The University of Warwick has honoured social entrepreneur and youth charity leader, Rashid Bhayat, with an honorary doctorate.
Addressing the ceremony on Friday (19 January) he told the graduates that their degrees could help them achieve social change.
He said: “I need you. My organisation and my sector needs you. The power you now have will give you the key to open doors. When you open those doors, please leave them open for others to pass through as well.”
Introducing Mr Bhayat at the ceremony, Professor Jonathan Neelands from Warwick Business School and fellow board member for the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “This man feels, thinks, acts on behalf of those he serves. He is a change-maker, an entrepreneur, a dreamer and above all a good man doing a good job for us all.”
Mr Bhayat established his first social venture in 1997 at the age of 17, which worked with young people in one of the UK’s most challenging neighbourhoods. Since then, he has worked at a local, regional and national level, designing and implementing social change programmes for young people and communities. He is the founder of the Positive Youth Foundation, which supports young people who find themselves in a wide range of complex and challenging circumstances. He is also a Trustee of the Coventry City of Culture Trust.
Reflecting on receiving his honour he said: “I am truly humbled by this award. In many ways it is acknowledgement that all the work we have been doing, both myself and the team over the years, has been recognised as being such a powerful vehicle for social change.”
Coventry born and bred, Mr Bhayat described how much the city has changed and what a younger Rashid might think of the city as it is now.
He said: “The seven year old me would be very excited by what the city of Coventry has to offer. There has been huge growth in terms of the Universities and what they have brought to the city. But also we have huge titles such as the City of Culture coming to Coventry in 2021.
“For young people, if we can get it right, it can only inspire them and help them to achieve greatness because it offers really diverse opportunities to help young people into leadership roles and experiences and cultural opportunities that didn’t exist before.
“So I think seven year old me, or any young person in Coventry now should have reasons to be cheerful and hopeful.
“However there are social challenges that we need to address and the communities should take confidence that there are people, including our foundation and other partners, that are doing our best to ensure that any gaps are being brought together and that all young people and all communities are given fair and open access to services and opportunities.”
Mr Bhayat credits his family as playing a very important part in his success.
He said: “I grew up in a family of hard workers. My mother has always been a youth worker and so I effectively grew up in youth clubs and that inspired me to see the effect positive adults can have on young people. My family are still a very positive force for me.”
Giving advice to young people who perhaps don’t feel big enough to tackle the world, he said:
“The biggest piece of advice is to not set any limits. We are very good, as adults, at telling young people what they can and can’t do and how far they can go with things and that’s in all walks of life and across all cultures, ethnicities or social groups. We tend to set parameters which we have no right to do.
“So my advice is always – just keep going. There is no end game – you have to keep on moving. I use my own example – when I first set this work up with £50 to start up and a bag of footballs, in a park in probably one of the most notorious and challenging areas in the city, there were no barriers. It was literally – turn up let’s see what happens with these footballs, there was no master plan in place. You just have to keep going. Just don’t stop. The moment you stop, don’t expect anything else to happen.”
21 January 2019
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