UAE students get Diana Award for making a difference

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

We bring you the stories of four young Diana Award winners from the UAE.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 30 Jun 2021, 3:34 PM

Some students in the UAE have won the prestigious Diana award recently, raising the country’s flag high in the international arena for going beyond their calling to bring about a positive change in society and uplift people. Established in memory of late Diana, Princess of Wales, the award is given out by the charity of the same name and is supported by both her sons, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.

We bring you the stories of four young Diana Award winners from the UAE who are making a difference to the world around them.

Nileena Mariam Jonesh

Nileena Mariam Jonesh, the youngest winner of the Diana Award at nine, has shown a yen for eco-conservation and humanitarian work, that far belies her tender age.

It all began when the Sharjah student visited her hometown of Cochin in Kerala.

Finding the place littered with heaps of plastic and waste, she resolved to clean up her town, and eventually ended up becoming a sustainability role-model. What started off as a mere desire to keep cities clean, turned into a motivation to do bigger things. She then started recycling her neighbours’ newspapers.

Nileena is now dubbed as an eco-monitor at her school in the UAE and has participated in beach and desert clean-ups as well as mangrove planting projects in nearby wetlands.

“I am grateful to my school - for supporting me in my endeavours and providing me with many opportunities to develop my talents. Receiving this award has been a life-changing experience for me. Not only has it provided me education, leadership and opportunities, it has inspired me through the connection with global youth change makers”, says the student of GEMS Millennium School.

“Princess Diana believed that young people have the power to change the world. I had the opportunity to work for humanitarian services, cancer patients, students of determination and contribute towards a greener planet for future generations,” said Nileena.

The nine-year-old has also formed an anti-bullying squad, and has given speeches on the adverse impact of bullying, while coining the slogan: ‘Be a buddy, not a bully’. During the pandemic, Nileena sprang into action, distributing food kits to people who had lost their jobs and giving masks to frontline workers.

Advait Arya

For 16-year-old Advait Arya, seeing his parents helping needy people when he was around eight years old, had a massive impact on his impressionable mind.

“My inspiration is definitely my parents who have ingrained the ideology of helping the underprivileged. They have made me grateful for what I have and have constantly supported me in everything I am doing with the Defy organization, helping orphans and labourers. Additionally, coming from a developing country like India, I have seen individuals suffering due to the lack of basic necessities like food and shelter. I am extremely delighted to have received this award, it motivates me to continue helping underprivileged individuals in our society”, says the student of Raha International School in Abu Dhabi.

The nominations for the award are generally put forward by adults who know the young people in a professional capacity and recognise their efforts as a positive contribution to society. Through a rigorous nomination process, these nominators had to demonstrate the nominee’s impact in five key areas: Vision, Social Impact, Inspiring Others, Youth Leadership, and Service Journey.

Raghav Krishna Seshadri Sumanth

Grade 7 student of Delhi Private School, Sharjah, Raghav Krishna Seshadri Sumanth, secured this award for his humanitarian efforts for the education and empowerment of children of determination and refugee children. Raghav and his team created cost-effective and innovative solutions to provide education to Syrian refugee children and submitted their ideas to ‘Dubai Cares’ which awarded him the Young-Philanthropist Award in 2019.

Many of the ideas and strategies were implemented by Dubai Cares which created a positive impact on the education of thousands of Syrian refugee children displaced in Jordan. Raghav also took a lot of effort to make teaching videos for the refugee children in Math and Science and is continuing to do so to utilise his teaching talent. He and his younger brother together raised Dh30,000 for their campaign in the “Yallagive” portal for the Ta’alouf programme of “Al-Jalila Foundation” during the pandemic.

Raghav Krishna says, “I am humbled to receive the Diana Award 2021 and thankful to the Judges, my Parents, Teachers and Supporters. I look forward to being part of the Diana Award Alumni network and participating in the Development Programmes conducted by the Diana Award institution. This recognition comes with a lot of responsibility and I pledge to continue to work towards various humanitarian and social causes. I believe that the higher aim in life is to be a responsible citizen and a good humanitarian.”

Aneeka Paul

The 15-year old Aneeka Paul has helped in changing the apathetic attitude of the society towards children with disabilities in the Indian subcontinent. By teaching life skills and instilling confidence through educational and vocational training, she has been working to empower them to become self-reliant so that they can become assets to society. During the pandemic she donated additional funds to assist the visually impaired in their education and in maintaining their wellbeing in this dire situation.

She said: “I am honoured and humbled to be receiving the prestigious Diana Award 2021 and it has been an absolutely life-changing moment for me. I am indebted to the Diana Award committee for recognising my work as a peer buddy and mentor to visually-impaired students at the Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy, Narendrapur, Kolkata, India. I am eager to break down the barriers that hinder the inclusion of people affected by disabilities in our society.”

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