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London Islamic School wins Award

Emdad Rahman

LONDON ISLAMIC SCHOOL, a Muslim Secondary school for boys in Tower Hamlets, has been awarded the Team London Environment and Healthy Living Award 2017 for outstanding contribution to volunteering.

The award was made at a gala conference at City Hall attended by a long list of high profile guests including Joanne McCartney, Deputy Mayor of London; James Banks, Chief Executive at Greater London Volunteering; Dame Barbara Windsor DBE; Dr Alison Mowbray, Olympic medallist; Leadership Development Consultant Christopher Biggins; and Wayne Hemingway MBE.

The Team London Awards ceremony celebrates individuals, teams and corporate volunteers who are making outstanding contributions as active citizens in their communities and helping to make the London the best city in the world. Each day, tens of thousands of volunteers help charities to deliver their services. The Awards are one of the ways the Mayor of London recognises some of those volunteers who go above and beyond to create better local communities.

This includes the Mayor’s volunteering scheme Team London Young Ambassadors, which helps primary and secondary pupils to start their own volunteering projects. Thousands of young people have improved their school and communities by setting up projects on issues they care about such as food poverty, homelessness, bullying, connecting generations and the environment.

Schools which participate in the Young Ambassadors programme receive invitations to youth summits, handbooks and campaign kits. The campaign has reached 400,000 young people, inspired 120,000 people to volunteer, raised £100,000 for local causes and been implemented in 2,100 schools. Since Team London launched in 2012, over 150,000 adults and 100,000 young Londoners have joined the programme.

London Islamic School achieved this award for providing opportunities in volunteering through its Youth Travel Ambassadors (YTA) Scheme. The Ambassadors comprise a number of student volunteers working in partnership with Transport for London (TfL) to promote active travel.

The team came up with a project they named Energy & Safety: Our Priority – #Energize, which involved a campaign consisting of a series of team-led assemblies as well as partner assemblies with NGOs educating students and staff about safe and responsible travel, health and wellbeing. They set up a wall of pledges for students to record their commitment and a parents coffee morning to introduce the wall pledges and the project. They developed walking zone maps and ran educational sessions on safe and responsible travel and distributed personalised Oyster wallets with the school logo. They also held an active travel week comprising of competitions with rewards and using pedometers which measured improvements through surveys and graphs to increase activity.

Team progress was presented to a group of transport expert panellists at the TfL Head Office in Westminster in a Dragons’ Den style pitching event to secure funding, advice and support to enable them to continue developing their project by obtaining full funds. They then went on to organise an active travel fun day made of activities, attended by partner organisations, students and parents, which promoted active travel and health even further. Most of this was done during lunch times and break times by students.

The Head of Citizenship at London Islamic School, Mohammed Yaser, was inspired by the benefits of volunteering in the YTA. He decided to enhance opportunities in volunteering and accessed the Mayor’s volunteering programme through the organisation “WE Schools”. This is a unique, four-step global programme that challenges young people to identify the local and global issues such as hunger, poverty and poor access to education or others which spark their passion and then empowers them with the tools to take action through at least one local and one global campaign.

Yaser selected a group of interested candidates who wanted to make an impact in society and they attended the Team London Young Ambassador Copperbox Youth Summit in October 2016. Inspired by what they heard, and with the help of WE Schools, the pupils identified problems within Tower Hamlets and opportunities to become more involved in their local community and volunteer their time to help others outside school.

Since then the students have volunteered at local food banks for the homeless and in elderly people’s homes during a structured six week campaign in which they learnt about the issue, networked with local charities and organisations which are experts in the area and, finally, executed their social action plan by volunteering at the organisation.

Waseem Nawaz from Year 9, who is an active volunteer in the Youth Travel Ambassadors scheme, said, “My experience in YTA has really been an eye opener as I have done things I never thought I would be able to do. My team and I have developed our communication skills, organisation skills and confidence along with many other skills – but most importantly we have developed as people ready to serve humanity.”

Mohammad Yaser added, “The entire volunteering project from start to finish was an amazing experience for the boys and all involved. This experience has provided the YTA boys with an insight of the real world.

“What I aspire for the students through my Citizenship & Creative and Aesthetic lessons is to take this knowledge and put it into action. Not just educating them in class, to get the boys to understand why volunteering and giving up our time is so important. This has also enabled me to take the boys outside the classroom and get them socially active by working alongside local organisations such as TfL, the Metropolitan Police, a local food bank, elderly care homes, GrowTH, Clean Up UK and other NGOs.

“To build bridges with our local multi-faith communities and their places of worship, by working together we can build a safer, greener, cleaner active borough and city. The organisation and hospitality at The Chambers, City Hall was first class. The participating boys were truly magnificent. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partner WE Schools’ Co-ordinator for advising and guiding me into entering our school for the Mayor of London’s Team London Awards.

“I would also like to thank TFL’s YTA Co-ordinator Fiona who has been actively supporting us in our Energy & Safety project to make our school, streets and community a better place to live in.”

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