Voting is open for three individuals shortlisted for the Better Start Bradford ‘Outstanding Contribution to Early Years’ Community Stars award: Aqsa Shaheen, Ali Nahani and Jo Midgeley.
All three have inspiring stories to share. Here is a flavour of their achievements and passion as volunteers:
Aqsa, who was described by her nominator as a “ray of sunshine”, has been nominated for volunteering with HENRY for the past three years.
Alongside being a busy mum and studying at college, she helps run workshops, group programmes for families, cooking programmes, a walking group, a stay-and-play group and sets up stalls at recruitment events.
She has also helped to contribute ideas to Born in Bradford as a representative from her community, one that her nominator describes as “seldom heard”.
She is multilingual and uses her language skills to put people at ease.
Aqsa said: “It feels awesome to be nominated – I have never been nominated for anything before, so this is really exciting and an honour to be a finalist.
“I always want to achieve more, so when an organisation such as HENRY or Better Start Bradford tells you that you’ve been nominated for being appreciated for what you do, it puts a big smile on your face and it’s always wonderful to be recognised for what you do. I am looking forward to meeting all of the wonderful and amazing people who were also nominated.
“Winning would mean the world to me, it would help me inspire other people to follow their dreams and it would offer encouragement as well, it would just be a great boost of confidence for the future.”
Ali has made the final for this award due to his never-ending enthusiasm as a volunteer at Better Start Bradford.
His nominator said Ali volunteers at practically every event and conference and “champions” Better Start Bradford causes through the different groups he is in.
Ali spent the summer carrying out children’s activities and promoted Better Start Bradford’s key messages within the local community.
His nominator told the T&A: “He is dedicated and always keen to be involved when asked. He is a keen learner and wants to always improve his English so he can improve his communication with as many people as possible. He is punctual, always smiling, very polite and a happy volunteer.”
Thanks to his Arabic and Farsi fluency, Ali helped translate to those who would otherwise feel excluded, engaging with more people.
Ali said: “When I think about being accepted as a volunteer in the community and having a positive role for the kids – what the future of the UK is going to make for them – I feel like I’ve got the best of the world.”
Jo has been chosen due to the transformative effect volunteering has had on her confidence.
When Jo first started volunteering, her nominator said she wasn’t in a good place. Over time she has built her confidence and shone bright, even agreeing to be filmed for a Big Little Moments video.
Her nominator said: “Jo is not shy in saying that she didn’t have a brilliant time as a child and as a result this affected her into adulthood. By being active in Better Start Bradford groups, Jo is a changed person. She is always up for getting involved in things. She’s a very positive person and where she can she will try and support other mums like her who are going through the same issues.”
Jo’s latest project is a coffee morning for Macmillan Cancer and to give back to her community.
Jo said: “I’ve seen it on films where someone passes out from the shock – that was me. I was shocked and gobsmacked. I didn’t think I was that special.”
Voting deadline: Thursday, November 28 2019