Dubai: Several students in the UAE on Monday virtually joined hundreds of peers globally who have won The Diana Award 2021 of the UK for making a positive impact in people’s lives.
Established in 1991 in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the annual award is given out by the charity of the same name and has the support of both her sons – Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge; and Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex (the grandsons of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK).
In Sharjah, Raghav Sumanth, a Grade 7 student of Delhi Private School Sharjah, was among other UAE-based pupils honoured in a virtual ceremony on Monday for the award’s Roll of Honour, which also provides a brief of their accomplishments.
Raghav and his team created solutions to provide education to Syrian refugee children and submitted their ideas to UAE-based philanthropic organisation Dubai Cares, which had awarded him the Young Philanthropist Award in 2019. Many of the ideas were implemented by Dubai Cares, which created positive impact on education of thousands of Syrian refugee children displaced in Jordan. Raghav also made teaching videos for the refugee children in Math and Science and continues to do so.
Raghav said: “I am humbled to receive the Diana Award 2021 and thankful to the judges, my parents, teachers and supporters. I look forward to being part of the Diana Award Alumni network and participate in the development programmes conducted by the Diana Award institution. This recognition comes with lot of responsibility, and I pledge to continue to work towards various humanitarian and social causes.”
Helping out-of-school children
Seeing children out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Riya Sharma, a Grade 12 student of GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai, founded ‘Biology for Better’ (BFB) to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for underprivileged children around the world. BFB now has 200 volunteers and has impacted thousands of children through remote teaching, worksheets and video modules.
Riya told Gulf News: “I am absolutely elated at receiving this award. Princess Diana represents a beacon of hope – a dedicated humanitarian whose selflessness is nonpareil. It is a huge honour and would definitely inspire me to do more.”
Sustainability role model
On seeing her home town in Kerala, India, littered with heaps of plastic and waste, Nileena Jonesh, a Grade 4 student of GEMS Millennium School, Sharjah, resolved to make it her mission to clean up her town and became a sustainability role model. She recycles newspapers, is an eco-monitor at school, and has participated in beach and desert clean-ups and mangrove planting projects. During the pandemic, Nileena helped in the distribution of food kits to people who had lost their jobs as well as masks for frontline key workers.
Nileena said: “I had the opportunity to work for humanitarian services, cancer patients, students of determination and contribute towards a greener planet for future generations. I am grateful to my school for supporting me in my endeavours and providing me with many opportunities to develop my talents. For me, receiving the Diana Award has been a life changing experience. Not only has it provided me education, leadership and opportunities, it has inspired me through the connection with global youth change makers.”
Nine-year-old Vidyuth Balaji, a student of Delhi Private School Dubai, is already considered an “Eco-Hero” by his peers, involving himself in recycling both paper and e-waste. In 2020, he recycled 10,339kg of paper and planted 20 trees through Emirates Environmental Group. Vidyuth also volunteers for a number of other causes, including providing educational resources to underprivileged children, activities towards contributing to COVID-19 relief efforts, and taking on leadership roles in his school to inspire his classmates. He plays an active role on his student council, and leads ‘Environment Day’ assemblies while sharing his passion with the school community.
Making a difference
Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, said: “We congratulate all our new Diana Award recipients from the UK and around the globe who are change makers for their generation. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens. For over 20 years The Diana Award has valued and invested in young people encouraging them to continue to make positive change in their communities and lives of others.”