Thanks to being a community reporter for South Leeds Life, I had the fantastic opportunity to experience my first Hamara Community Awards in Bradford on Thursday night (4 December 2014). Everyone who had been involved with Hamara in the last year and before came to celebrate the event in the Aagrah banqueting hall. The room was light from floor to ceiling in a warm red glow and glasses sparkled on revolving centre table pieces. Guests congregated in reception bejeweled in glamorous dresses, drinking fruit punch and eating canapes.
The chair, Mohammed Farouk, welcomed us to the 5th Annual ceremony before handing over to the master of ceremonies Hanif Malik (CEO). Hanif guided us through the whole evening from guest speaker, to service user, to award winners. For a small charity which started only ten years ago, Hamara Healthy Living Centre in Beeston has grown to be one of the largest ethnic minority organisations in the voluntary and community sector in Leeds.
Hamara provides community multi-generational programs for a diverse range of people. The charity’s centre is based in South Leeds, but spreads its net further afield through effective community networking, helping to join up services city wide. All the sponsors, funders and supporters came up first to be acknowledged and took a bow.
Habib Khan (Manager) says “It started five years ago, and its mainly about celebrating the unsung heroes and volunteers that make things happen in the community. It’s very emotional and takes a lot out of us, but it’s rewarding too.”
The program of the evening was punctuated by courses of delicious food. Before starters we saw two speakers from West Yorkshire Police. They arrived just in time to be introduced, then jokingly labelled themselves as ‘Batman and Robin’. The police stressed the importance of working with a charity like Hamara in helping to maintain an essence of neighbourhood policing.
There was an element of surprise to the evening, Youth Worker, Shanaz introduced us to Muslin Hussain, an 18 year old local cricket player. He spent ten years attending and volunteering on Youth Projects at Hamara, and now represents Yorkshire Academy in the England Under 19’s cricket team. He will be touring Dubai and Australia for the Ashes in March 2015. He says it was his time at Hamara that gave him the confidence and support he needed to work towards his sporting goal.
After the starters of Fish Masala, Lamb Chops and Channa Masala we experienced the official launch of ‘Sports 4 Life’ hosted by Community Sports worker Zoe Irish. She was joined on stage by two exercise bikes (installed in the break) and hooked up to screens. These were tested by two willing participants: Ikram Butt (ex boxer) and Sta Zaman (ex rugby player). The pair added comic value to the night by competing with each other on a 5 lap course. Despite the ‘nerves’ Zoe did a very professional job, including encouraging the successes of service users and treating us to motivational videos to believe in ourselves.
One lady in particular Robina gave her presentation of how she had lost weight in the gym at the centre. She now promotes a walking group in the neighbourhood. Underselling herself Zoe reiterated her as an inspiration to others. This is shows how much everyone is valued and respected at the centre.
Before mains were served, Chicken Masala, Daal Tarka Lal Mas and Pilau Rice, we were treated to a montage video. This was of past winners of the awards who were also in the room. The Vangelis Chariots of Fire Soundtrack help to build up the collective emotion.
Women’s Achievement Award went to Bethany Hare, Bethany has raised £80,000 since she was 10 years old to help charities Martins House Hospice, Children Heart Surgery Fund, Give a Gift and various other children’s charities. After being inspired from reading stories written by terminally ill children. She sings for her charity Bethany Smile and treated us to ‘Something Inside So Strong’ to finish the evening on a high note.
Community Organisation of the Year went to the Joanna Project. A women’s organisation who works with street workers offering advice and support. Success stories of rehabilitation go towards strengthening the work they do in the community.
Service to the Community went to ‘Pride of Britain Award 2011’ and local hero Yvonne Crowther. This is for all the youth work she has done in Beeston with helping to support and empower young people by running her Cafe Me’N’U.
Special Initiative Award went to Martin House Hospice.
Lifetime Achievement Award went to Harban Singh Sagoo a champion of the city’s Sikh community. He was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation.
Before the last award Young Persons Award was announced we watched a clip from a recent ‘Educating Yorkshire’ video. I thought that this was another break, but the whole audience was surprised to see the boy filmed being helped to overcome his stammer through listening to music was with us and there to collect his award. Musharaf Asghar came to accept his award to whoops and whistles!
I asked Hanif Malik how he felt at the end of the evening. He said he felt
“Exhilarated! It was fantastic reflection on the past year and really captured the spirit of Hamara.”
Thanks to everyone who made this such a success. I can’t wait for next year’s, at least I’ve got a bit of time to figure out what I’m going to wear!