Social work academic receives British Empire Medal

Harrison Nash standing with his British Empire Medal and a young South African mentee.

A University of Plymouth graduate and academic who has been devoted to helping vulnerable and traumatised children in South Africa for the last 15 years has been awarded a medal in the Queen’s Honours list.

Harrison Dax Nash, Honorary Lecturer in Social Work, received a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the children of South Africa, presented by the country’s British High Commissioner, HE Anthony Phillipson.

Since his first trip to South Africa in 2007, Harrison has been involved in a variety of projects and has made a direct impact on the lives of many children through the Maranatha Streetworkers Trust.

Harrison has been using all of his skills and expertise to lead developmental, recreational, therapeutic and caring services for the youngsters on behalf of the Trust. There are around 32 children, aged between five and 19, at Siyakatala, the residential youth centre in Port Elizabeth where Harrison is part of the management team. Many of the children have been removed from their homes for their own safety; others have been orphaned or were found begging on the streets.

Harrison then established Maranatha Care Children in the first year of his degree – a UK-based charity that aims to help South African children by offering development in education, life skills, and suitable home environments while safeguarding the future of those in care. This was with a primary focus to assist with fundraising efforts to open doors for such young people in care, especially when it comes to education.   

Speaking about this award, Harrison said: 

"I first visited South Africa when I was 18 years old, having naively seen about the hardship in Africa and just wanting to do something to help. I decided it was the right time to visit before university in order to do something worthwhile. My first experience in South Africa made me realise very quickly that I wanted to make a bigger difference than just one visit. This was often the status quo of a gap year and I just felt that there was a calling for me to ‘do more’.

<p>Harrison Nash receiving British Empire Medal in South Africa<br></p>

"For me the children are my heroes and to walk with kids on a path to becoming self-sufficient young people, some now at university or with positive work roles, inspires me daily. I cannot believe it is now 15 years since I first arrived in South Africa, but I am so grateful I was led in this direction. I am beyond humbled with this recognition; there are so many deserving people doing incredible international work, but I share it with the whole team of the organisation and inspirational children that we will always put first and continue to provide the best level of care for."

Dr Sally Abey, Head of the School of Health Professions at the University of Plymouth, said:

"The School of Health Professions is immensely proud of Harrison and his work in South Africa. The Social Work team have followed his career closely and indeed we share his work and enthusiasm with our potential applicants. Harrison demonstrates how one very dedicated person with a vision and the drive to make a difference really can change people's lives, sometimes even though the people are many thousands of miles away. This is a well-deserved recognition of Harrison's endeavours."

Harrison's award-winning social work in South Africa


Since 2012, Harrison has been using all of his skills and expertise to lead developmental, recreational, therapeutic and caring services for the youngsters on behalf of the Maranatha Streetworkers Trust. There are around 32 children, aged between five and 19, at the Siyakatala residential youth centre in Port Elizabeth, where Harrison is part of the management team. Many of the centre's children have been removed from their homes for their own safety; others have been orphaned or were found begging on the streets.

Harrison Nash
Teamwork concept with paper chain group of people holding hands. Shutterstock

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