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#Inspirational: Meet the amazing winners of the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards

The Queen will present the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders Awards to sixty exceptional young men and women from across the Commonwealth of Nations at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

The Award-winners have been recognized by the Queen for taking the lead in transforming the lives of others and make a lasting difference in theri communities.

Before receiving their Award at Buckingham Palace on Monday 22 June, the winners will meet Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, visit the UK headquarters of Twitter and meet with senior executies at the BBC World Service.

This year’s Award winners are aged between 18 and 29 and are working to support others, raise awareness and inspire change on a variety of different issues including education, climate change, gender equality mental health and disability equality.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme was established by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society in 2014 in honour of the Queen’s 60 years as head of the Commonwealth.

Dr Astrid Bonfield, Chief Executive of the Trust, said: “For many of our young leaders it will be their first visit to the UK.  It will be such an honour to witness these exceptional young people receiving their Awards from her Majesty the Queen for their incredible work in their countries and across the Commonwealth”.

Following the ceremony on 22 June Award winners will spend four days in the UK to take part in a residential development programme as part of the Award prize.

The programme includes workshops at Cambridge University, meetings with UK business leaders, and visits to life changing social action projects, finished off with a final celebration at the top of the BT Tower on 26 June.

The South Asian region is well represented at the Awards.

Here are the outstanding young men and women making a difference across the sub-continent.

Shamir Shehab (Bangladesh)

Shamir set up the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative when he became concerned about the effect of climate change on his country.  Since 2009 it has trained more than 500 young environmental leaders and set up 30 environmental school clubs. The initiative runs the National Earth Olympiad, which educates students about climate change.

Akshay Jadhao (India)

Akshay grew up in the rural farming region of Vidarbha. Here, transport, basic education and access to the internet are not readily available and unemployment amongst the young is rife. Akshay launched education and skills courses in a bid to improve the job opportunities and future prospects of hundreds of young people.

Ashwini Angadi (India)

Ashwini is visually impaired and faced many challenges finding accessible learning materials at her college. Committed to making her country more inclusive, Ashwini lobbied her college to provide braille and audio books and later formed a disability committee to support others. She now runs the Belaku Academy, offering education for disabled students from rural areas who face exclusion and discrimination

Devika Malik (India)

Devika was born with hemiplegia, which causes paralysis to half of the body. She has overcome the challenges of her disability to become an international para-athlete, counsellor and co-founder of the Wheeling Happiness Foundation. The foundation promotes inclusion, raises funds for disabled people and promotes better access and equality for those facing physical, emotional and social challenges

Salman Ahmad (Pakistan)

Salman has refused to let his mobility problems, caused by childhood polio, hold him back. He co-founded the GADE Foundation, which aims to encourage young men and women to become more involved in enterprise. It has so far established groups at 26 universities to organise its activities at a grassroots level. Salman hopes to change attitudes towards disabled people.

Kavindya Thennakoon (Sri Lanka)

Kavindya was raised by her mother after her police officer father died while fighting the country’s drug trade. Realising education would be the key to her success, Kavindya studied hard while volunteering for organisations including the Girl Guides. She recently founded Without Borders, which aims to tackle the lack of quality education and employment.

Thejitha Saubhagya Edirisinghe (Sri Lanka)

After experiencing his country’s civil war, Thejitha wanted to find a way to encourage future peace. Recognising the importance of culture, arts and languages in creating cohesive communities, he set up the Human Wing International. Thejitha believes that by enabling people to learn and communicate in different languages, it will break down the barriers between them and help them live more peacefully as one community.

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