A Luton charity that was the first black youth organisation in the Home Counties when it was formed in 1979 has won the country’s top honour – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
It was presented to the group by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Judith Howard at a ceremony attended by volunteers and VIPs, including Chief Inspector Hob Hoque, the highest ranking Bangladeshi police officer in the UK, who was himself given a commemorative plaque.
The Bangladesh Youth League started with 54 members and its initial aim was to raise awareness and ensure justice for the emerging generation of young Bangladeshis.
It has gone from strength to strength and now occupies lottery-funded premises in Bury Park, providing vital services to more than 5,500 people of all ages in the local community.
Chair of Trustees Sujel Miah said the bedrock of the group’s success was the hard work and dedication of its volunteers.
He added: “This is a very proud moment in our history. The heart of our organisation is the comfort of working together to overcome challenges. In the past we have fought racism and we are currently faced with austerity measures.
“But our mission remains the same: to serve our community and make a difference.”
The Centre for Youth & Community Development in Bury Park comprises the Bangladesh Youth Group and Bengali Women’s Project.
Together they offer numerous services including Little Stars Pre-School, Crescent Summer School and various disability projects as well as leisure activities for the elderly and health and wellbeing carers groups.
Former Luton mayor Tahir Khan, now a trustee, joined the group when he was 14. He said: “Volunteers give a huge amount of time and learn new skills while helping others. We need to work with the local authority because this sector is becoming more important as resources are scarcer.”
Director Rob Burton said one of their priorities in the coming year was to secure funding to expand, develop and sustain CYCD’s youth work and disability programmes.