Announcements of this year's Queen’s Birthday Honours coincided with the long Bank Holiday weekend of Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Messages of congratulations have been pouring in for people from Tower Hamlets who have been recognised for their hard work, achievements, and services to the borough in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Recipients include Afia Choudhury, a Tower Hamlets foster carer who has been awarded an OBE; Safia Jama, Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Inclusive Team who has been honoured with an MBE; and Nazrul Islam, a local resident and volunteer who received a British Empire Medal (BEM).
Afia, an outstanding foster carer has fostered 27 children including sibling groups.
Awarded in recognition of her services to children, Afia is also Vice Chair of Tower Hamlets Foster Carers’ Association (FCA) where she actively supports and mentors other carers and arranges numerous events for carers and children such as trips to the seaside, pantomimes and picnics and is helping organise for the first time, a residential activity trip for this summer.
Her commitment to the FCA has been invaluable and her input into many decisions has tremendously improved the wellbeing of foster carers.
In addition, Afia sits on the Corporate Parenting Board for Tower Hamlets representing foster carers and actively contributing to better working relationships within the department.
The passionate fostering advocate is also an ambassador for Tower Hamlets and regularly supports recruitment strategies, either standing in a busy supermarket giving out leaflets or answering questions at council information sessions. Not only is Afia well known in our local communities, she also speaks on more national levels and is instrumental in national campaigns.
Afia said: “This means a lot to me to be recognised for the work that I do - the work that I absolutely love. There are thousands of people like me, foster carers who do the same work day in day out, and I would like to accept this award to recognise how important fostering is, and what it means for the thousands of children all over the country that need a safe, secure and loving home, and have the chance to be part of a family.”
Safia Jama, awarded for services to the voluntary and charitable sector, founded the Women’s Inclusive Team in 2005.
During Covid-19, the charity reached the vulnerable and isolated, mobilising more than 300 volunteers who gave hours of service to their community to deliver emergency services, including a food bank, community meals and a befriending service.
Safia’s achievements include ensuring the Women’s Inclusive Team provided advice and support to hundreds of individuals, as well as therapeutic support through running intensive group work sessions. She also supported children and young people to successfully reintegrate back into education following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Her insights on her work have helped inform the government about meeting the needs of vulnerable children from minority ethnic communities.
The qualified Mental Health Trainer is passionate about supporting women in hard-to-reach communities. She runs mentorship programmes for women to build up confidence, work on career goals and personal development.
Safia also strives to make a difference locally as an independent board director of Tower Hamlets Homes and a Tower Hamlets Commissioner.
Safia commented: “I am deeply honoured and thankful to be awarded such prestigious recognition for my achievements and contribution within the Tower Hamlets community. My work in Tower Hamlets has over the last 20+years allowed me to support those most vulnerable in my community. I came to Tower Hamlets in the 80’s and attended a local primary and secondary school. Having had first-hand experience of the needs of my community, I went on to establish my charity in sole aim of sincerely helping those most in need. My motto is and has always been ‘Help those in need first’. This incredible award will allow me to continue supporting my community because it reinforces to me that the work I have been doing is seen and most importantly, it’s needed.”
Bethnal Green resident Nazrul Islam who was honoured for his services to the community in Tower Hamlets during Covid-19, helped set up the Dorset Community Association (DCA) and has been a long-standing trustee of the charity for 11 years. He has worked tirelessly as a volunteer to support the fantastic work the organisation provides to the community.
As a local resident seeing the need for a charity which was community led, he liaised with residents, other community groups and local housing providers and politicians to help make the DCA a thriving estate-based hub used by a widely diverse range of residents.
The centre is mainly led by local Bangladeshi residents but provides services for all, helping to integrate communities and find common ground.
It provides many different activities ranging from older residents' lunch clubs to homework support for children, from local estate consultation events to fun events bringing the community together.
Nazrul oversees the management of the centre as a ‘hands on’ trustee and is the essential link between ground-level work and the board of trustees.
When the pandemic took hold, he committed himself to doing all he could to help the most vulnerable residents. He set up a community larder in partnership with Tower Hamlets Council, giving out over 1,500 bags of groceries to residents suffering from food poverty, liaising with local catering companies to provide over 1,200 fresh healthy meals delivered to older shielding residents and people with disabilities twice weekly.
He chose local caterers suffering from loss of income, supporting their welfare during the economic crisis. These deliveries evolved into doorstep community chats and check-ins that many residents relied on as their main source of support and advice.
He signed up numerous dedicated local volunteers and opened up the centre as a base for community use, making check-in phone calls, giving out PPE and hundreds of Covid-19 leaflets and supporting members of the community receiving vaccines and helping obtain prescriptions.
He has also spent a huge amount of time fundraising and has raised funds to purchase 20 tablets for families needing access to IT.
Nazrul said: “I’m very honoured and happy to receive the award on behalf of my organisation which does a fantastic job for the community. During the pandemic, we supported the community with food, and gave vaccination advice. I’m grateful to Tower Hamlets Council for helping out with the food provision. I look forward to going to the palace with my wife and chairperson, to receive the award.”
Also recognised with a Queen’s Birthday Honour is Christine Gilbert, a former director of education and former chief executive of Tower Hamlets Council, who has been appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)
Congratulations to Afia, Safia, Nazrul and Christine!
Posted on Wednesday 8th June 2022