AN organisation which provides positive male role models for boys without dads has been given a royal seal of approval.

Lads Need Dads, based at Imperial House in Rosemary Road, Clacton, mentors boys aged 11 to15 with absent fathers

It is one of the only projects in the country which works proactively to address the impact of the absent father on boys and young men and whose approach is both early intervention and long-term.

The aim is to equip, engage and inspire boys by providing a 18-month personal development, life skills, community volunteering and leadership programme using male volunteers from the local community.

Lads Need Dads has now been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

It is one of just nine charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups in Essex to receive the prestigious award this year.

Sonia Shaljean, founder and managing director of the charity, said: “It is an absolute honour to receive this award and it is down to our brilliant volunteer mentors both past and present, who contribute their time, skills, and experience to the boys, their families and the local community.

“What makes our male volunteers truly special is their ability to see the potential in each and every boy and their commitment to work with them long-term.

“We celebrate our fifth birthday this week too, so to achieve the Queen’s award is a double reason to celebrate.

“A big party is planned once social distancing rules reduce.”

Joel, one of the scheme’s mentors, is a teacher and gives advice to schools across Essex about behaviour.

He said: “I’m a behaviour consultant for Lads Need Dads as well as being on the board.

“But my biggest contribution is being a mentor.

“That goes from driving a minibus to taking kids to bushcraft, fishing or on trips to places like the Tower of London and other museums.

“When becoming a mentor you don’t quite realise how much of a positive impact it is going to have on you - it’s not just beneficial for the kids.

“I’ve heard it said that a man without a purpose is like a ship without a sail and when you’re a mentor you get a real sense of purpose.

“The idea is to give access to male role models for kids with no dad or stepdad at home- it’s so important to have male figure in their lives.

“There’s also the benefit for young men to be in each other’s company so they can learn those dynamics.

“When you become a member you join a sort of band of brothers and we share advice and ideas.”

Joel said Lads Need Dads has about 30 volunteer mentors and youngsters can remain with the charity for up to four years if it’s a long-term intervention.

He added the charity isn’t just beneficial for the boys, but for their whole families.

“The award is just such a brilliant reward for hundreds and hundreds of hours of commitment to kids,” he added.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service awards are announced on June 2 each year, on the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Representatives from Lads Need Dads will receive the award from Jennifer Tolhurst, Lord Lieutenant of Essex, later this year and have the opportunity to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace next year.

n To learn more about Lads Need Dads or to volunteer as a mentor, go to