Young Filipina makes it to a global award in memory of Princess Diana

The 25-year-old Shawntel Nicole Martinez Nieto was the first Pinay to receive the prestigious award for her social activism and services during this pandemic

The Diana Award, which was established in honor of Diana, Princess of Wales, recognized 400 inspiring youth across the globe last Monday, June 28, 2021, in a virtual ceremony. And among its Roll of Honors this year is Shawntel Nicole Martinez Nieto from Cainta, Rizal. She’s the very first Filipina to receive the prestigious award.

Shawntel Nicole Martinez Nieto the first-ever Filipina to receive the Diana Award (Photo courtesy of Shawntel Nicole Martinez Nieto)

The said award honors young people aged nine to 25 for their social action or humanitarian work. The recipients are seen to continue the legacy of the late Princess Diana, who once helped countless people in need with her philanthropic work.

Shawntel was recognized for her work in supporting communities and frontliners ever since the lockdown began due to the pandemic, as well as for her sustainability efforts. The Ateneo alumnus is the founder of One Cainta Food Program (OCFP) and currently the president of the Society of Sustainability Practitioners (SSP) also in Cainta.

Throughout the course of the health crisis, the young social worker has been able to raise funds and organize a food program for the people in her hometown. The OCFP’s charity aid during the enhanced community quarantine last year was even featured in BBC News “Coronavirus Your Stories” in July 2020. In the said show, Shawntel shared how she, together with her supportive family, distributed 200,000 bags of relief goods to help tens of thousands of Cainteños, including frontliners and people who have lost their jobs.

Shawntel and her siblings Matt, Lebron Joseph, and Gilas Pilipinas player Mike with loads of goods and PPEs they distributed in their community (Photo courtesy of Shawntel Nicole Martinez Nieto)

At present, the young social worker continues to embody Princess Diana’s character by spreading kindness, compassion, and service to communities, frontliners, and essential workers not only in Cainta but also in six other cities across Luzon. And as for her sustainability program, where they host monthly panels of experts from around the world to discuss critical issues and solutions, she’s excited for their first Sustainability Summit to be held later this year.

Witnessing how she exerted effort and time fulfilling social responsibilities, her colleagues in the Global Changemakers Association and Dalai Lama Fellowship, of which she was a part of from 2017 to 2018, nominated her for the global award last January.

In a Facebook post, Shawntel expressed how receiving the award felt so surreal, especially since it came with a congratulatory address from the Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.

According to the former badminton Lady Eagle, it’s really different achieving something out of service. “Now, it’s one of my favorite awards because of the weight it brings and, at the same time, I’ve always looked up to Princess Diana. So it's very special to me to receive an award in her honor,” Shawntel tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.

Growing up exposed to Disney princesses, Shawntel thought Princess Diana was just like one of those dainty cartoon ladies but in the flesh. Eventually, during her service journey, her perception of the British royal highness was changed because she discovered why people loved Princess Diana for shedding light on social issues and helping HIV-AIDS patients and marginalized people around the world. This made her admire the kind-hearted princess even more.

Shawntel dedicated the award to her Lolo Mex, her grandfather from her mother’s side, whom she told before passing last February, that it will be for him if she wins the award. Believing her grandfather has made a great impact in her life and has indirectly brought her to the award through every castle toy and Disneyland trip he gave, she had requested her nominators one favor: to include her middle name Martinez in the recognition.

Apart from the certificate and pin that carries the Diana Award logo, the honor comes with a coaching development program to hone the leadership capability of its recipients. “I know that, unlike other awards that serve to mark the culmination of one's journey or one's work, the Diana Award signals the start,” says the young achiever. “So I’m very excited to see who I will meet in the sessions because you can never discount the possibility that can come from a single connection, which is something our food program has shown — the ability of people to come and do things together.”