In the space of seven days late last month, I had the privilege of meeting two of our most inspiring local charity founders, Courtney Hughes and Andrew Baker.

They will be familiar to some of the readers of the Herald, but likely not all of you.

Courtney Hughes founded Secret Santa 365 just as she turned 13, having visited her grandmother, Elsie, in hospital over Christmas.

Saddened to see the number of people stuck in hospital over Christmas that were separated from their families, she resolved to use her pocket money to buy gifts and decorations for those on the ward.

Having given away around 250 gifts in her first year to patients at the John Radcliffe Hospital, her operation has grown and grown, including being piloted in London.

Last year she gave away a huge 50,000 gifts to 13 charities as well as packages for those who are homeless, vulnerable and sick.

Andrew Baker was born with a brain injury and sustained a head injury when he was eight.

At the age of 12 he underwent brain surgery, and at the age of 14, determined to give back to the NHS that had given him such good care, he began fundraising for local causes. To date his organisation, Play2Give, has raised an incredible £220,000 for local organisations and there is now a ‘Play2Give room’ at Oxford Children’s Hospital, where Andrew spent so much time.

Many similarities between Courtney and Andrew struck me, not just the fact they both live in Didcot!

Both began their ventures as teenagers and now have larger operations than most adults double their age have built.

Both have battled against health conditions to get their organisations to where they are now: in Courtney’s case, ME, and in Andrew’s case, a brain injury. Yet both are hugely optimistic people who see the bright side of life and have retained a real humility in spite of all their success.

I’m pleased that both have been recognised for their efforts over the years.

Courtney and Andrew are recipients of the Points of Light award given out by the Prime Minister to recognise outstanding voluntary achievement. Courtney was recently awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) and even more recently, Andrew’s Play2Give won the Charity of the Year award at the Thames Valley Business & Community Awards. They have each received many other accolades besides.

Having run charities before I came into politics, I know how difficult it is, particularly when it comes to fundraising, so it was a privilege to meet two such inspiring people in my new constituency.

I will be wrapping presents and delivering them later this year for Courtney and becoming one of Andrew’s patrons for Play2Give.

I can’t wait.