When Hanif Malik began fundraising to establish the Hamara Healthy Living Centre in 1998, there was neither an office nor a building to operate out of as the charity was in its infancy.
Fast forward almost two decades, and Hamara has grown into the largest ethnic minority organisation in the voluntary and community sector in Leeds, employing over 20 staff members and helping hundreds of local residents every year.
In recognition of his work as founder and chief executive of the charity, Hanif has this week been named on the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List and will receive a prestigious OBE for his services.
For many, the extra three letters at the end of their title would be something to brag about, but Hanif recognises that it’s a team effort which eventually led to his name being stamped on the Royal list.
“It’s right up there with some of my proudest moments,” he said. “But it’s not an egotistical pride.
“I’m proud, not just for myself, but for the whole community and Leeds and everyone I’m associated with.
“I am as proud of everyone else as I am of myself. You can see the real genuineness and warmth from people when things like this happen. It’s the highest accolade I’ve ever received.”
Although Hanif is seen by many as a role model in the local community, his life could have played out differently had he followed his original career path.
Jumping betweens jobs in the private sector, with BT and HSBC, it wasn’t until a death in the family that he began working in the community sector.
Almost 20 years on, Hanif hopes his latest accolade will inspire others to build a legacy of their own.
“I hope it encourages other people,” he said, “especially youngsters.
“The OBE shows that it is possible - regardless of your background, how well you do at school, your race or your ethnicity – that if you continue striving to do good, you will achieve something.
“Regardless of any barriers and labels, if you apply yourself and if you’re sincere with what you do, you will get somewhere in life.”
Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, arts visionary, Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, who co-founded Bradford’s Kala Sangam arts centre in Little Germany 20 years ago, has also been awarded with an OBE.
She and her husband, Dr Shripati Upadhyaya, a consultant psychologist at Bradford District Care Trust, began the charity in her home in 1996 and it soon expanded to its current base in St Peter’s House. Her vision was to create a pioneering centre, bringing all cultures together through the world of art.
“It is so nice to be recognised in this way. I feel Kala Sangam - which means ‘art’ and ‘bringing together’ - has created something wonderful and feel that art is the best way to to this,” said Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, a consultant in metabolic medicine.
“I really wanted to make this a beacon centre and the response it has received from Bradford is wonderful.”
The centre has been a labour of love for Mrs Upadhyaya and has grown from a few dance classes to the only South Asian arts centre in the UK with its own dedicated performance space.
Over the years the 200 artists working with the company have appeared on Songs of Praise and at the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Albert Hall.