On the 31st August 1997, our country lost a leader like no other. An enduring cultural icon that changed the lives of all that met her, she was a national treasure. I of course speak of the 'People's Princess', the late Diana. She stood up for the most destitute, no matter their status or position in the world, and her memory should serve as a reminder of the influence that the committed and passionate can have in bettering the world.
As a campaigner, I derive a tremendous amount of inspiration from Diana. When people were ostracised, she sought their company. When communities were voiceless, she rallied for their causes. Amid a life of service, one of her campaigns stood out for me. In the 1990s, widespread misinformation prevailed around HIV and AIDS. It was widely believed that those with HIV could transmit the condition via commonplace touch; she disproved this by hugging and shaking hands with those afflicted. Further to this, she supported the late President Nelson Mandela in the creation of a joint fund for HIV carriers, underlining her empathy absolutely.
Source: Daily Telegraph
We should not judge those of yesteryear by the standards of today, but by how they swam against the tide in their own era. Diana fought for a world without walls or barriers, where we did not avoid people based on their physical appearances or misconceptions. In today's world fraught with chaos and division, such a perspective is a reminder that there is more that unites us than divides us.
In light of her efforts, I am proud and honoured to be a trustee of the Diana Award, a charity set up to continue her legacy. Her name has become a synonym for compassion, selflessness and kindness, and our organisation exists to ensure that those vital values do not perish with her but live on in the actions of those alive today.
The relevance of those values has never been more stark than this year, the twentieth anniversary of her death. Each year our organisation recognises young people between the ages of nine and eighteen that make a positive contribution to their communities, effecting Diana's legacy. This has the dual benefit of encouraging more young people to be active citizens and providing an award for those that go the extra mile. This year, we will be expanding our activities to shine a light on incredible young changemakers both in this country and worldwide.
I received a Diana Award in 2011 for my work as an advisor to the Children's Commissioner and my achievements as a member of the UK Youth Parliament. As a young black kid from inner-city Birmingham, I had severe self esteem issues and felt powerless to affect the world around me. I began to make attempts to fight for a better world, but I was always unsure about whether I made a practical difference. I would step into rooms full of people who didn't look like me, talking a strange business speak that I scarcely understood, and I often doubted that such people ever listened to my advocacy.
That was to change upon receipt of a Diana Award, which encouraged me to persist in my campaign work past university and into adulthood, affirming social action as a viable career that engaged with my talents rather than a voluntary addendum to the "rat race". Further to that, it has enabled me to learn from more talented activists whose epic stories dwarf mine. Whilst acting as a trustee of the Diana Award, I have had the immense fortune of spending time with another award holder called Callum Fairhurst. Callum has travelled across the world raising money for a foundation created in honour of his brother to aid children suffering from cancer, disabilities and illness. He is a shining example of the sort of young person that we hope to reward this year.
With that in mind, I must ask for your help. We need the stories of young leaders within your communities to make this celebration of all that Diana represented as successful as it can be. You have until 17th March to nominate a young person that you believe represents Diana's values. Our panel of regional judges (spread across the country) will then review all nominations submitted on 31st March, and winners will be announced shortly after.
This May, we are introducing our 'Legacy Award' for the twenty most inspirational stories that we receive. Some of these stories will be from young people in other countries who have made a difference in their own contexts, which is crucially important in remembering Diana. She fought for a world without borders, and we hope to break the walls between nations by championing the achievements of international changemakers too.
The criteria for both awards are as follows:
- Vision- do they have passion for their cause?
- Social impact- have they created a positive change of benefit to the community?
- Youth leadership- did they shape the campaign?
- Service journey- has their activity transformed them?
- Inspiration- have they been a role model to others?
If you feel that a young person within your network matches the above criteria, head to our dedicated nomination page and put them forward. I very much doubt that I would be where I am today without an unexpected nomination six years ago. Please do not allow the brave young leader within a school you've worked with, community group you've run, or another context you're aware of, to miss out on the contribution that they could make to the world through a lifetime of empowered activism. Let joining this movement be the start of their incredible journey. Let them breathe Diana's legacy.