Launching the Ellie Maxwell Award

To mark the 20thanniversary of Firefly International Ellie’s family and friends are sponsoring the Ellie Maxwell Award through the University of Edinburgh. 

The Award

The Ellie Maxwell Award aims to encourage and support an Edinburgh-based student or group of students who have helped promote social change and inclusivity with their project. Ellie Maxwell’s work started when she was just a student at the University of Edinburgh and eventually expanded to produce meaningful change in Bosnia and more recently Palestine, Turkey and Syria. This prize is also part of her legacy: encouraging and rewarding young students who go out there and get involved with their community – whether it is local or global. 

Who is eligible for this award?

Undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Edinburgh who have worked in any type of project where some meaningful impact and social change has been achieved and there is some early evidence of sustainability; whether the focus is on Human Rights, the environment, children protection, gender equality, education or other work which promotes tolerance and inclusion.  

What is the award?

The prize consists of £500 of seed funding for your charity, organizational support, mentoring and connection to Firefly International’s network. 

How to apply

The application opens on the 29thMarch, the deadline for the application is the 29thApril and the winner will be announced on the 23rdof May. 

If you feel you fit these criteria or if you would like to nominate someone who does, please go to this link and fill in the application form. 

Application link will go live here on 29thMarch at 9pm

The Panel of Award judges 

  • Amal Azzudin – Human Rights activist and founder of Glasgow Girls a group shedding light on asylum seeker’s condition and treatment and who as school girls achieved changes to detention protocols in the UK
  • Mark Chadwick, trustee (Treasurer) at Scotland’s International Development Alliance and senior programme officer at Mercy Corps.
  • Adrian Beidas –  former volunteer with Project Hope and Firefly International. Current trustee with Firefly International 
  • Ben Constable Maxwell – former volunteer with Firefly International. Current trustee of Firefly International and Ellie’s brother. 


Firefly International was founded in 1999 by Ellie Maxwell when she was an undergraduate at Edinburgh University aged 21.  Ellie had worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina before coming to University and had seen the bitter aftermath of the Yugoslavian war. Its impact on children and the danger in which they were living compelled her to take action. She found a disused shed, painted it and started a youth centre, which got children off the streets into a safe place. Here young people had learning opportunities and engaged with arts activity that broke down barriers between the nationalities and promoted inclusivity. 

Ellie continued to develop Firefly after University but her life was cut short by cancer at the age of 32.

Twenty years on Firefly International has grown. We have worked in Palestine, continue to work in Bosnia and now also in Turkey and Syria.  We support locally led organisations enabling them with funding and organizational support. These projects give thousands of children each year a safe place, a creative approach to education and opportunities, which will help them to build a better future. 

Firefly at 20 event

On the 29thMarch in the Playfair Library we are celebrating the 20thanniversary of Firefly and launching the Ellie Maxwell Award. 

An evening of art, music and words will mark this special year. 

Bruce Munro an internationally renowned light artist will light up the Quad of Old College with his stunning Fireflies installation. 

Artists Derek Roberston and Iman Tajik will exhibit their moving work on the lives of refugees. 


Amal Azzudin an award winning activist and campaigner will give the keynote speech.

Daniel Gorman is the executive director of Shubbak, the UK’s largest festival of contemporary Arab Culture, and is a Co-ordinator with Highlight Arts, a Scottish organisation working with artists in areas in times of conflict. From 2009 – 2014 he was the director of Firefly International.


Marjroie Lotfi Gill will perform poetry reflecting her interest in migration and belonging. 

The Kuche polyphonic choir including Saska Harradina one of the founders of Firefly International and close friend of Ellie Maxwell will sing. 








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