An artist from Hitchin has received an award from the Prime Minister after she raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity.

Sarah Graham raised funds for the Samaritans by inviting people to paint their own version of her camper van design, and receiving works from more than 180 artists and celebrities.

She has since been auctioning the works off, and has so far raised a total of £43,500, bringing recognition from the Points of Light award scheme run by prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Sarah has bipolar disorder, and has previously been admitted to hospital when suffering from particularly debilitating episodes. She has herself drawn on the  Samaritans - who provide emotional support for people in emotional distress or at risk of suicide - for help and wanted to find a way to say thank you to the charity.

She has been painting camper van stencils for years, and decided to feature these in the launch of her 'Samarivans' funding campaign last year. A range of organisations sponsored the campaign, providing funds for the canvasses and other items, and it also received support from North Herts Council.

Sarah also advocates for mental health charities, and holds awareness-raising talks and workshops in schools.

Following the award, Sarah said: “I am thrilled ‘Samarivans’ has been recognised by the Prime Minister and feel truly honoured to receive his Points of Light award.


"The project was a team effort, I couldn't have done it without the support of the local branch of Samaritans, all of the incredible artists who gave their time and talent, the local companies who sponsored it, and my partner David.

"The money raised will help so many people and I'm grateful I had an opportunity to give back to the charity that saved my life.”

Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, congratulated Sarah and said: "Sarah’s remarkable talent and zeal was poured into the ‘Samarivans’ fundraising campaign to attract fantastic support for the Samaritans charity, raising over £37,000.

"Sarah’s gifted and inspirational creative drive drew submissions for the charity art auction from across the arts world with ‘Samarivans’ camper vans skilfully rendered by the likes of Joe Lycett and Valerie Singleton.

"So contagious is her passion that I, too, applied what artistic skill I could muster for my own submission.

"Thank you, Sarah, for bringing this vibrant and uplifting project to life. This support for the Samaritans work will provide a lifeline for many in their moments of need.”

Sarah is the 2239th recipient of the Points of Light award, which was launched in April 2014 and recognises outstanding individuals making a positive change within their community and inspiring others. An award is made to somebody in the UK every weekday.