Better than the Oscars!

Aurore Lacabe is a Support Worker at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities and talks about the first Afiya Awards, held at City Hall on 31 March 2011, to recognise the achievements of academics, clinicians, social care staff, the voluntary and community sector, and service users and carers who have played an important part in the creation and development of the NHS and social care over the past 60 years:

I was in the audience at the first Afiya Award to support Richard West, co-chair of the National Advisory Group for Learning Disability and Ethnicity (NAGLDE). Richard, who was nominated for an award by the Foundation, found out a few weeks ago that he had been shortlisted in two categories: the Carer Leadership Award, and the Against All Odds Award (Pride of Afiya).

I met Richard through my involvement in NAGLDE, but quickly found out that the group was only one of his many commitments. Indeed, for many years, Richard has relentlessly worked at a local and national level to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities from BME communities, while also caring for his partner Tracey, who like him has a learning disability.

The event was hosted by BBC broadcaster Nikki Bedi, with guest presenters including politicians, academics, newspaper editors and celebrities such as Jennette Arnold OBE, Labour Assembly Member for North East London, Rt Hon Keith Vaz MBE, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, TV presenter and academic Dr Robert Beckford, Steve Pope, Editor of The Voice, and comedian, cancer survivor and presenter of BBC Radio London’s Drivetime Show Eddie Nestor.

To his partner Tracey’s great excitement, Richard won an award for both the categories he had been shortlisted for and shared a picture with Eastenders (Tracey’s favorite programme!) actress Nina Wadia (co-winner of the Celebrity Champion Award with Lenny Henry), who said that “this award actually means more to me than any other that I have picked up or might pick up.” Richard was very proud too and happy to be recognized for all the work he has done over the years.

The event was very moving and inspirational. Some of the people present had had difficult lives, but they all had one thing in common: whatever their experience, they were all keen to use it to inspire and lead positive changes, not just for them, but for all BME people now and in future generations.