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King Charles' coronation heroes

Words by Abi Scaife

King Charles’ coronation on the 8th May 2023 is set to be one of the biggest events in recent history. Even more amazing, is that King Charles is using the occasion to honour his and his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s, dedication to charity, by inviting several recipients of the British Empire Medal to witness his coronation.

Smiley News has extensively covered King Charles III’s and Queen Elizabeth II’s charity work before, and we have also covered another British Empire Medal recipient - Margaret Seaman, whose incredible (and enormous) knits raised thousands for charity!

The British Empire Medal is an award given to those who have made large contributions of service to their community. Smiley News was lucky enough to interview some of those medal recipients who were invited to witness the coronation, and hear their stories!

Ms Manju Malhi, based in London, received her British Empire Medal for services to the community in London during the Covid-19 response.

How does it feel to be invited to the coronation?

It feels quite surreal really, I still can't believe I have been invited to such an historic event. It's even now unthinkable that I will be there on the day amongst fellow BEM recipients and dignitaries from around the world. I feel happy and excited and have to pinch myself that this is happening.

What does it mean to you, to be at the coronation?

It means that I am part of Britain. I feel included and feel a sense of belonging especially as I am the child of Indian immigrants. I feel a sense of pride that I am recognised not for being a chef, but for helping my community in any small way I can.

How did it feel to receive the British Empire Medal?

I feel so privileged to receive this award for work done to assist older people in my area as well as diverse communities. To me the honour is knowing that I’ve put a smile on someone’s face with a new herb, green ingredient or a spice that’s broadened their culinary horizons and help forge new friendships.  

Tell us a little about your charitable work?

C-Change West London inspires and supports people through youth participation to create opportunities to live happier healthier lives so the purpose was to get individuals from different communities of the London boroughs to work together to cook delicious meals from different cultures. 

The other organisation Open Age strengthens the sense of community, combats loneliness and isolation and improves the health and wellbeing of older Londoners with various activities including simple cooking sessions to inspire people to learn, mingle, chat and have fun outside the home. 

Open Age had to find different and stimulating ways of keeping in touch with its participants so we’ve got conference call cooking sessions (yes, it works) and zoom demonstrations on healthy eating. C-Change West London made food videos and also started food parcels for locals in the Heston and Hounslow areas.

It was different because in a way the organisations used the power of food for people to learn new skills and combat loneliness. 

How can we get more people involved in giving back to their community/causes that mean something to them?

The best way to get involved with community projects is to become a volunteer or to volunteer your time to a local charity. I'm doing that also right now with the Uxbridge Centre.

If you don't have time to volunteer, donate your old clothes to local charity shops - it's a win win situation because it will help you declutter your wardrobe. Shop locally and look out for local events.

Above all say hello to your neighbour or greet shop staff by saying their name when you see it on their lapel. It puts a smile on their face everytime.

Miss Katrina Moffat, based in North Tyneside, is a Leader with Girlguiding UK, and received her British Empire Medal for services to Young People in North Tyneside. 

How does it feel to be invited to the coronation? 

At first I was convinced that the email from DCMS was a scam, even though I still replied to it! Now that it's all been announced, and I've taken it all in, it's so exciting. This is a real piece of history and it's unlikely I'm going to get an opportunity to be part of something so momentous again. I'm really looking forward to sharing the day with others who are being recognised for their achievements and celebrating this occasion together.

What does it mean to you? 

Being invited to the coronation is a real honour and it's a privilege to represent Girlguiding, North Tyneside Learning Trust and other organisations I am involved with. 

How did it feel to receive the British Empire Medal?  

I was obviously surprised to be awarded the BEM but really proud to have been recognised for the work I've done. I'm also incredibly thankful that someone thought I was worth nominating and took the time to write the application. Actually receiving the medal was a particularly special occasion as it was an opportunity for my family to come together for the first time in a very long time.

Tell us a little about the charitable work you do? 

There are two main areas of volunteering I'm involved in: Girlguiding and school governance through North Tyneside Learning Trust.  Girlguiding is the UK’s largest youth organisation dedicated completely to girls and I've been a leader with them for 18 years. I've held positions across a range of levels from unit leader through to specialist volunteer at national level but I have to admit, the most fun is had in our weekly unit meetings. I'm currently a school governor for a secondary school and a primary school and have been involved with NTLT for over 10 years. Both of the organisations I work closely with have children and young people at the heart of what they do and this is important to me.

How can we get more people involved in giving back to their community/causes that mean something to them? 

For me it was about finding what I was interested in and having the confidence to give it a go. I've spoken to loads of people about being a school governor and one of the things they always say is "I could never do that, I'm not clever/experienced/important enough". I didn't have the experience when I started but I had the interest and wanted to learn. There are so many opportunities out there and the smallest interaction could lead onto so many valuable experiences.

dalThe Motorcycle Portraits

Anthony and Vicki Van Someren, based in London, are co-owners of The Bike Shed and co-creators of Bike Shed Community Response. They received their British Empire Medal for services to the Covid-19 response.

How does it feel to be invited to the coronation?

Vikki and I are thrilled and honoured to be invited to the King's Coronation, on behalf of all the Bike Shed Community Response Volunteers who worked tirelessly dring 22 months of Covid playing their part in the nation's response to the pandemic and saving lives.

What does it mean to you?

It's fantastic to see motorcycle riders portrayed in a positive light –  simply normal good people who happen to ride a motorcycle, and will often put their hand up first when it's time to stand up and help out in a crisis.

How did it feel to receive the British Empire Medal?

It was slightly surreal, to be part of this British tradition and ceremony, and to be honoured by our Monarch.

Tell us a little about your charitable work?

Bike Shed Community Response was a 1,400 strong force of volunteer motorcycle riders and coordinators who spent 22 months during the Covid-19 pandemic delivering PPE, prescription medicine, food, making wellbeing checks, delivering pulse oximeters to head-off possible death from silent hypoxia, and pioneered same-day Covid testing via motorcycle in the UK. Most of those volunteers were Bike Shed Motorcycle Club members, followers and customers.

How can we get more people involved in giving back to their community/causes that mean something to them?

People need to look out for the good in others, find common ground in shared passions, and focus on what unites us all, instead of looking at our differences - which usually turn out to be pretty small, when you look at the big picture, the world we live in, and our duty of care to future generations and the planet we all have to share.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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