Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has today, 23rd March 2018, recognised Arefin Rahman Himel, of Bangladesh as the 37th Commonwealth Point of Light, in honour of his exceptional service raising awareness of the hereditary blood disorder Thalassemia across Bangladesh.
In the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London on 19-20 April, Her Majesty The Queen – as Head of the Commonwealth – is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 53 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.
By sharing these stories of service, the Heads of Government meeting will celebrate inspirational acts of volunteering across the Commonwealth and help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time.
Arefin Rahman Himel is the founder of ‘Let’s Fight Against Thalassemia’, a project raising awareness of the hereditary blood disorder which affects the production of red blood cells. Since 2010, Arefin has held 165 events across ten districts in Bangladesh, educating more than 10,000 young people on thalassemia carrier detection and blood donation programmes. Through this work, there are now 4,600 free thalassemia carrier detection screening tests in 35 universities and colleges across the country. Arefin, with the support of his team of 250 volunteers and 50 doctors, has also created an app called ‘ABC of Thalassemia’ to further educate people about the potentially fatal disease.
Each Commonwealth Point of Light will receive a personalised certificate signed by Her Majesty The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. The award for Arefin Rahman Himel will be presented 23rd March at a Commonwealth Big Lunch reception.
Arefin Rahman Himel said: “It is a great privilege and honour to receive the Commonwealth Point of Light Award, offered to me by Her Majesty the Queen as the Head of the Commonwealth. I was very surprised to receive such a prestigious award. The award shines a light not just on my own volunteer work but the wider work of young volunteers across Bangladesh. Thalassaemia is an important disease that we must be aware of, and I hope the work of our platform Youth Club of Bangladesh inspires others to bring positive change to their local community and society as a whole. I’d also like to express my deepest gratitude to the British Council for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Active Citizens programme which has undoubtedly supported me to grow as a volunteer leader.”
Barbara Wickham, Director, British Council said: “On behalf of the British Council, I would like to congratulate Arefin on receiving this award. As an Active Citizen volunteer, he has shown remarkable commitment towards raising awareness on Thalassaemia – a genetic blood disorder, connecting particularly with young people across Bangladesh to ensure that current and future generations are aware of the risks. Arefin’s initiative “Youth Club of Bangladesh” is both a powerful and inspiring example of youth working at the heart of their community to address social issues. We believe that Arefin’s work is testament to the benefits of embedding social action in the journey of young people, and that through the continued work of British Council’s Active Citizen’s programme, we will have the opportunity to work with more young people like Arefin, who strive to make long-lasting, positive contributions to society.”
Kanbar Hossein-Bor, British Deputy High Commissioner to Bangladesh said: “I am delighted that Arefin’s work and tremendous dedication and perseverance in raising awareness about Thalassaemia in Bangladesh has been recognised. Since 2014, Arefin has helped educate more than 10,000 young people across 10 districts on topics such as Thalassemia carrier detection as well as blood donation programmes. His work has brought about a significant change in awareness on Thalassaemia in Bangladesh and now there are more than 4,600 free Thalassemia carrier detection screening tests in 35 universities and colleges across the country. I have had the pleasure to meet him and he is an impressive young man. He has embodied the community leadership that is so vibrant in the voluntary sector and which makes Bangladesh world leaders in the field of development and grassroots activism. I have no doubt that he will be an inspiration to other young leaders in changing their communities and help realise the exciting potential of all the peoples of Bangladesh.”
The Commonwealth is a diverse community of 53 nations that work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace. The Heads of Government meeting will bring together leaders from all the 53 Member countries to reaffirm common values, address shared global challenges and agree how to work to create a better future for all citizens, especially young people. Voluntary service is a vital part of this agenda, which is why Her Majesty The Queen has chosen to recognise outstanding volunteers across the Commonwealth in this special way.