Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for Greater London, Sir David Brewer and the Deputy Lieutenant, Mei Sim Lai visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London on Saturday 3 October to present the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to the BAPS Children’s Forum.
The prestigious national honour, which is equivalent to the MBE, sets the national benchmark for excellence in volunteering, with the activities awardees judged as being of the very highest standard. The Children’s Forum of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK is one of only two groups in Greater London which has been conferred this year’s Award.
The Lord-Lieutenant and his wife were received at the Mandir by the Worshipful Mayor of Brent, Cllr Jim O’Sullivan. After being warmly welcomed by young boys and girls of the BAPS Children’s Forum, all distinguished guests were escorted to a special exhibition conveying the academic, recreational, environmental and social activities undertaken by the Forum. Another section highlighted its community work in aid of charities such as Children in Need, The Anthony Nolan Trust, and Blue Peter’s Shoebiz Appeal.
The guests were then escorted to the Mandir’s sanctorum where they spent a few moments admiring the intricate architecture of the Mandir.
Upon entering the Haveli Prayer Hall, the Lord-Lieutenant was greeted by rapturous applause from the gathered guests and devotees. Doctor Swami garlanded the Lord-Lieutenant and welcomed him in a traditional manner. Yogvivek Swami, the head sadhu of the London Mandir, welcomed all the guests in his welcome address and also conveyed the good wishes and prayers of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS.
Thirteen-year-old Tilak Patel confidently spoke about the BAPS Children’s Forum, highlighting its role in nurturing children for our increasingly challenging times. This was followed by an inspirational appreciation of a selection of the Children’s Forum volunteers who continue to give of their time and talents for the holistic development of children.
The Lord-Lieutenant then proceeded to present the Queen’s Award crystal and a certificate, personally signed by Her Majesty the Queen, to Doctor Swami, the trustees and the national coordinators of the BAPS Children’s Forum.
Addressing the assembly, the Lord-Lieutenant remarked that the “prestigious national honour” was “so richly deserved” by BAPS Children’s Forum “for your exceptional community work of integrating value-based educational, social, environmental and recreational activities into one cohesive programme successfully implemented through hundreds of dedicated volunteers.” He further thanked all the volunteers for devoting their selfless time, adding: “It is admirable that your programme has been running for over thirty years and continues to help children of today mature into responsible British citizens of tomorrow.” The Lord-Lieutenant was also presented with a small memento to commemorate his visit to the Mandir.
On behalf of BAPS, Mr V H Patel, trustee thanked Her Majesty the Queen and the Lord-Lieutenant for their appreciation of the voluntary efforts of BAPS. The ceremony concluded with a traditional Indian dance to celebrate the presentation.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was created by Her Majesty to mark the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 2002.