Left to right: The Right Honourable Tom Brake MP, Robin Marsh, Margaret Ali, Luke Sagay, John McDonnell
Left to right: Zahra Latif, Siobhain McDonagh MP, Margaret Ali
Left to right: Robin Marsh, Amy Brown, Paul Scully MP, Margaret Ali

It’s that time of the year again-to celebrate, to recognise, to share. On 5th July, UPF hosted its annual “Young Achievers Award” in Portcullis House, celebrating future leaders. Some diverse stories of contributions young people have made to their local and national communities were shared in the Boothroyd room, and I can say first-hand that it was an extremely inspiring event.  Photo Link  (Photos by Elin Robinson)

Having young adults from a range of cultures and backgrounds impressed upon me how representative we all were of UPF’s aim and motto. Zahra Latif, first awardee asked us “what does it mean to achieve peace?” and it seems that every speaker answered that question through expressing their accomplishments and voluntary efforts. Peace comes in steps, in every small change we make as individuals. She also outlined how we are “blessed with many opportunities” - all of which weren’t possible not so long ago, so why not make the most of them? Her MP, Siobhain McDonagh, said it was commendable to see Zahra rise step by step both by serving others and through academic excellence to come to serve in Cabinet office as advisor for youth!

Hearing of Ahmed’s deeply moving story (coming from Syria) arriving in England “in a tank deep full of flour” and Annet’s concern of “creating a society in which people don’t have to worry about hunger”, made me so much more aware of the harsh realities of our world beyond the UK. Seeing the investment they have put into those realities creates a source of such strength and inspiration for other young people. As Annet’s MP, Rehman Chishti, put it, “every hundred pounds fundraised is worth a million” because of the selfless, giving motivation in which it has been given. He noted how important it is to do “every little we can do, other than asking the government to” and was very moved by Annet’s work.

Linz Ali is a stand -up comedian and has worked with The Prince’s Trust - helping others to learn acting and comedy to give them a sense of value and achievement. He is currently, since 2014, a Job Ambassador of Princes Trust. Catherine West, his MP, said “how amazing it is for Linz to come with very little of humble circumstances to become a proud Ambassador of Prince’s Trust is truly wonderful. He deserves to be recognised”.

Most young people were inspired by the turnout of most of their MPs to present them an award and how quite a few MPs stayed over to hear other awardees’ stories - particularly John McDonnell who stayed throughout the whole event. To give you yet another example, David Baker MP (Brexit Minister), when presenting the award to Ahmed, said: “this is such an important event appreciating our young people’s good works, that I am actually late in attending a meeting where I am speaking!” Some young people expressed how the MP’s gesture inspired faith in our politicians - which is a very difficult thing to do.

Across each testimony and sharing was the emphasis on appreciating cultural differences. As Amy Brown said, ““we learn the most from people different from us” as well as “through experiences, through people and places”. This particularly grabbed me as, fundamentally; each awardee was involved in working with others, out of their comfort zone, in unfamiliar places. Arguably “we need better role models within society”, such as these exemplary young people, whose voices can move the hearts of others to step up and take initiative in the same way. Paul Scully MP was impressed with Amy’s attitude of service; service in 3 different regions, Middle-East, Africa and Asia - especially developing nations where people do not think of visiting, even for tourism.

Rt. Hon. Tom Brake MP, who presented the award to Chris, expressed how “we become humbled when we see people who do so much on a voluntary basis”. Christopher Sharp said: a “quiet voice reaches further than a disconcerted shout”. This underlines the modesty and propriety he and every other speaker exhibited. Luke Sagay’s MP, John McDonnellexpressed how Luke and others have “given people the most excluded in our society a chance to have confidence, be with people and enjoy themselves”. His proud statement that “the speeches in this room are better than in the Parliament’s chambers” is one that had me nodding enthusiastically in agreement.

The awardees were practically glowing as their proud MPs handed them their well-deserved awards. Hannah Lynch encouraged us to “let someone share their story” as she has offered gloves and her attention to beggars around London, reminding us that we can make changes even on our own doorstop, it doesn’t have to be international. Nevertheless, Fatima’s “aim to raise awareness about those that have been deprived all over the world” and Ehsan guiding people “to life inside the UK”, outlines a balance of giving love to those who seem out of reach as well as those nearby.

It’s about “putting the whole purpose before the purpose of the individual” said Hannah Lynch the 22year old awardee. Her MP, Dr. Matthew Offord, expressed the following on his website “I was honoured to present Hannah with her well-deserved UPF Youth Achievement Award. Her selflessness and positive attitude towards helping others in need is inspiring to hear. Sometimes in society, people unfortunately slip through the net or are not identified by the means in place to protect them. That is why people like Hannah are so important. All the recipients of this award have stepped up to help identify and assist some of the most vulnerable in society and I commend them for that”


Ehsan Ramati’s explanation that “we don’t always see the hardships people go through” in adverts and such, resonated with the crowd as he encouraged a “culture of mentorship”. Similarly, Hannah’s words: “it amazes me every day how strong people can be when they stand together” highlights the need for unity, which was definitely present, at least in the committee room, when everyone was encouraging and praising each other. UPF is “creating a platform that connects people who can help others reach their potential”. To conclude, Elham Fardad, a great supporter of UPF youth work, said: “each of us, in our own way, can change the world”.


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