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Young Citizen: Chigwell campaigner wins award for work feeding homeless and vulnerable

PUBLISHED: 17:00 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:44 20 May 2020

Hannah Chowdhry being interviewed on BBC News after being named Redbridge Rotary's Young Citizen of the Year for 2020. Picture: Eve Conway

Hannah Chowdhry being interviewed on BBC News after being named Redbridge Rotary's Young Citizen of the Year for 2020. Picture: Eve Conway

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A 16-year-old campaigner from Chigwell has been announced as the winner of the Recorder/Redbridge Rotary Club Young Citizen Award for 2020.

Hannah Chowdhry cares passionately about making a difference to her community and during the coronavirus pandemic she has been helping to feed the homeless and vulnerable in Ilford.

Hannah, who is an Essex and Redbridge Youth Councillor, is also the youngest volunteer for the charity British Asian Christian Association, which is run by her mother Juliet.

Hannah started cooking at the association’s food bank and “Meals for the homeless” project in January and helps provide meals for 65 people a day.

She told the Recorder: “I feel very honoured to receive the Rotary Young Citizen Award as I’m glad my work to help those who are less fortunate than me during these difficult times is being highlighted.”

Hannah Chowdhry received the Diana Award. Picture: Diana AwardHannah Chowdhry received the Diana Award. Picture: Diana Award

Hannah was interviewed live on BBC news after winning the award and she said she was very nervous ahead of the interview.

She said: “It was my first interview on TV but I feel it went well and I was happy I got my points across.”

The award was due to be presented at the Mayor’s Community Awards night in March but that had to be cancelled as the country went into lockdown.

Hannah is also a long-term campaigner against knife crime and sits on a youth reference panel for the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime. 

Hannah has been feeding 65 homeless and vulnerable people a day during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: BACAHannah has been feeding 65 homeless and vulnerable people a day during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: BACA

Last year, she organised a knife crime summit involving local police and crime prevention organisations as well as relatives of victims of knife crime.

Concerned by the number of knife crimes as well as cuts to youth services, Hannah raised the funds to open a non-alcoholic “chill out lounge” for teenagers at Clementswood Community Centre to give young people a place to hang out.

When she was seven, Hannah started a campaign which led to the installation of a £50,000 mammoth skull replica in Redbridge Museum.

It had been at the Natural History Museum in London, but having this piece of history restored to its original location was Hannah’s first community campaign.

Adarsh Ramchurn was the runner up for the award and will advance to the nationals along with Hannah. Picture: Adarsh RamchurnAdarsh Ramchurn was the runner up for the award and will advance to the nationals along with Hannah. Picture: Adarsh Ramchurn

The 200,000-year-old fossil, from which the replica was created, was discovered in Ilford in 1864.

The President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Donna Wallbank said: “Hannah Chowdhry has an obvious passionate heart to make a difference for and with her community, her inclusion of all within that community shows that she, with others like her, leaves our communities with hope, utilising her faith and respecting others whilst developing charitable and campaigning deeds in her daily life leads me to believe that one person can make a difference to many.”

The runner-up was Adarsh Ramchurn, 18, of Newbury Park, who was among 13 students to be paired with major charities for the study-apprenticeship programme aimed at creating a new generation of charity leaders.

Degree apprentices split their time between university study and the workplace, and are employed throughout their studies by the charity.

Young Citizen AwardsYoung Citizen Awards

Adarsh was paired with the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and he kicked off his placement writing a blog about getting BAME people into leadership roles.

He said: “My goal is to inspire everyone, but especially Asian people. I feel like there are groups of us who are settled to just do the norm, not to push yourself to achieve great things, because a lot of Asian people have the perception that you won’t get to the top.

“I want to change that mentality and inspire people to do good things.”

Hannah will receive a trophy, certificate and £300 to go towards her chosen project or charity from Rotary in Britain and Ireland.

The Rotary Young Citizen Awards Presentation had been due to take place at the UK’s first-ever Volunteer Expo, organised by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland at the NEC in Birmingham this month but the event has been postponed until May 2021.

The Young Citizen Award is about celebrating the amazing young people in our borough, run by the Recorder in conjunction with Redbridge Rotary Club.


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