‘Dynamo’ Young Citizen winner urges others to enter as 2013 award search begins

Tarun Odedra plays the tabla. He has played drums since he was seven

Tarun Odedra plays the tabla. He has played drums since he was seven - Credit: Archant

In the week the Recorder begins its new search for our best young citizens, last year’s “dynamo” winner – a bundle of fundraising energy called Tarun Odedra – has urged others to get involved.

Young Citizen 2012 winner Tarun Odedra, 11, with sister Nikita, 16, and brother Himansu, 18

Young Citizen 2012 winner Tarun Odedra, 11, with sister Nikita, 16, and brother Himansu, 18 - Credit: Archant

The 11-year-old, of Ramsgill Drive, Newbury Park, was picked as the overall winner of our award – run with Redbridge Rotary Club and sponsored by Exchange Ilford – from a host of worthy candidates.

Since the age of two, he has taken part in sponsored walks to raise money for charity and is busy organising fundraising activities at his school, Gilbert Colvin Primary, Strafford Avenue, Clayhall.

Tarun said: “I’d like to say to everyone to try to enter this competition. Even if you don’t win, it’s about taking part.

“We’re fortunate to have a nice lifestyle so it’s nice to help people that aren’t as fortunate as we are. It’s a good feeling, you can say I helped this person to recover.”

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Through walks of between 10 and 20km, Tarun has raised about £600 for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Barnardo’s, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation.

His energy and enthusiasm impressed our judges, who chose him from 10 monthly winners of the Young Citizen Award, all of who featured in the pages of the Recorder last year.

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The competition culminated in the gala Mayor of Redbridge’s Annual Awards at Redbridge Town Hall in January at which Tarun received a trophy and £400 of vouchers to spend in the Exchange Ilford shopping centre.

Kiranjit Dhillon, who started her own club to teach non-contact boxing to young people, and Gregory Wade, who gives up his weekends to help disabled people enjoy adventure activities, were highly commended in the Young Citizen category.

And other hardworking volunteers in the borough were recognised, such as anti-knife crime campaigner Danny O’Brien, who picked up the Safer Redbridge award, and Sheila Nisbet, who received the Caring Redbridge award (individual) for helping out at Redbridge Night Shelter.

The night made a big impression on Tarun, the youngest of the Young Citizen nominees, and his parents, Raj and Gita.

Tarun said: “It was a really nice atmosphere. You see all these great people that help the community in their areas.

“Many people stereotype young people for not helping the community and this is an opportunity to show how young people can help.”

His dad, who compares Tarun to a “dynamo” for his ceaseless energy, said: “We didn’t know this sort of thing went on in the community.

“It really got to me that these people are giving up their time. They’re the unsung heroes of Redbridge.

“It was just fantastic, I was so struck by the whole evening.”

And Gita added: “With the people he was competing against, I didn’t dream he’d win. It was quite a shock and I was very happy.”

Much of Tarun’s fundraising is organised through the Hindu temple BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden.

As the chairman of his school council, he was called on to think up a competition to raise money for Red Nose Day on March 15, and with his experience it’s no surprise he thought his classmates should get their walking shoes on.

They will do sponsored laps around the perimeter of the school as well as having a sponsored catwalk, which Tarun thinks will be “great”, and a chance to throw tomatoes at their teachers.

He said: “They are really helpful at school, they listen to the children’s opinions, to what we think.”

In April Tarun will do another sponsored walk to support disabled children’s cause Kids and having started visiting Redbridge Cycling Centre in Forest Road, Barkingside, he could soon be completing his fundraising challenges on two wheels.

He is considering a 30km cycle for charity next year.

His dad said: “I’ve always encouraged him to participate in activities at school – basically to contribute.

“If there are children starving on the news, I say ‘what are you going to do about it?’

“In all three of my kids, I say ‘don’t sit back and watch, go and do something’.

“Even if it’s just going to see your next door neighbours to see if they want their lawn cutting.”

Throughout last year, friends and family put forward young people they know for the award, such as Beal High pupil Eileen O’Connor, who visited her neighbours to help with chores, or Omar Carney, who set up a society at Chadwell Heath Academy to encourage classmates to work in medicine.

Our next winner could be helping someone elderly or lonely near to you; could be giving up evenings and weekends to run a club; or could be using their talents, be they musical, theatrical or other, to increase awareness of an issue or raise money. We want to hear about them.

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