Hayley Wheeler

The New Year Honours List 2023 marks the incredible public service of individuals from across the UK

31 December 2022


A University of Portsmouth staff member has been recognised for their outstanding contribution to the community.

Hayley Wheeler, Global student support and events coordinator at the University, has received the British Empire Medal (BEM) award in the New Year Honours.

She is the founder of The Reverse Advent Calendar Portsmouth which brings together organisations across the city to make it easier for people to give back to those in need for the festive season.

Now in its 6th year, the project encourages participants to give a different donation every day throughout December.

I'm honoured to receive this award on behalf of all those who continue to show overwhelming support

Hayley Wheeler, Global student support and events coordinator and founder of The Reverse Advent Calendar Portsmouth

Reacting to the news, Hayley said: “I'm honoured to receive this award on behalf of all those who continue to show overwhelming support. Without this continued outpouring of kindness from the community, none of this support for the charities would be possible.

“I'd like to dedicate this award to my late friend Barbara Ibba. She was the lady that showed me kindness and helped me get my life back on track and believe in myself again.”

The project first came about in 2017 in Hayley’s office at the University of Portsmouth, on a much smaller scale. With the help of her line manager, she encouraged colleagues to donate a few items to a box, which would eventually be delivered to a local homeless shelter and kitchen.

“As the word spread throughout the different departments across the University, the donations came flooding in from likeminded colleagues who wanted to give something back”, explained Hayley. 

“We had so many thoughtful donations we were able to support many charities including the soup kitchen, a local women’s shelter and a hostel for young homeless. Year on year, the campaign has grown, enabling us to help more and more deserving causes across our city.”

This year, the project supported Pompey in the Community, the Trussell Trust Food Bank, and Friends without Borders; a charity that provides support for asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants within the Portsmouth area. Due to the overwhelming amount received, volunteers also managed to donate to The Life House Soup Kitchen in Southsea and the Buckland Soup Kitchen.

Hayley added: “I have been blown away by the kindness of colleagues and students at the University and from the local community to support those in need in our city.

“The sad reality is that the number of people needing support and using food banks is rising week on week. Families are facing impossible decisions between heating and eating this winter. These donations are a lifeline to many people and they will make a real difference to Portsmouth families, giving a little bit of Christmas cheer to show that someone cares.”

Each year the New Year Honours List recognises the admirable achievements and outstanding service of heroes across the UK. It is a time where local champions who continue to go the extra mile, often putting others needs before their own, can be recognised on a national level.

It is decided by a committee, who pass on their recommendations to the Prime Minister and then to the King, who awards the honour.