A NORTH YORKSHIRE cancer survivor and international champion for young people’s rights, is urging children in the North-East to join him and speak up for better global health.

Diagnosed with leukaemia when he was 19, Brad Gudger went on to receive The Diana Award for his work with young people and the cancer community. As well as founding his own charity, Alike, to combat loneliness and isolation among young people with cancer, he also acts as a youth advisor to the NHS, World Health Organisation and most recently the UN.

Now, he is working with his former school - Appleton Wiske Community Primary, near Northallerton - to help launch Defenders of Health, a new initiative to help pupils learn about and celebrate all the people around the world who are working to save lives from viruses and diseases – from cancer to Covid-19. It also aims to inspire children and empower them to feel they can make a difference to healthcare in the future.

Brad, a former student at Northallerton College, said: “I think Defenders of Health is a great way to get young people and their families talking about issues around global health and ways that they can make a difference and shape the future. When I was diagnosed and undergoing treatment for leukaemia, whilst my friends and family were really supportive, I still felt very isolated and that there was no one I could talk to who understood what I was going through.

“I was also very conscious that without the cancer drugs and medical treatment I had, I would not have survived. That is why I set up my charity and campaigned for more support for young people.

“I think that once you have your voice heard for the first time – you don’t stop and I’m looking forward to working with pupils at the school to talk about global health and how they can get involved.

“We’re living in a globalised world. The pandemic means children in Appleton Wiske are going through a very similar experience to children in Australia or India – we are more connected than ever.”

Appleton Wiske Community Primary School, where Brad’s mum, Paula, is a higher-level teaching assistant, is keen to take part in Defenders of Health.

Headteacher, Neil Clark, said: “We have always put our pupils’ health and wellbeing first and there has never been a more important time to refocus our energies on this crucial aspect of daily life. The Defenders of Health project will enable us to celebrate and understand the incredible work that ‘Defenders’ around the world are doing to keep us safe. The interactive online resources and games will be ideal for learning at school and home, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Leading educators and charities including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save the Children UK, St Mary’s Twickenham, British Science Association, Global Citizen, Malaria No More and The ONE Campaign have teamed up to create Defenders of Health - an educational game to help young people across the UK learn about health issues around the world, whether in the classroom or at home.

The campaign offers children a package of free resources that take them on a learning journey to discover how people around the world are tackling diseases like Covid-19, malaria and polio.