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Volunteer of the Year: Rizwan Ali

Rizwan Ali is a volunteer with Walking With in North Tyneside, a charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers. Rizwan came to the UK with his mother and sisters to claim asylum in the UK, the family were fleeing for their lives from the Taliban,they were beaten and threatened with violence on numerous occasion. Rizwan’s brothers disappeared and the family still don’t know what happened to them.

Since coming to the UK, Rizwan’s mother has had a stroke and Rizwan  is now a carer for her as well as looking after his three younger sisters ensuring they attended school and helping to run the household. When Rizwan turned 21 he was treated different to his family by the Home Office and his application for refugee status was refused, stopping his payments and support. Rizwan can not engage into any employment and is in threat of being returned to his country on a regular basis. Rizwan is technically destitute, he still lives with his mother and sisters who support him as much as they can on their small amount of money from the Home Office.

However, despite all of the challenges and hardship he faces, Rizwan is determined to better himself and to help others. Rizwan has been attending ESOL classes at college where he has improved his English immensely. He has also engaged with the sports college and is training to become a rugby player. He is also hoping to become a community champion to help others to become more active.

Rizwan has been volunteering with Walking With in North Tyneside for four years, where he supports in the kitchen to cook for all the service users (Asylum Seekers and Refugees) on a weekly basis, even during Ramadan when he cannot eat during the day himself, Rizwan still cooks and gives 100% to his role. He never complains about his own difficult situation and is a credit to Walking With and a great ambassador for Asylum Seekers.

Pauline Hughes from Walking With commented: “Rizwan has overcome a lot of personal issues in his life, he has lost his childhood, his brothers and father, yet he still has a great outlook on life and helps people from all walks of life. He is so unselfish, thinking about others before himself. Rizwan deserves recognition for all his hard work and commitment as a volunteer and a human being.”