Queen has presented Bhagya Wijayawardane from Sri Lanka with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, in honour of the work she is doing to transform lives in her community. The Queen was joined at the Award ceremony by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in recognising their success.
The Queen’s Young Leaders Awards programme, now in its fourth and final year, celebrates the achievements of some of the most exciting young change-makers from across the Commonwealth. This year’s cohort from 38 Commonwealth countries are finding solutions to global issues such as climate change, food scarcity, gender-based violence, mental health, and access to education.
Guests including David Beckham OBE, Sir Lenny Henry CBE, Nicola Adams OBE, Neelam Gill, Caspar Lee, Tina Daheley, Ore Oduba and Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Sir John Major, joined Award winners at Buckingham Palace to congratulate them on their remarkable achievements.
Speaking at the Awards ceremony, The Duke of Sussex, who was recently named a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador said: “In this rapidly changing world, it is heartening to meet so many inspiring young people gathered here today, who have already stepped up as leaders and improved the lives of so many people across the Commonwealth. You are the hope and optimism the world needs and we will all do whatever we can to support you in it.”
David Beckham OBE said: “I’m so proud to be here with the Queen’s Young Leaders tonight. It’s really inspiring to meet these hardworking young people, who continue to dedicate their time and energy to helping other people live a better life. Hearing their stories and the sacrifices they’ve made is a real honour and I feel very privileged to celebrate with them today.”
Bhagya received their Award for the work she is doing to improve food security by encouraging people to grown their own food in their garden or home in her community.
Bhagya Wijayawardane, 29, said: “It’s such a great honour to receive an Award from Her Majesty The Queen for the work I’m doing in Sri Lanka and Asia. To win something like this is physical recognition that I’m doing a really good job and it gives tremendous inner confidence. I wish that through this Award I could be a symbol of inspiration to others to lead meaningful lives. It is fantastic to see the impact this has on young people, from the incredible development of their skills to their growth in confidence, concentration and aspiration, both within and beyond the programme. I’ve learnt a lot, made a great network and looking forward to the brighter future.”
As a Queen’s Young Leader, Bhagya has gained access to bespoke mentoring and training through the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, designed to develop their leadership skills further and ensure they are best placed to lead the way in the future to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Sir John Major, Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said:
“I extend my warmest congratulations to all the 2018 Queen’s Young Leaders. Together with our Award Winners from the last three years, they complete a unique, 240-strong cohort of Young Leaders from all across the Commonwealth. This is such an invaluable resource for the Commonwealth that The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust will be launching a legacy fund, to ensure that our support and encouragement to our Young Leaders will continue beyond the lifetime of the Trust.
Each and every one of our 240 Young Leaders is a remarkable and exceptional young person, who I have no doubt will play an important role in shaping our future world. It has been an absolute privilege and delight to get to know them.”
The now complete Queen’s Young Leaders network forms a unique, dedicated and powerful group of young people from 53 Commonwealth countries who will connect, collaborate and change lives together for years to come. To further support them in their future endeavours, a £200,000 Legacy Fund has been created. It will be open to all 240 Queen’s Young Leaders and 282 highly commended runners-up to apply for grants that will help elevate their work and enable them to work together to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the Commonwealth.
To see a full list of Award winners and highly commended runners up, and to learn more about their stories and how they are changing lives across the Commonwealth, please visit www.queensyoungleaders.com