Dalai Lama honours UK’s compassionate youth

Three young people have been awarded for their efforts in combating inner-city violence, campaigning against bullying and dedication to charity work

The Dalai Lama marked his most recent visit to the UK by creating an award to honour young people who have helped to transform themselves, their community or the world in a positive way.

At ceremonies in London, Manchester and Edinburgh during a ten-day visit to the UK in June, the Tibetan spiritual leader presented the Youth Compassion Award to three 10-24-year-olds, who were nominated by their local communities as Britain’s most compassionate young people.

The Manchester Youth Compassion award was presented to 15-year-old Sophia Saleem in front of 10,000 people at a dedicated youth event at Manchester Arena called Stand Up and Be the Change. Sophia was given the award for her work leading several anti-bullying campaigns at her school, Levenshulme High. She also spoke at school assemblies and raised hundreds of pounds for Pump Aid, a charity providing clean water in Africa.

After receiving the award, Sophia said: “I was absolutely overwhelmed to be nominated. I was really struck by what the Dalai Lama had to say about personal responsibility and confronting challenges. Meeting him and receiving the award was such a huge honour.”

In London the award was won by Voltaire Taiwo de Campos, aged 16 from Newham, in recognition of his efforts campaigning against violence. Voltaire’s teenage cousin Ailton was murdered in East Ham in 2010, which inspired Voltaire to become involved with local community youth groups.

“At the time Ailton died it was hard. I was very angry and had a lot of negative thoughts. I transferred that into positive energy and worked hard for peace,” said Voltaire. He became a mentor at local youth group The Young Stars and signed its pledge rejecting violence. Voltaire then went on to co-found the Think Big Theatre, which promotes community building through the arts.

The third award was presented at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to Heather Mann for her dedication to charity work. The 17-year-old began fundraising at the age of 12. She raised £2,600 for mental health charity Support in Mind Scotland, after discovering her mother suffered from the illness. This experience inspired her to become the Salvation Army’s youngest ever volunteer abroad when she travelled to work at an orphanage in Jamaica.

Young people were a major focus of the visit by the Dalai Lama who called on the UK’s youth to help make this a century of dialogue and peace.

Thubten Samdup, a spokesperson for the spiritual leader said: “The Dalai Lama sees the future in the hands of young people. They must understand that the future they want to see can only happen if they begin to make a change themselves; they cannot rely on anyone else to do it for them.”

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