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14th Sep, 2017

Lucy Collins: International Peace Summit
by Neal Stirk on September 14, 2017 14:17


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When I first heard I was attending JCI's first-ever International Summit on Peace, I was excited but really didn't know what to expect.  I felt I would be completely out of my depth but, at the same time, I had a feeling that I needed to be there.  My place was sponsored by JCI UK as the current JCI UK President was unable to attend, and my application was selected after a number of people applied. The sponsorship included 3 nights' accommodation at The Hilton, Kuching as well as $400 towards the cost of the flight.  In total, there were three of us from the UK who attended as well as around 600 delegates from the rest of the world.

The focus of the International Summit on Peace was to create a concerted effort to develop local community initiatives across the globe that address the 16 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) set out by the United Nations. Each of the SDG's affect communities globally to a greater or lesser extent and are designed to address issues such as food poverty, protection of the environment, justice, access to economic opportunity, clean water and education in order to create a more stable, just and peaceful world.

The Summit was funded by the Government of Sarawak - the largest state in Malaysia, which is actually in Malaysian Borneo.  To make sure as much of the world as possible was included in the Summit, the Government of Sarawak provided sponsorship towards the cost of the flights and accommodation for delegates from 102 countries.  It meant that people who normally wouldn't have the chance to go to something like this could actually attend.  People literally came from all over the world (Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas) including from countries as far flung as Lesotho, Mauritius, Curaçao and Myanmar. It was truly an international experience. 

One thing that particularly stands out about Kuching is that everybody, no matter where they came from, felt welcome.  At first I did wonder why little-known Kuching was chosen to host the very first Peace Summit.  After spending time there, it's clear that it really couldn't have been anywhere else. Firstly, Sarawak is home to 28 different ethnicities as well as Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities that have lived peacefully alongside each other for many years. The mixture of cultures in Sarawak also means that the food is really quite something else.  Secondly, as a large city with a population of around 350,000 people, Kuching is making a name for itself as a go-to destination for international conferences, and it certainly has the world-class facilities and infrastructure to support this as well as to tourism to the wider Borneo region. 

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The Peace Summit was a unique experience. The hundreds who attended did so in the spirit of openness, tolerance and cooperation.  Conversation flowed easily as the delegates were eager to make friends and contacts all over the world.  It doesn't happen often that 102 nationalities are together in the same room. Everyone I met was optimistic and excited for what will happen next in terms of projects and initiatives as so many creative ideas and opportunities for international cooperation that came up as a result of the Summit.  During one of the sessions I was at on 'Creating a Positive Narrative in the Media', I happened to sit at a table with delegates from Singapore, Canada, Denmark and Cameroon.  Together we came up with a fun project that will take place on our respective continents and is planned to coincide with World Peace Day 2018. All I can say is keep your eyes peeled! 

There were also so many inspirational speakers such as Emmanuel Jal from South Sudan who gave a candid speech on how he was forced to become a child soldier after his mother and many of his relatives were killed when he was just seven years old.  Whilst children in other parts of the world were learning to read and write, he was learning how to fight.   At times he was so hungry that people began to smell like food.  He spoke openly about how he overcame severe trauma and a deep hatred for the kinds of people who murdered his family.  It's certainly worth taking the time to look into his story.  Emmanuel was eventually rescued by a charity and went onto become a recording artist and campaigner for peace.  In 2014, he appeared in a feature film called The Good Lie based, starring Reese Witherspoon.  Emmanuel saw things as a child that no human should ever experience and has gone on to create a life beyond what most people can imagine.  

What some people go through in life is just unimaginable and it makes you realise how lucky we are, even though the UK has its issues like anywhere else, to have the security and standard of living that we do in our country.  However, in this interconnected world, a threat to peace anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere and war happening in faraway places will soon arrive at your door (in the form of refugees, threats to national security, terror attacks and even lack of peace of mind) if we turn a blind eye and fail to act to ensure the welfare of others. This is why the Peace Summit was created so that we can protect and improve our welfare as communities and countries and also help others to do the same.  

As much as the speakers were incredible, the stories from JCI members were just as inspiring - ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I met Hawwa Hanjara from JCI India who has been the subject of death threats due to her fight against child trafficking.  So far, she has rescued 30 children from what can barely be described as a trade.  Things like this make you realise that one person taking a stand can make such a huge difference in the world and to other people's lives.  It just takes one.  If not you, then who? 

So, as we are all flying back to the four corners of the Earth, I'm sure that most of us left with a piece of Kuching still with us and, most of all, the feeling of peace in our hearts. We are excited to implement the projects and initiatives in our own communities that we discussed at the Summit in order to make peace possible.  It has already begun.  Will you join us to make your mark on the world?

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7th Sep, 2017

Meet Our Members: Anne Homer
by Neal Stirk on September 7, 2017 23:16


Hi Everyone, This weeks blog is all about the 2016 JCI UK Most Outstanding Member Anne Homer. Who last year went from dreading public speaking to helping to host a Black Tie dinner in less than 12 months! Not one for resting too much either has also this year ran the London marathon!

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Name: Anne Homer

How long have you been a member?

I have been a member of JCI Sheffield for just over a year and a half 

Why did you join us 

I joined after a trainer that came into work to teach public speaking recommended the organisation to me. They spoke so highly of JCI and assured me that joining would give me the the help and support I was looking for to improve my public speaking skills.  

What is one of the things you would like to work on with JCI Sheffield?

JCI puts on some brilliant training sessions. I want to work with JCI to continue as a regular member, attending the sessions I believe will support me in my career as well as help me provide support to others in the workplace.  

What is your proudest JCI moment 

Organising the 2017 ‘Small Grants Charity Event’ with fellow member Katherine Hastings. It was such a great evening, I learnt so much and it was brilliant to raise money for local charity Food Cycle as well as award the JCI small grants pot to four wonderful local causes.

How has JCI Sheffield helped you?

JCI has allowed me to make friends with lovely, like minded people, learn new skills and practice my public speaking in a safe and supportive environment.  

What would you say to people thinking of joining?

JCI is a great organisation which can give you the tools and stepping stones you need to not only reach your goals but to go beyond them. The more you put in, the more you will get out. 

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30th Aug, 2017

Meet Our Members: Stephanie Stirk
by Neal Stirk on August 30, 2017 22:57


Welcome to this weeks edition of meet our members! We recently caught up with the newly married Mrs Stirk and gave us the low down on why she became a member and some of her proudest moments.

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Name: Stephanie Stirk

How long have you been a member?

Since October 2014, the first event I attended was an annual dinner. I really didn't know what Neal had got me into. but I enjoyed the evening.

Why did you join us?

I joined as I had recently had moved to Sheffield, wanted to meet new people and make some new friends. Which I have made some great friends who I wouldn't have become the person I am without them supporting and pushing me to do new and extraordinary things. JCI has become a very important part of my life. its a safe place to try new things and if it doesn't work how you expected you always have the other members support and help you learn form your failure as much as your successes.

What is the one thing you want to work on with JCI Sheffield?

I would love to be part of big projects around or outside Sheffield in the next year. i.e. do a big community project involve members and the local community.

What is your proudest JCI Moment?

I have a number of proud moments, from winning best new member in Sheffield in 2014, Seeing my partner winning best member in the UK in 2015. But my personal proudest moment would have to be when I won extemporary (off the cuff public speaking) at national conference in 2015. I really didn't want to enter but Gareth believed I could do it and helped push me to give it an try and I ended up wining! I am so grateful for him pushing me to give it a go, I have now judged at a national level and also have started to train other members in this fun and fast form of public speaking.

How has JCI Sheffield helped you?

JCI Sheffield has helped me in so many ways, I have become a more confident person, who is not scared of failure as I know I have an amazing network that will pick pick me up and support me and also celebrate your successes with you. It had helped me believe in myself and my abilities and if there is something I want to learn or do all I have to do is ask.  

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining?

If you want to meet people from around the world who think like you and see that everyone has potential. Make some awesome friends that you can experience the extraordinary with and feel like no matter who you are you belong. If you want to make a change to the world around you, it might be small but if everyone makes a small change it would soon add to a big change. JCI is a world wide origination of small local changes that really does change the world in a big way. If you want to be part of that and be around some of the best people, the world can offer. there is a place for you in JCI Sheffield.

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24th Aug, 2017

Meet Our Members: Lucy Collins
by Neal Stirk on August 24, 2017 18:26


Welcome to the third in our series about meeting our members. This week we hear from Lucy Collins who is our Marketing Director for 2017. Since joining just over a year ago Lucy has really thrown herself in to JCI and already has big plans for the future.

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How long have you been a member? 

Just over a year as I joined in April 2016.

Why did you join us?  

It was the international aspect that interested me most as JCI has around 200,000 members in over 100 countries.  There is so much going on all over the world and, as a member, you have the pick of what you would like to do and where.  

The flagship JCI event is the annual World Congress, which rotates all over the world. This year it is being held in Amsterdam and next year it will be in Goa.  We also have European Conference which was in Basel this year and hits Riga next year.  There are also many other regional conferences and events going on all over the world that your JCI membership gives you immediate access to. 

What is the one thing you want to work on with JCI Sheffield? 

I would like to work on my public speaking skills.  This is not something I thought I would ever say but JCI does tend to have that effect!  I would also like to understand more about leadership skills in terms of how to get the best out of others.  JCI is the ideal place to do this as it's not ever a case of pass or fail.  it's really about understanding and developing yourself in a safe and supportive environment. 

What is your proudest JCI Moment?  

Even now, being relatively new to JCI, there are so many moments that stand out.  The main one was being picked for a sponsored place to attend JCI's very first International Summit on Peace in Malaysia this September!  Literally as I was writing this I received an e-mail asking me to present a project at the Peace Project Showcase at the event in Malaysia.  I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to do this yet, but I have said 'yes' and will figure out the details later.  That's just how we roll.

How has JCI Sheffield helped you?  

JCI Sheffield has upgraded my level of ambition and made me realize that so much more is possible.  In JCI you are offered opportunities pretty much as soon as you join that you just wouldn't get anywhere else.  You aren't expected to have the 'right' kind of experience or background.  It's really incredible that there is no limit on what you can achieve, provided you are willing to show up and make the effort.  That just doesn't happen in many places.   

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining? 

I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't want to join.  JCI is one of the most remarkable organizations in the world.  Just get in there and make an impact!

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17th Aug, 2017

Meet Our Members: Neal Stirk
by Neal Stirk on August 17, 2017 19:07


Hey Everyone,

And welcome to the 2nd in our series of Meet Our Members. This blog is about our President for 2017 Neal Stirk and why he loves JCI and everything that the organization has helped him overcome and develop.

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Name: Neal Stirk

How long have you been a member? 4 and a half years (Time flys when you’re having fun)

Why did you join us? I initially joined to go to the training events and meet new people in Sheffield. I also wanted to work on my confidence as it was quite low at the time. 

What is the one thing you want to work on with JCI Sheffield? Leadership! I wouldn’t ever say I’m a natural leader but JCI gives me the chance to lead in a safe environment that its ok to make mistakes provided we learn from it. 

What is your proudest JCI Moment? Becoming local president around 7 months ago. JCI Sheffield has given me a lot opportunities that other organizations simply can’t. I’ve met people from all over the world, met people locally that I wouldn’t rub shoulders with normally and been trusted with 90 years history that proves what we do for our members works.  

How has JCI Sheffield helped you? JCI has given chances to push myself far beyond my comfort zone. Into leadership, into public speaking and to try things that I wouldn’t normally.

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining? Get involved with us! Talk to our members and hear there experiences and then see what we can do for you.

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10th Aug, 2017

Meet Our Members: Mark Smith
by Neal Stirk on August 10, 2017 20:58


Hello Everyone, This is the first in our series about showing our members and who they are. 

The first blog is about our Past President Mark Smith who this week is volunteering at the Special Olympics right here in Sunny Sheffield. Please read on and see what he has to say about his experiences with JCI.

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Name: Mark Smith

How long have you been a member? I joined in 2012 so 5 years - time flies when you're having fun!

Why did you join us? Initially to meet other like minded young professionals, to expand my network (you never know who others are connected to!) and for the training sessions. Since then I have got involved in all the areas of opportunity and I particularly like the international areas. Before JCI I wasn't particularly bothered about travelling but I now really enjoy going to as many international conferences and training sessions that I can get to!

What is the one thing you want to work on with JCI Sheffield? I really like delivering training and have done so on a local, regional, national and international level. I would like to develop and deliver different courses and also deliver more training on an international level. Another key area (if I can get away with 2!), is to develop my coaching and mentoring skills. I have a mentor within JCI (a former President and Senator) which I find very useful and I have recently started mentoring a relatively new member.

What is your proudest JCI Moment? Being awarded the most outstanding member in the world award in 2014. It was such an honour!

How has JCI Sheffield helped you? In so so many ways - through meeting new people who have become very good friends, developing my confidence and my public speaking skills, being able to think on my feet, understanding my personality style and approach and how I can adapt that to get the best out of working with others and another big one has to be helping me learn skills regarding using different social media platforms.

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining? It has been the best thing I have ever done and I wish I found out about it years ago! Try it, get involved, join us! What is the worst that could happen?

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21st Jun, 2017

JCI Mayo and JCI Sheffield celebrate 5 years of twinning!
by Mark Smith on June 21, 2017 21:32


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We caught up with JCI Sheffield member Mark Smith (2015 Local JCI Sheffield President) to ask him about the history of the 5 year twinning agreement between JCI Mayo and JCI Sheffield.

Happy 5th anniversary!

It was five years ago, back in 2012 when the local Presidents of JCI Mayo in Ireland and JCI Sheffield in the UK signed their official twinning agreement.  It was then I believe the slogan 'twinning is winning' was born which is now being used by other Chambers to promote their twinning relationships!  Good to see that we are trend setters!  On a serious note, the strong relationship which JCI Mayo and JCI Sheffield have built up over the last five years is seen as good practice and one which others want to strive to create in many other Chambers and countries.

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What is twinning?

The JCI Twinning Program is a voluntary and reciprocal agreement between national organizations or local organizations in different countries, regions or cities.

The motivation to twin originates from the members in two national or local organizations who wish to establish a mutual understanding and friendship. The objective is to exchange personal visits, ideas, projects and culture. With modern communication and transportation systems, distance is no longer an obstacle

What sort of thing usually happens on twinning visits?

Every year since the twinning began, members of both Chambers have had the chance to take part in twinning visits - one to County Mayo and one to Sheffield and during each visit we always manage to cover all areas of opportunity with a spot of volunteering for community, some training, business and of course the social side all wrapped up in international!

I have had the pleasure of attending all twinning visit (2 a year) for the last 5 years.  In that time we have had training on debating; event management; assessing risk; effective communications; networking; blogging; JCI Achieve course.  We have volunteered for the MSPCA (Mayo's equivalent of the RSPCA) walking dogs, cleaning and socialising kittens; marshalling at a triathlon; helped at an art gallery.  In terms of team building exercises we have done paint balling; the great escape; assault courses; Go Ape; 'Boda Borg' (a bit ike the Crystal Maze); taken part in St Patricks Day celebration parades complete with homemade banners and much more!

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Why do you think the Mayo/Sheffield twinning relationship has remained so strong over the last 5 years?

I think the main reasons are that

  • everyone is so friendly which makes it easy to develop trusting relationships
  • we have always organised two trips a year
  • our members meet up each other at international conferences such as European Conference and World Congress
  • we hold regular twinning conference calls to keep in touch
  • team building and socials are key elements of our twinning visits which help develop strong relationships
  • it provides members an international experience including those who may not be able to take part in the international conferences for whatever reason

What do other members think of the twinning relationship?

"The twinning between Mayo and Sheffield gets stronger and stronger each year.  This weekend was absolutely fantastic, hanging out with our twins, learning, having fun, breaking boundaries with team events and a bit of food and drink. It was wonderful to have our twins over again and catchup and I'm looking forward to visiting Sheffield again later in the year" Adrian Corcoran 2017 National President JCI Ireland; 2014 Local President JCI Mayo

"Im very new to JCI but Im loving the many different aspects of it. My first time meeting the lads I was on their team building a robot to wage a war on our friends then last we drove blind around a track (We wont talk about the hot tub)..Where else would you get experiences and bonds formed like that. Invaluable memories un measureable support" Charlotte Murray, JCI Mayo member


Mark Smith

Past President (2015)


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21st Jun, 2017

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We caught up with Neal Stirk 2017 President of JCI Sheffield to find out how this years twinning visit to Ireland went.

On the 16th of June Deborah McAndrew 2017 President of JCI Mayo and her team welcomed Mark Smith and I for JCI Sheffield's annual twinning weekend that I always look forward to.

On the Friday afternoon shortly after arriving we drove straight to our accommodation called Mayo Glamping - the site had only been open for a month but WOW the accommodation was fantastic! We stayed in two "Hobbit Holes" (Think Lord of the Rings) type rooms which were excellent. The site also had a BBQ area, stone pizza oven, hot tub and sauna! You could clearly see Stephen the owner had put in a lot of hard work into the site and I truly hope we'll go back again there.

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Later that night we went to a training session ran by one of JCI Mayo's TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young Persons) winners Colmac Robotics who teach children team building skills through creating robots. Our creations however were meant to fight! We each built one in small teams and fought them in a small arena. It was great fun and a lot of good banter flying around before the fights.

On the Saturday we got up early and travelled down to Westport to Volunteer for the Westport Triathlon where the brilliant JCI Mayo members Keira Keogh and Declan Nolan were competing. We marshalled on the 5K stretch and it was brilliant to be part of the day but also to support both Keira and Declan. Keira unfortunately had a pubcture with her bike which slowed her time down however she still managed to complete the course! After the volunteering we headed back to the accommodation and got ready to head in to Castlebar for a few drinks and we drank in to the small hours.

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On the Sunday we then went to Sligo to have a go at blind driving with Wild Atlantic Crusades - this sounds a lot more dangerous than it is! The driving is in a closely controlled land rover restricted to reverse and first gear (and limited to 10 mph). The person driving is of course blind folded and takes instructions from the navigator in the car. The course is quite tricky and it can take a while to get around. The experience really brings home the importance of communication and good communication to guide others. It was a lot of fun and one of our groups set a new course record!

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After the driving we headed back to the accommodation to take advantage of the pizza oven and hot tub. It was brilliant evening and we had a lot fun, dancing to old boy band songs (thanks Mark for acting as DJ) over a few drinks.

Twinning weekends  are something I look forward to because of all the fun we have, friendships we make and new experiences we have. Twinning for me is about so much more than that! For me twinning is making friends with people from different walks of life, having 'good craic' (as the Irish say) and learning from each other. Each chamber is fundamentally different and from totally different types of locations but we have so much to offer each other and enrich each other.

I can't wait for JCI Sheffield to host members from JCI Mayo to the Steel City on the weekend of 20th October #TwinningIsWinning

Do get in touch if you are interested in getting involved with the visit.


Neal Stirk

2017 President - JCI Sheffield


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27th Mar, 2017

JCI Sheffield Launches Small Grants Scheme 2017
by Mark Smith on March 27, 2017 12:43


Following the success of the JCI Sheffield small grants scheme in 2015, the decision has been taken to once again throw open the doors to applications from local organisations and groups in the Sheffield area to apply for funding from this year’s small grants pot.

JCI as an organisation seeks to create positive change in society, imbue a sense of social responsibility within its members and create opportunities for personal development. JCI is a not for profit group both nationally and internationally active. This year JCI is officially supporting Sheffield MIND as their national charity. However, not only do we want to support our nominated charity in 2017, we would like to spread the net wider and offer the chance for small groups and charities to apply for small pots of funding to go towards projects that are in line with the JCI values and that seek to create positive change.

How does it work? This year the scheme has one application for all levels of awards (see links below). Applicants will make a funding bid following the grant criteria and filling out the grant application form. After completing this a panel from JCI will meet and four applicants will be chosen. Applicants whom pass the initial board stage will be briefed on the next stage requirements and given instructions as applicable. Deadline for grant applications is midnight Sunday April 30th 2017  

The four successful applicants will make a pitch on the event night, Wednesday May 10th 2017, for the four prizes of £500, £100 and 2x £50, the most successful pitch will win the highest amount, the least successful the lowest, with the audience voting for the winners. On the night a meal will be provided for us kindly by FoodCycle, Sheffield. FoodCycle is a charity that works to prevent food wastage and social isolation. As a thank you to them the tickets sold from the night will be donated to their Charity. Applicants to the grant scheme will get in for free. Relatively new JCI members Anne Homer and Catherine Hastings will be administering and organising the event; JCI Member Catherine Hastings states ‘We hope that lots of charities will come to the final event and that it will be a fun, light-hearted affair providing a place to network and look at ways that they may also be able to work together. It would be great to know that we have played some sort of a part in that.’

Groups are required to complete a short application form following the funding criteria which is also below:

Guidelines for applicants

Application form

If you have any queries, please contact Anne Homer, JCI Sheffield Events and Training Director:

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3rd Oct, 2016

Top Yorkshire Award goes to JCI Sheffield member again!
by Mark Smith on October 3, 2016 20:00


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For the fourth year running, Sheffield's Junior Chamber International (JCI) were jumping for joy as a member was awarded a top award - 'Most Outstanding New Member' out of all the members in Yorkshire. 

Anne Homer, 26 from Sheffield, took home the accolade after going above and beyond as a new member of JCI Sheffield, an organisation aimed at providing development opportunities for young professionals in their 20s and 30s. Not only has Anne shown dedication and commitment to the organisation by attending events and academies, but she has made a significant difference to Sheffield’s charity of the year, the Cathedral Archer Project. 

Anne - who currently works for a Wedding Album company - says: "I was absolutely shocked and over the moon to receive the award! I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of being involved with JCI since I joined at the start of the year. Everyone is so supportive and I have learnt so much already.

"JCI is the country's best kept secret - as a young person who aspires to be a leader in business one day - it has given me so many skills. I now can confidently deliver speeches and presentations, I have leadership skills and I have been given the tools to enable me to be the best I can be." 

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JCI Sheffield took home five additional awards including 'Most Outstanding President' awarded to current JCI Sheffield President, Gareth Carson. Gareth says: "I am so proud of everyone at JCI Sheffield. The board works very hard to put on as many training opportunities as possible so that young professionals in Sheffield can gain extra skills so that they can realise their professional and personal goals. 

"I am delighted that Anne has received the recognition for her outstanding membership at a regional level. She has pushed herself outside of her comfort zones by getting involved with as much as possible in JCI.  Her confidence and skills in public speaking have grown massively".

Previous JCI Sheffield winners of the Yorkshire ‘Most Outstanding Member’ award include Mark Smith (2013), Ryan Pilkington (2014) and Neal Stirk (2015).

JCI Sheffield is a not-for-profit organisation. It costs £10 a month to become a member which gives you access to training opportunities, guest speakers and much more. To find out more come along to our ‘meet JCI Sheffied’ evening on 18th October at The Showroom Cinema - to book click here please contact

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