2017 Dec 8
The Queen’s Young Leaders programme is a highly prestigious award which recognizes the inspiring work of young leaders, aged from 18 to 29, from all over the world. The award celebrates those who undertake important work to benefit their community, from helping children and education to working with mental health issues and promoting gender equality.
The award is now in its fourth and final year, and Sri Lanka’s very own Bhagya Wijayawardane has been chosen as the recipient for this prestigious award, in recognition for her work in educating people on how to grow their own food and promoting food security. Bhagya will now be one of the 240 award-winners who are a community of influential change-makers from all 52 Commonwealth countries.
Established in 2014 by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee in partnership with Comic Relief, The Royal Commonwealth Society and the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, the The Queen’s Young Leaders programme is an inspiring initiative which recognizes the Queen’s lifetime of service to the Commonwealth and further encourages young leaders all over the world to make a difference.
Over the coming year, the programme will nurture and develop the talents of every winner, encouraging them to continue making a difference in their communities. They will further receive bespoke training, mentoring, and networking opportunities including a residential programme in the UK.
As the co-founder of ESHKOL Garden Works, Bhagya is working to improve food security in Sri Lanka. ESHKOL encourages others to grow their own food in their gardens and in their homes. It is a one stop garden solution center focused on urban farming, both indoor and outdoor. Bhagya’s team run a community centre which teaches organic vegetable gardening and provide seed starting and composting. ESHKOL Garden Works sells revolutionary products such as space-saving vertical gardens and hydroponics, which make it possible to grow plants without soil.
She also delivers programmes in schools and youth clubs to teach young people about the importance of fresh produce, and provides low-income families with the resources needed to grow food at home for a reasonable price. Bhagya has nine years of experience as a social activist, working on climate change, youth initiatives and community programs.
ESHKOL is also being used as a model for peace-building, by bringing diverse communities together into a safe space to exchange ideas, skills & network while engaging the audience to talk about different topics that provoke thinking and identify and discuss social problems and challenges that affect them.
Bhagya Wijayawardane, aged 28, said: “I am pleased to receive a Queen’s Young Leaders Award. It’s such an honour to become a part of this amazing group of young people who are making a difference in their communities, and have a great opportunity right now to be the generation that turns things around. We have no choice but to act to mitigate climate change and address food insecurity issues. I’m only one small part of this solution, but I will do all I can to do my part. Awards like this should inspire others to do the same.”