A student who brings communities together in Luton is an early entrant in a competition that hails the achievements of young people in Bedfordshire.
Dawood Masood is scoring with youngsters by getting them involved in football and helping charities as well as trying to boost relations between communities in the town, all while studying for a degree.
Now Dawood has been put forward for Atlas Young People of the Year, a competition that reveals, recognises and rewards positive role models who go out of their way to help others.
It is 10 years since the first YOPEY in Bedfordshire in 2006 and this year’s competition has £2,000 to be won by young people and shared with good causes.
There is a top prize of £800 to be won by a young person or group of young people who help others, half of which they will give to a good cause of their choice. The runner-up will win £400, and the third place and junior winner will receive £200 each, all similarly shared.
Typical entries include carers and mentors, fundraisers, club leaders, those who pass on academic or sporting skills, and volunteers on projects in their community or abroad – the list is endless. The only qualification is that they have to ‘give to others’.
Bedfordshire YOPEY is open to people aged 10 to 25, who live, work or study in the county.
Nineteen-year-old Dawood, of Mayne Avenue, was nominated by his father Prof Masood Akhtar Hazarvi, director of Al-Hira Educational and Cultural Centre in Beechwood Road, for the community work that he does.
Prof Hazarvi said: “Dawood is promoting unity in the community. From the age of 16 Dawood has worked for local charities and started volunteering at the Al-Hira Centre, where he changed how education there is being taught.
“He brought in many ideas and implemented them successfully and now he is in charge of more than 400 youngsters.”
He is a member of Luton Sunni Council of Mosques, representing six different mosques. He is the youngest committee member and heads its media operation. Last summer he presented a community show on local radio station Inspire FM.
Dawood is frequently interviewed by the media where he gives insight into matters affecting the Muslim community and puts across Muslim views. He has also had meetings at Westminster with MPs and officials to discuss matters concerning the Muslim community in the UK.
All this is on top of studying finance and accountancy at the University of Bedfordshire.
Dawood said that he started at the Al-Hira Centre as an office assistant and then became a teacher, eventually becoming head of educational and youth development responsible for 400 youngsters, aged 5 to 15.
He has added new items to the syllabus such as child protection measures and criminal record checks.
He also believes he was the first Muslim official to bring an expert into an Islamic education centre to teach how to prevent radicalisation of young people.
One of the ways to involve youngsters was setting up Al-Hira football club last summer because there was not much to occupy youngsters. He did this along with Quba Trust, which he founded and which also works to support and encourage young people.
There is football training on Saturdays at Chaul End Park, off Dunstable Road, for around 40 youngsters, aged 8 to 14.
“When I started I did not have a qualification but, along with parents and other volunteers I went for and achieved a Football Association level one coaching certificate,” he said.
“We play friendlies against other teams when we can get them. This includes games against teams from churches and other groups enabling them to mix and engage with others.
“It’s helped the kids learn about other groups and has kept them away from trouble and bad influences.”
Through the Quba Trust, which channels youngsters to use their talents to work together for the community, Dawood launched a successful campaign locally on social media called ‘Not in my name’ condemning the extremists of ISIS, the so-called Islamic State. This attracted more than 2,000 people on Twitter.
The campaign encouraged Luton’s Muslims and those from other religious and cultural backgrounds to speak out against the terrorist organisation. This included rallies in Luton and Preston, both of which Dawood helped organise. The campaign was reported on by newspapers around the world.
Dawood was also involved in another campaign ‘freedom4Gaza’ to show solidarity with the people there who suffered during clashes with Israel last year. That attracted more than 1,000 people to a rally in Luton.
Dawood has also raised money for various charities. He was involved in organising a dinner 18 months ago which raised £75,000 for the charity Islamic Help to help orphans. He has also raised money for the Palestinian people.
He helped raise money for a school in Pakistan and a Muslim girls’ school in Nottingham. He also helped raise £1,000 for a carpet to pray on at Al-Hira.
Much of the money raised has been by bucket collections with other volunteers.
He has pledged £5,000 to help an eco-village project in Tanzania. He hopes to raise the money through collections and events and travel to the African country this summer to distribute help to those who need food and shelter.
And he plans to do a sky dive with 120 others who have each pledged to raise £500 for Islamic Help.
“I’m happy to help people from all different backgrounds, races and religions,” said Dawood.
“We all share the common factor of being part of the human race and I want to help people who are less fortunate.”
Dawood’s involvement in various projects plus his academic studies means that he is working all hours and often only gets five or six hours sleep. “It can be quite tiring but I’m happy to do it,” he said.
Imam Irfan Chishti, a consultant who works for Luton Borough Council in supporting faith institutions, said: “Dawood is a remarkable young man, very brave and confident to stand up for what he believes in.
“He is an excellent role model for people in Luton and beyond. He is high-profile and successful and does good work in bringing communities together. He was instrumental in making a breakthrough with former leaders of the English Defence League in trying to prevent problems in the town.”
YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Dawood stands out as an excellent young role model in his local community, bringing together youngsters through football, standing up for his beliefs, and raising money to help people in the UK and those suffering in foreign lands.”
As well as Bedfordshire company Atlas Converting Equipment, which manufactures wrapping equipment for various industries, this year’s Beds YOPEY is sponsored by Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, Central Bedfordshire Council, and recruitment company Guidant Group.
The YOPEY charity has also received grants or donations from Bedfordshire & Luton Community Foundation, the county’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Bedfordshire Police Partnership, Aldwyck Housing and others.
Bedfordshire YOPEY is open to people aged 10 - 25, who live, work or study in the county.
> Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to yopey.org or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close on July 31st.