Diana, Princess of Wales, believed that young people had the power to change the world – a belief that lives on through The Diana Award, the world’s only charity set up in her memory.
As the late princess's 60th birthday approaches on 1 July, six young people tell HELLO! how they are continuing her legacy and the causes she held dear:
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Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, 26, Bangladesh (Tackling Inequality)
When Shomy lost her mother to diarrhoea in 2014, she turned her grief into action and dedicated her life to creating a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation.
Shomy meeting the Duchess of Sussex in 2018
Since becoming a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Activist (WASH), Shomy has helped educate more than 70,000 people – many living in slums – about filtering water, personal hygiene and food safety and has made keynote speeches around the world. Along the way she has met the Duchess of Sussex and in 2019 was presented by the prestigious Diana Legacy Award by Earl Spencer, becoming one of only 20 young people in the world to receive it.
Shomy being presented with her award by Earl Spencer
"Princess Diana was an epitome of kindness and equality," says Shomy. "She strived to break the taboo around leprosy and HIV/AIDs and courageously stood up for what she believed in. As I now continue to work on several sensitive issues around WASH with stigmatized communities, I feel motivated by Princess Diana. On her 60th birthday, I am nothing but truly grateful for the path she has paved for young people to follow."
Shomy is also the co-founder of youth organisation, Awareness 360, which has benefited over 150,000 people so far.
Soiphet Sirisot, 17, Cheshire (Anti-Bullying)
Soiphet is one of the Diana Award's 35,000 anti-bullying ambassadors and recently joined the charity's Youth Board. She was bullied at school after moving to the UK from Thailand and was inspired to get involved with the Diana Award's anti-bullying programme after the sudden death of her father, who had always encouraged her to be kind.
"Although I am too young to remember Princess Diana, I have been aware of her life and support of many charities," she says.
"I didn't know that I had the ability in me to help so many young people. Helping others is an honour and it is undoubtedly one of the greatest feelings – knowing how much of an impact I have made in somebody's life or day. The Diana Award really has helped give me the power as a 'young person to change the world' for the better and I will continue to help keep Princess Diana's legacy alive."
Sarah Goody, 16, California (The Environment)
Sarah founded Climate NOW, an international youth-led organisation focused on educating and empowering young people to take climate action. Since 2019, the organisation has worked with more than 10,000 young people from across the world. Sarah also chairs her town's Climate Action Committee.
"Princess Diana made it possible for children across the world to see themselves as a force to be reckoned with," she says.
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"Diana's dedication towards fighting for a better future still lives on today and she inspires me to continue my humanitarian work, even when I might feel like giving up. Her actions and legacy she left behind, remind me that although I am young, I am still powerful.
"Diana showed my generation and others before me that kindness and giving back is always the answer. And to me, the Diana Award serves as a reminder to continue striving for justice and equality. If Diana was still here today, I know she would be right next to us fighting for a better future."
Ben West, 18, London (Mental Health)
After losing his brother to suicide in 2018, Ben set up Project #WalkToTalk, an initiative that organises walks around the country to raise awareness about mental health while providing a space for young people to talk openly. A year later, his 300,000-signature petition to make mental health first aid a compulsory part of teacher training was personally endorsed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Ben West with Prime Minister Boris Johnson
"Diana was the epitome of a change maker; never scared to stand up against the status quo and push for change," says Ben, "I don’t like to think of my award as an 'award' but rather as a responsibility to continue to act in my life as Diana herself did, to never ignore suffering and injustice and to realise that success is not how much you can do for yourself, but rather how much you can do for people you've never met."
James Frater, 24, London (Racial Justice)
James helps young people of African and Caribbean heritage reach their potential and attend top universities – just as he did.
Despite receiving 300 detentions and multiple exclusions at school, a scholarship with the Amos Bursary enabled him to study at King's College London and Imperial Business School, where he now works to help create more opportunities for black students.
"The experiences of millions of people from ethnic minorities, and the generations before them, clearly show us that institutional racism and racial inequity are problems that need to be addressed swiftly and with decisiveness," he says.
"Princess Diana let love lead the work that she did and worked relentlessly to transform the lives of others. I believe that this is her legacy. So to continue her legacy we must lead with love and make service to others, and the pursuit of equity, an essential part of our lives."
Erick Venant, 27, Tanzania (Global Health)
Pharmacist Erick is the founder and CEO of Roll Back Antimicrobial Resistance (RBA Initiative), an organisation that spreads awareness about how the overuse of drugs that kill bacteria, viruses and fungus is a threat to global public health. According to the UN, drug resistant infections kill around 700,000 people worldwide each year and could reach 10 million a year by 2050.
"Princess Diana was a great example of committed individuals who work hard to make a positive change in the community and make the world a better place to live for everyone," he says.
"She spent her time giving hope to patients, challenging stigma in HIV/AIDS and leprosy. Through the work I am leading we are striving to create a world free from the fear of untreatable diseases. I hope she would have been happy today to see that young people across the world are taking bold steps to make a positive impact in their community."
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