UAE: Student Diana award recipients say they will 'continue doing more for society'

Established in memory of the late Princess of Wales, the prize honours young change-makers


Nandini Sircar

Published: Fri 1 Jul 2022, 3:27 PM

Last updated: Fri 1 Jul 2022, 5:56 PM

Multiple students in the UAE bagged the prestigious Diana award on Friday, raising the nation's flag high on the global stage for going beyond their calling to usher in a positive transformation in society and elevate people's lives.

Established in memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, the award is given out by the charity of the same name and is supported by both her sons, William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Harry, the Duke of Sussex.

Khaleej Times brings you the stories of a few young Diana Award winners from the UAE who are making a difference in the world around them.

10-year-old Shyam Manikandan, who is a student at Delhi Private School (DPS) Sharjah, has shown a yen for humanitarian work that far belies his tender age.

Shyam learnt about environmental issues and sustainable living from his school teachers and documentaries.

His passion started when he saw his sister's work in recycling and was inspired to recycle materials through school programs, 'Aster Volunteer' and 'EEG'.

During neighbourhood campaigns, he prepared handmade flyers requesting people to support his recycling drive and PowerPoint presentations to educate the community on how plastics enter the ocean, circulate in our ecosystem, and affect life on earth.

Among other charitable works, Shyam volunteered at the 'FAB Expo' 2021 and invented the Rattack device to detect and warn against rodent attacks in non-ambulatory hospital patients in India.

The fifth-grader, who created this device over a period of three months, told Khaleej Times, "I feel very happy and honoured to be receiving this award. The inspiration or the idea behind creating this device occurred to me when I read an article in the newspaper which said that often patients in some Indian hospitals are attacked by rats. That's when I conceived of this idea and thought why not create a device using artificial intelligence that can alert nurses or caregivers and protect patients. I am grateful to my parents and teachers who've motivated me to work towards this."

Similarly, Grade 12 student of Gems Modern Academy, Parv Bhadra has been an animal lover since his childhood. Realising the sorry plight of abandoned and stray pets, he set about creating a positive change in the lives of unloved animals who at times endure the terrible conditions of desert heat without food and shelter.

For three years now, Parv has been actively involved in animal welfare on multiple fronts, such as assisting 'Animals and Us Fujairah', an animal rescue and care facility. He developed their online portal to ease adoption and fostering processes and set up a student-led initiative, 'Pawsitive', to create awareness and mobilise support from school children.

The 17-year-old says, "Having grown up around animals, it pained me to see the unendurable condition of stray animals in the UAE. Many of them are abandoned without food or shelter, and the unforgiving heat here only adds to their woes. I have lived with and loved animals from a young age; I was committed to bringing a positive change in the lives of these animals."

Apart from expressing his gratitude towards the awardees and his school, who have been a real inspiration for him, Parv adds, "The UAE leadership has proven that working for the community is beyond any religion. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan adopted a dog named Grace that was found injured in Sharjah. He gave me hope. He has surely inspired many people to step forward and adopt rescued animals."

"Ms Michelle who is a school teacher and founder of Animals and Us has inspired me to work for the cause, and my school's leadership, especially our Principal Nargish Khambatta, has played a great role in keeping these initiatives alive. It's just not an award but an additional responsibility to work for the cause."

18-year-old Irfan Olasheri Kalathingal is another recognised young person in the country who has received this honour for his social and humanitarian efforts.

Ever since Irfan joined the 'Team Iftar Initiative', he and a few friends and family belonging to an alumnus have been distributing over 1,000 free Iftar food kits to blue-collar labourers for the 30 days of the month of Ramadan over the last eight years.

In January 2022, they adapted this model to pack and distribute sanitation kits to help protect against Covid-19.

Irfan, along with his friends, also founded the 'Balakauthukam Teens Club', a community club for teens all over the city to come together, share their ideas, learn and improve themselves.

They've also been organising dialogues and workshops on the importance of volunteering and achieving your goals. Recently the club started a cloth collection drive to distribute these among the less privileged.

Irfan says, "I feel extremely grateful for having received this great recognition and would like to thank my school and particularly my school counsellor for helping through the nomination process. I now realise that I have a responsibility to continue doing more for society."


Tessy Ojo CBE, CEO of The Diana Award, says, "We warmly congratulate our new Diana Award recipients from the UK and across the world who are change-makers for their generation. It is especially poignant as we remember Princess Diana twenty-five years on. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens."

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

14-year old Anirudh Balaji is also a recipient of the award. As an Eco-Warrior, he has worked hard towards the collection of paper and e-waste. His goal has been to reduce, reuse and recycle paper to save trees and protect the planet.

So far, he has recycled 5,268 kilos of paper and 250 kilos of e-waste. Anirudh has taken part in afforestation campaigns, planting 11 trees towards his goal of protecting the environment.

He has also been involved in volunteering activities towards Covid relief, educational projects, and has raised money by holding a poetry recital and donating the proceeds from ticket sales to charity.

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