Zara Sekhavati at APA Publications (pictured below right) is to become the first recipient of The Sophie Christopher Volunteer Award, set up by Transworld in memory of its former senior publicity manager, who died last year aged 28.
The Penguin Random House division set up the sponsored volunteering scheme at the Treak Community Centre close to Siem Reap in Cambodia, it said, to honour Christopher who "in addition to her outstanding work as a publicist, made it her mission to improve the lives of others, from co-founding The FLIP, an interview series showcasing exceptional women working in the publishing industry [and] through to her work with Beyond the Streets, a UK charity working to end sexual exploitation".
The Treak Community Centre provides free, non-formal education and training that supplements and complements the Cambodian state system, offering a nursery, school, library, computer classes and a wide range of skills training. Entries to the award, open to anyone in British publishing and bookselling, were judged by PRH, Christopher's family and friends and author and broadcaster Simon Mayo, who worked closely with Christopher.
The Treak Community Centre said Sekhavati—travel editor at APA-owned Rough Guides, Berlitz Guides and Insight Guides—"stood out from our first reading of her application form. Her passion for women's rights resonates with us here in Cambodia, as do her interests in education and children, her CELTA qualification, her technical knowledge of teaching English as a foreign language and her appreciation that learning is much more effective if it is enjoyable."
Transworld m.d. Larry Finlay said: "We were all so impressed by the applications we received, every one of which was humbling, thoughtful and accomplished. I wish we could send everyone who applied. I warmly congratulate Zara on being the recipient of this inaugural award in honour of our greatly-missed friend and colleague, Sophie Christopher."
Christopher died in June last year of a pulmonary embolism. She worked at John Blake and Bloomsbury before joining Transworld in 2014 where she spearheaded campaigns for authors such as Hallie Rubenhold, Donal Ryan, Barney Norris and Mayo. She co-founded The FLIP (Female Leadership in Publishing) to showcase "brilliant, inspiring, courageous and creative" women in publishing with Transworld colleagues Ella Horne and Helena Gonda, all of whom were named to The Bookseller Rising Stars Class of 2019.