When caring waitress Emily Ong spent a month volunteering at an orphanage for sick and poverty-stricken children in Africa she was deeply touched by the work of the charity which runs it.
So when she scooped the £1,000 first prize for winning a national customer service competition, it was the underprivileged youngsters she had met thousands of miles away in Ghana that she thought of, rather than herself.
Emily, 20, used the money to pay for a return trip to the orphanage in Accra – where she recently spent another six weeks doing voluntary work – and to officially “sponsor” one of the children there.
Now her selfless actions have been praised by colleagues at The Badger pub and restaurant near Ponteland, Northumberland, where she works as a waitress.
Emily, a former student at Ponteland High School, beat off competition from 13 rivals to win the award for best sales and service professional in the V Factor scheme, run by the Vintage Inns chain.
As well as the £1,000 prize money, she won a starring role in the company’s new national training video after emerging victorious from the final event in Birmingham.
Emily first volunteered at the Accra orphanage, which is run by the Future Leaders charity, when she spent a month there last September as part of the Ghana Volunteer Project.
She did artwork, taught the youngsters English and also did some science and maths teaching in the evenings at a charity school.
Emily, who lives in Dunsgreen, Ponteland, said she is delighted that she decided to use her competition prize money to return to Accra this summer.
“When I went there in September I was really struck and touched by the fantastic work, and I’m just so passionate about the charity, after meeting its leader.
“It is so amazing that I wanted to help out again and used the money I won to go back there and sponsor one of the children.
“It is so satisfying and rewarding to be involved with something like this and I definitely want to go back there again next year.”
Peter Drummond, landlord at The Badger, said: “Emily is one of the most selfless and giving people I have ever met, and fully deserves this accolade.
“Apart from her sterling efforts in Ghana, she has also been a volunteer at an elderly care home in Ponteland and for hospital Radio Lollipop. Our guests initially put her forward as our V Factor representative, and her colleagues unanimously voted her for the regional final, because she’s consistently excellent in all she does.”
Emily is going to Dundee University to study medicine in October, and is interested in a career in psychiatry.
Ali Bradbury, head of human resources for Vintage Inns, said: “Emily stood out and is a true ambassador for Vintage Inns. She’s so bubbly, resourceful and passionate.”
I wanted to help out again and used the money I won to go back and sponsor one of the children