A Bradford Council worker has visited the capital this week for a meeting with the Queen, after being awarded an MBE for his outstanding work in dementia.
Batley-born Mohammed Akhlak Rauf, 44, who now lives and works in Bradford, was personally thanked by Her Majesty the Queen on 5th November.
A single dad with three children – Atheeqa 18, Ruqayyah 14 and son Haroon 11 – his own mother and father came to the UK from Kashmir, Pakistan in 1960’s.
Mohammed said: “Education was always important to them and they pushed for me to study and work hard.”
A personal reason led Mohammed to work in this particular sphere, as his own grandma died from dementia at a time when no-one diagnosed it for his family.
“I wanted to ensure other families were not left in the same situation,” Mohammed added.
After setting up the Meri Yaadain Dementia Team in 2006, Mohammed has been overseeing its day-to-day operations ever since.
Translated to ‘My Memories’, Meri Yaadain was set up to raise awareness of dementia amongst South Asian families, so that people living with the condition, and their carers, could live better informed lives and make informed choices.
This pioneering work has been recognised on a national scale, scooping a number of awards, with Mohammed helping to replicate similar projects in a number of other cities.
Despite his success to date, Mohammed admits that he is always learning.
“I am studying part-time for a PhD at the Dementia Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Bradford whilst juggling my job at the council,” he said.
“My studies are researching how South Asian carers manage the transitions of care when looking after someone with dementia. My Phd is also supported by a carer or ‘Expert by Experience’, called Shahid Mohammed, from Rochdale.”
The Meri Yaadain team provide information and support to people who are at risk of dementia, as well as those who have had a diagnosis. It also helps people in the general community to understand what dementia is.
Mohammed says there are still stigmas associated with mental ill health issues and therefore runs workshops and a monthly support group, as well as a website and a Twitter account to reach out to younger people.
His charity’s internet blog is the latest addition to raising awareness through information.
To receive an MBE for all of his efforts was something ‘extra special’ and ‘unexpected’.
“My MBE honour is for ‘Services to people with dementia and their carers,” Mohammed said.
“It is humbling because I like to think that we do what we do because that is what should be done – but to be recognised in this way and to be thanked by Her Majesty the Queen is the icing on the cake for the work that I and colleagues have been doing over the last almost 11 years.”
Mohammed now tries to work with other regional and national players in the field of dementia to make sure that Black and Minority Ethnic Communities are not forgotten about when talking about dementia.
“I am working towards connecting the work I do for Meri Yaadain and my academic research so that we can move it from a local initiative to a national one.
“In future, I hope inequalities can be challenged by creating both equity and equality for all our communities.
“I would like to thank Bradford Council for giving me the ‘freedom’ to get Meri Yaadain to a level where the work has earned me an MBE but in particularly I accept it in the name of all the carers and the people with Dementia that I and my colleagues have worked with over the years.”
For more information about dementia, please visit www.meriyaadain.co.uk