980s. His first full-time paid youth work role was as Youth Minister at the Heathervale Baptist Church in New Haw, Surrey in 1992. The pastor recalls that Chris had:
“an engaging personality and an excellent track record of relating to and empathising with young people, particularly those in crisis”.
In 1995 when working as a youth worker, Chris met a 13-year-old boy whose father had very recently committed suicide. Chris tried desperately to find appropriate support and services for him, but because he wasn’t at immediate risk, he wasn’t deemed a priority and had to join a waiting list. While waiting for help, his life deteriorated, the trauma he had experienced began to take hold, destroying his wellbeing with each passing day. The despair he felt became deeper and darker.
In response that same year Chris established The New Haw Youth Project as a registered charity, based initially in a “converted broom cupboard” in Fullbrook School. Today The Eikon Charity has an income of £2.5m and has over 100 staff and volunteers.
“I feel very honoured to have been awarded an MBE, but I feel a bit of an imposter. So many people have contributed to Eikon’s success over the 27 years, each of them bringing expertise and dedication, or donating so generously, and it’s important that they are recognised in this award. I want to thank all the trustees of Eikon over the years, and the five Chairs of Trustees who have invested in me and taught me so much. And I want to thank my wife Clare and my children Emily & Archie for their support and sacrifices. This is why I feel an imposter as none of what has been achieved would have been possible without them.
“Motivated by my Christian faith, when starting Eikon in 1995 all I ever set out to do was to make sure children and young people had someone to turn to when life was tough. Often their circumstances were unimaginably tough and utterly heart breaking, yet with our support to build their strength and resilience, they so often come through the other side. They are the ones who most deserve an award, and it has been a privilege to know them and witness their achievements.
“The work of Eikon has never been more important. So many children and young people need support, and the last two years of the pandemic have made things worse. All of us at Eikon will continue to do all we can to provide a safe and loving environment of support that enables them to thrive.”
Chair of the board of trustees, Nigel Goddard says:
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are absolutely delighted that Chris has been awarded this honour, so thoroughly deserved after dedicating his adult life from humble beginnings as a solitary youth worker, to founding, developing and leading one of Surrey’s largest charities supporting vulnerable children and young people.
“If we had to describe Chris in two words they would be “selfless” and “inspirational”. He has the passion, vision and an innate desire to inspire and improve the lives of everyone with whom he comes into contact, especially those of children and young people in need. It is an honour for us as the Board of Trustees, not only to be associated with Eikon, but also to support Chris and the senior leadership team in every way that we can.”