The Mayor and Leader of Brent Council last night handed out awards to Brent’s most dedicated and hard-working members of the community.
The residents honoured between them have helped so many of their fellow citizens in many different ways from tackling knife crime to improving air quality, and from supporting women into employment to increasing life-saving blood donations.
Leroy Simpson, Asha Shirwa, Muks Rabadia, Trevor Gaskin, Alison Zilberkweit, and Robin Sharp were all named as community champions, alongside Samira-Caterina Monteleone, Joy Moronfolu and Mohamoud Dahir as inspirational young people.
The awards ceremony at Brent Civic Centre on Thursday 23 November – sponsored by Quintain and Ealing, Hammersmith and West London’s College – also saw council employees awarded for their dedication and hard work above and beyond the call of duty.
Other categories included Good Neighbour of the Year, which was won by Ali Awes. Our Volunteer of the Year Award winners were broken down by area: Abdalkarim Sama and Iwona Przewlocka (Harlesden), Christopher Dunham (Kilburn), Chris Elsdale (Wembley), Olesya Salihu and Pushpa Makhecha (Willesden) and Joe Pascoe (across Brent) . Also honoured on the evening were Judy Langley and Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye, who both received Special Community Long Service Awards. Dame Betty’s award was presented by Deputy High Commissioner from the Ghana High Commission, Mrs Rita Tani Iddi.
The Community Project of the Year Award went to Stonebridge Boxing Club. They were described as “a welcoming place where everyone is treated as equals and is a safe haven for Brent’s young people”.
The My Romania Community group (pictured) won Community Group of the Year for their work promoting and supporting the interests of the Romanian community in North West London. Their award was presented by the Romanian Ambassador to Great Britain, His Excellency Mr Dan Mihalache.
John Sisk and Son won the Business in the Community Award for helping to refurbish facilities at Sufra NW London, meaning more people could be reached and helped by them. Indeed, Sufra themselves won a Special Recognition Award on the night for their work. Saqlain Choudry was awarded a Members Special Award for working with organisations such as ‘The Get Together’ to bring different communities in Brent together.
Community Champion of the Year for Harlesden: Leroy Simpson.
A giant in the Harlesden community, Leroy devotes most of his time and energy to supporting local people, many of them vulnerable, helping them navigate difficult situations and gently guiding them to the organisations who can assist. He is kind, wise and considerate, and helps many other workers in the area give their best. He was instrumental in establishing the Harlesden Hub project, and is a key part of making sure the community continue to access the services based at Harlesden Library.
Community Champion of the Year for Kilburn Asha Shirwa.
Nominated by the South Kilburn Trust, Asha has set up a project to train women in Kilburn about health, social care and childcare. These women needed training and support to prepare for employment, but in a way that fitted around their family responsibilities. Along with her training partner, she has provided customised training, advice and support enabling over 60 women to achieve NVQ qualifications and to become work-ready.
Community Champion of the Year for Kingsbury Muks Rabadia
A local businessman who dedicates much of his spare time to promoting interfaith activities, through sports, charity and community events, Muks is a huge advocate of blood donation and is actively involved in organizing local blood drives at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury as well being a 58 time donor himself! To date, the blood drives organised by him at the temple have seen 778 new donors, with over 2,100 units collected, and as many as 6,300 life-saving blood infusions.
Community Champion of the Year for Wembley Trevor Gaskin.
Trevor works tirelessly to get schools, places of worship and businesses in Ealing Road and Wembley High Road to work together for a cleaner, greener, safer community. He works hard to clean the rubbish that others throw away. His commitment and dedication are truly inspiring, particularly as he manages his role whilst also being a committed carer for his wife and daughter. Small actions can make a big difference and today we recognise him for the difference he makes on a daily basis.
Community Champion of the Year for Willesden Alison Zilberkweit.
Alison is a magistrate who volunteers her time as the Project Coordinator for “Brent: Your Life You Choose”, a multi-agency project to educate young people about the consequences of crime, not only for the offender but their family and friends, victims and the wider community. Alison also organises workshops at Brent’s schools to teach the students about the dangers of making the wrong choices – with particularly knife and gang crime. Alison has run more than 40 of these workshops, which are delivered to around 2,000 11-year-old pupils each year.
Community Champion of the Year across Brent Robin Sharp.
The final Community Champion is being recognised for his work across the whole of Brent. Robin has been a very active volunteer with organisations locally, nationally and internationally, campaigning for social justice, improvements to public health, the environment, and wildlife and species conservation. He is also a founder member of Clean Air for Brent and has been instrumental in raising awareness, changing behaviours and lobbying for better measures to tackle air pollution in order to improve public health outcomes. His love for the environment and commitment to social justice are an example to many and we are beholden to him for so many improvements to life in the borough.
Inspirational Young Person of the Year Award Samira-Caterina Monteleone
Samira-Caterina is 17-years-old, and has done a huge amount to engage her school community in politics, running a mock general election and organising political debates. Her determination and drive have seen her become a powerful female role model, and a beacon that shows girls can be in positions of power and affect social change. What makes these accomplishments even more impressive is that she came to Britain five years ago with no English and did not have the confidence to speak in class. Her nominator, who is her teacher, describes her as “truly an inspiration to us all.”
Young Volunteers of the Year: Joy Moronfolu and Mohamoud Dahir
Joy began volunteering with Sufra two years ago and has become one of its most active young volunteers. She volunteers at the Community Kitchen every Friday, helping to prepare the meals and welcome about fifty guests. She also organises the physical and crafts-based activities for the young children who attend, and supervises them at play. Over the years she’s been volunteering, staff have had the pleasure of watching her develop into a wonderful role model for the young people that visit, all of whom are enthralled by her enthusiasm and generosity.
Mohamoud has also been volunteering at Sufra. He initially came for work experience and enjoyed it so much he stayed and made Sufra his second home! He volunteers at the Food Bank and Community Kitchen, organising food collections, deliveries, stock management, welcoming guests, supervising children and acting as the in-house IT expert. He also mentors and supports the younger volunteers so that they feel part of the broader community of young helpers. He is loved by staff and volunteers alike for having a heart of pure gold, and being an inspiring role model for young people everywhere with unwavering dedication.
Ali Awes, Good Neighbour of the Year, is working on a mental health and wellbeing project supporting Somali people across the borough. He visits hospital patients, assessing their needs, and signposting them to services that will support them around housing benefit, domestic violence and Brent Women’s Refuge. He goes out of his way to help his neighbours, especially those in the Somali community, to overcome barriers, become more resilient and improve their quality of life. This award recognises his achievements in selflessly helping people in his community.
Special Community Long Service Award: Judy Langley
Judy has volunteered and supported the people of Mapesbury for over 20 years and has been the organising dynamo behind the Mapesbury Residents Association. She has built up the association with a mixture of community action, social initiatives and case-work to support individuals. Judy set up the Mapesbury Open Gardens Day single-handedly and transformed it into a well-established community event.
Special Community Long Service Award: Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye
Dame Betty has dedicated the last 30 years to volunteering with a range of projects, supporting the most vulnerable, most notably setting up the Mission Dine Club in 1986. She provides a mentoring service to young people and a lot of home-cooked meals. She also visits people in hospital and cooks them meals when they’ve come out. She works tirelessly to combat social isolation in the elderly, and trains volunteers to become home visitors for those who are lonely and without family. She is truly a worthy winner and has changed the lives of many in her local community.
Community Project of the Year: Stonebridge Boxing Club
This club provides a welcoming place where everyone is treated as equals and is a safe haven for Brent’s young people. It gives them a place to vent through physical activity and provides opportunities for them to talk to the coaches as mentors. This is a club run by, and for, the community, fostering a great family atmosphere and sense of belonging. They have recently expanded sessions for women and older people. This is a club which is set to go from strength to strength.
Community Group of the Year: My Romania Community
The My Romania Community group has – for the past three years – worked alongside Newman Catholic College to promote and support the interests of the Romanian community in North West London. Every Saturday they run English lessons at the school for Romanian people of all ages, offering opportunities to learn the Romanian language, its literature, history and traditions. They also play a highly active and positive role in assisting the numerous Romanian children who have joined the school in recent years through translation services, cultural support and general acclimatisation issues. This tireless work is not only helping to integrate new arrivals into Brent but enabling our newly established residents to flourish.
Business in the Community Award: John Sisk and Son
In 2014, this firm approached the food bank Sufra with Christmas toy donations, but having seen the poor condition of the premises they went in to give it a complete refurbishment with new equipment the following year. This included a professional catering kitchen, fire safety equipment, new toilets, full rewiring and new walls, partitions and flooring. This has helped Sufra reach out to more people with emergency food aid, access to training, employment opportunities and services that improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people.
Special Recognition Award: Sufra NW London
Sufra (pictured) provides a lifeline for families who simply don’t have enough money to put food on the table. It’s not just a food bank though. It also provides a food academy, advice surgeries and runs a food garden at St. Raphael’s estate. The nominator of this award told us that the wonderful people at this organisation saved their life, giving hope and support to get through some very dark days. It wasn’t just an emergency parcel but also help with benefits payments and council tax, attending a budgeting skills course and advice on how to write a CV which made a difference, helping them gain work experience and leading to them securing work.
Members Special Award: Saqlain Choudry
This award was voted for exclusively by Brent’s councillors to recognise the outstanding contribution made by an individual to their local community. Saqlain has worked hard to break down the conceptions some people have of young Muslim males in our society, and has achieved this through actively working with organisations such as ‘The Get Together’ to bring different communities in Brent together. It is his determination to tackle hate crime which saw him elected Chair of Brent Youth Parliament, and which has driven the council to publicly declare our own zero tolerance to hate crime. He is a brilliant young man with an incredibly bright future.
Volunteer of the Year for Harlesden (joint) is Abdalkarim Sama
Abdalkarim began volunteering with Sufra three years ago and is there, every Wednesday and Sunday, working on the front-line, welcoming Food Bank guests, checking vouchers, and diligently packing and distributing food parcels. For the past three years, he has singlehandedly taken charge of organising the food donated, arranging items by category and expiry date. It’s reckoned that he has personally handed parcels of food to around 6,000 families in need!
Volunteer of the Year for Harlesden (joint) is Iwona Przewlocka
Iwona is regular fixture at Sufra’s Community Kitchen, coming in week after week to cook and serve hot nutritious meals to those in need. But, it’s her hospitality and care which really sets her apart and makes the guests feel welcome and confident enough to return. Iwona also goes out of her way to help out at various charity events and activities, volunteering on Christmas Day last year and making it possible for Sufra to provide a traditional roast dinner to one hundred people who would otherwise have been alone.
Volunteer of the Year for Kilburn is Christopher Dunham
Christopher has been volunteering at Elders Voice for twenty years, starting as a day centre volunteer before joining the board of trustees and then becoming Chair. His knowledge about older peoples’ services is extensive, and he is a strong believer in older people being able to access services and remain independent in their homes for as long as possible. Chris has always been a huge support to staff and service users like, and with his positivity and generosity of spirit, he is a worthy winner of the volunteer award.
Volunteer of the Year for Wembley is Chris Elsdale
Chris has been volunteering twice a week, every week, to Brent’s Youth Offending Service since 2012. She gives young people and their families an understanding of how the local community have been impacted by their actions, and guides them in getting help and support so they can break free from the cycle of offending behaviour. Young people look forward to meeting with her and she is genuinely thrilled for them when they make positive changes to their lives. Her knowledge, experience, dedication and passion for the young people of Brent is second to none.
Volunteer of the Year for Willesden (joint) is Olesya Salihu
Olesya has been a tireless volunteer for the Help Somalia Foundation employment support programme, helping women of black and minority ethnic backgrounds for employment by developing their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills, as well as giving them career and education advice. She has been a leading light in various English language conversation classes and homework clubs around the borough. She has a clear commitment to supporting both adults and children, and it is this dedication which sees her rewarded with this award.
Volunteer of the Year for Willesden (joint) is Pushpa Makhecha
Pushpa has been involved with Citizen Advice Brent service since the early 90s, and she now provides an essential telephone advice service for three days a week. She handles the full range of problems experienced by Brent residents with great efficiency and sensitivity. Feedback from customers always highlights Pushpa’s kindness, patience and the ability to give clear and sound information. Little wonder her bosses would like ten more of her to cover, 24 hours a day, every day!
Volunteer of the Year for across Brent is Joe Pascoe
Joe has been volunteering as a sports coach at the Brent Schools Football Association for six years. He runs the Brent District Under 11 Boys team, and has been instrumental in getting more girls playing football by leading the Brent Wildcats Football Club at Capital City Academy. Joe is always raising sponsorship so that his teams look professional but he’s also dedicated and committed so you’ll also find him driving the minibus, washing the kit, planning training sessions and liaising with parents. Last season Joe led the team to win the Herts Trophy for the first time, and took a group of girls to play at Wembley Stadium as part of an FA launch event. Joe has had a massive impact on those he coaches, giving them positive activities to enjoy and learn from. Joe is an extremely positive role model, an amazing community volunteer and tonight, a deserved award winner.