"It's so inspiring for them, and also for me, actually," the 9th Earl Spencer tells PEOPLE

By Simon Perry
November 26, 2019 02:58 PM

Princess Diana‘s brother paid tribute to young people from around the world who are being honored for the positive impact they’re making in their communities.

The tribute saluted 20 rising stars from the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Nigeria, Tanzania and India who gathered Tuesday evening in London to receive their Legacy honors from the Diana Award.

“It’s so inspiring for them, and also for me actually,” Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, told PEOPLE. “They get inspiration from Diana and her example. And for me, to see Diana’s name continue like this is fantastic. It’s been over 20 years since she died. Most of the people who are getting awards tonight were not born and a couple are two or three years old — so it’s incredible that her message, if that’s not too pompous a word, continues.”

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Diana & Her Sons

Spencer met young award winner Olivia Hancock, who has “done a great amount of work in the poorest parts of Brazil and trying to get more girls playing soccer,” he explained. “She’s most inspiring. Firstly, it’s right that we recognize these young people. And secondly, hopefully it inspires them to do even more and people around them see that they’re getting recognized for good works.”

RELATED: Charles Spencer Says His Sister Princess Diana Would Have Been the ‘Best Grandmother Ever’

Spencer says he talks about his sister as a “very human person” rather than a “figure from history” with the recipients.

“Yes, she was a member of the royal family, and yet she was so relatable,” he says. “On the other hand, I do tell them how proud she would be that they were doing things in her name, and what they’re doing is crucially important. Diana always believed that young people had so much to give to the on world and they’re proving that right.”

Charles Spencer and Princess Diana

The Diana Award was inspired by a desire to honor the princess’s legacy.

“They were going through all these ideas, and this was the one I really went for,” says Spencer. “It was a natural fit for Diana. I didn’t expect it to be going 20 years later. And going from strength to strength,” Spencer says. “It is showing the Diana Award as a charity is more than thriving. It’s doing brilliantly.”

Charles Spencer
Dom Savio/Maggievision Productions

People are doing things in her name round the world, he adds. “There were so many sides to Diana that made her a global superstar. There was the glamour and obviously being a member of the royal family. But essentially people connected with her doing brave things for the world. Campaigning against landmines, leprosy, HIV/AIDS — these causes were very complicated. I looked at the award winners here and what they’ve done. These are things that have a real impact on people’s’ lives. They’re real causes. They’re not charity with a small ‘c,’ which somebody’s dabbling in. They’re passionate causes. Diana was very much that person, so hats off to the Diana Award for recognizing what these people should be doing to get a Diana Award.”

Prince William and Prince Harry with previous Diana Award recipient
Paul Grover/Daily Telegraph/PA Wire

The occasion, in the magnificent Painted Hall at the Old Naval College in Greenwich, London, helped mark the 20th anniversary of the charity.

The winners have had what the Diana Award says is a “monumental impact on society.”

“Many of them only know Princess Diana as a historical figure, but they carry the honor of the award with pride and admiration for whose memory it was set up in.”

Prince William
Kensington Palace/Twitter

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Earlier in the day, the 20 legacy winners had a special meeting with Diana’s eldest son Prince William, 37, at Kensington Palace.

Prince William
Courtesy The Diana Awards
Prince William
Courtesy The Diana Awards

“This ceremony is about celebrating young people for their selfless contribution to society, their courage and bravery, and demonstrating to young people that we value them,” Tessy Ojo, Chief Executive of The Diana Award, says. “We believe that valuing young people means investing in them so we are delighted that our Legacy Award recipients will have access to our unique development program ensuring they continue to be positive trailblazers for their generation.”

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