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Raising the tide and raising the next generation

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing upon him taught us, “God will help a person as long as they are helping others” – generosity is always a win-win. But if we’re being honest, the one who serves the other really wins more! Throughout our tradition, we are constantly given reminders and lessons that fly in the face of so much of the consumerist, dog-eat-dog world that surrounds us. The beautiful irony is that the more we serve and fulfil other’s needs, the more we expend ourselves for other people, the more we will find ourselves served.

The living legend, singer/songwriter and one our proud ambassadors, Yusuf Islam, beautifully addresses this in a song lyric that I hold close to my heart: ‘if you want to help your fellow man, you better start with what’s in your hand’ – If we all contribute a small change, we can collectively make a big difference, this is the very ethos of Penny Appeal. We began with a hope and prayer and what started as a tiny office pet project is now a global movement impacting millions of lives in over 30 countries across the world.

Growing up in a very working-class community, to a single mother struggling to support her family, I know first-hand how far a small hand of kindness can reach. For me, it began with two of my college teachers, Tony and Ron, seeing my passion for technology and channelling it by arranging an internship for me at my local ITV studios. They went out of their way to help me not knowing that they would set me on a path that would change my life and millions more across the world. All it takes is for someone to push you, to expand your horizons, to help you see a little bit further than before.

Thus, it is with great pleasure that I relish opportunities to engage young people in the hope of sharing a little of the experience I’ve accrued over the years. Dixons Academy in Bradford has had a chequered past with many of the pupils there hailing from disadvantaged backgrounds and so I was honoured to take part in their leadership workshops facilitated by the Baroness Warsi Foundation.

When asked who had heard of Penny Appeal, almost all of the children put their hands up. I told them about the first time I visited a village and Pakistan and met people living in dire poverty. I asked them to reflect on how much we are blessed in the UK and how I had promised to do something to help the people I had met. The reality of my Pakistan trip only hit me when I got home. I pulled up at a petrol station to fill my car and the meter stopped at £90. Before my trip, this wouldn’t bother me in the slightest but I then remembered a young man I met in the village, Ali. With his monthly school teacher salary of just £30 Ali looks after an extended family of 10 people. What it cost to fill up my car could have supported Ali’s family for three whole months. Recalling the story to the children sent shivers down my spine. That £30 is Ali’s monthly lifeline and Penny Appeal started all those years ago to help just one person.

I showed them a picture of Ali and his family and reminded them that big things have small beginnings and they were just at the beginning of their journeys. The enthusiasm and questions I received after my presentation were heart-warming, with one girl even asking, so compassionately about how Ali and his family were now. It was clear to me that these children have bright futures ahead of them and it was touching for me to be that person who could open their horizons a little more, just like my college teachers had done for me.

It’s said that a rising tide lifts all the boats at sea. A capitalist mindset would have the ships compete to see who could be highest, but the only way that’s possible is in turbulent waters with crashing waves. Instead, let’s take a leaf out of our Prophet’s book. Let’s seek to raise the tide, serve those around us and lift everyone up. What are you waiting for?

Adeem Younis

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The Roots and Fruits of Success

Henry Ford once said that you can’t build a reputation on what you plan to do. Leadership, I’ve learnt, is a careful blend of inspiration and perspiration, too little of the latter and you’re just a dreamer with your head in the clouds, not enough of the former and you’re like a headless chicken; a lot of running around but not getting much done.

This month, at Penny Appeal, we were honoured to fulfil an inspiration of ours and enlist as an ambassador the globally renown lawyer and veteran businesswoman, Lady Barbara Judge. She brings to our charity several lifetimes of experience from being the former Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority to holding several trusteeships of cultural and charitable institutions, including the Royal Academy of Arts and Dementia UK.

When I first set out on my leadership journey, ‘perspiring’ away, laying down roots from a tiny office on top of a pizza shop in Yorkshire, never did I imagine the fruits of our success would include having one of Britain’s ‘most connected women’ working alongside us in furthering our vision and reach.

What I love about Lady Barbara is her old-school, no-nonsense, roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do attitude. If only I could bottle that up and serve it to all my staff! She personifies the spirit of Penny Appeal; a trailblazer, consistently smashing expectations, boldly going against the grain and giving a hand up to those following suit. I hope in enlisting her as an ambassador for our charity, we can channel some her indomitable character, taking our reach and impact to soaring new heights.

Now, on reflection, in our social media-saturated world, it’s easy to confuse the roots and fruits of accomplishments. Picking up awards at black-tie events, expanding our impact across the globe and enlisting prominent business executives like Lady Barbara as ambassadors are all examples of fruits. They are the end result of diligent hard work, patience and planning. The roots that facilitated these successes can’t be found in an Instagram filter or squeezed into a tweet.

As I’ve matured into a more established position in my career, I see more and more zealous young entrepreneurs with big ideas but little in way of concrete plans and even less of a resolve to roll up their sleeves and do the hard graft. Remember, you will only ever reap what you sow. This is what Henry Ford was reminding us; you can talk all you want about how amazing your fruits will be, but unless you dig the ground, water the soil and nurture the shoots, you will not produce a thing.

There’s a story behind every success, every fruit that we reap. I only came to know of Lady Barbara through my connection with the Institute of Directors (IOD), where she served as the first ever female chairman. Last year they honoured me with the title of Young Director of the Year for the Yorkshire and North-East region and I was humbled to go to gain a national commendation for our work at Penny Appeal and SingleMuslim.com – These awards were the fruit of years of painstaking hard work, attentive governance and nurturing the best teams I could around me.

Success begets success like steps on a staircase. You have to take them one by one. If you’re lucky, you might be able to skip one or two, but you can’t start on the top! Don’t let my social media feed or anyone else’s fool you!

Finally, if you’re frustrated that you aren’t getting where you want to, in your personal or professional life, then I leave you with the wise words of Rumi and wish you the best on your journey:

“Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots”

Adeem Younis

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2017 in Review – Reap What We Sow

When I founded my first business, aged 17, never did I imagine that journey would take me to where I am now. Every year we grow a little more, fail a little more and hopefully learn a little more too. And the more I’ve learned and the more I’ve seen and done, the more I’ve realised how little I know and how there’s more to see and more to do than can ever be seen or ever be done.

At some point, early on in my career, I realised chasing outcomes was never going to be enough. I was brought up with the idea that money doesn’t make you happy, but I didn’t really believe it until, well, until started to make money. Of course, it was nice to have things that I couldn’t have before but it didn’t bring me the contentment I thought it would. It’s no surprise the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, taught us that if we were to have a mountain of gold, all we’d desire is another one.

The big shift happened for me when I founded Penny Appeal. The charity began for me as a healthy, spiritual counter-balance to my worldly-entrepreneurial endeavours; a reminder of the blessings I had and responsibility that came with success in my business-life. However, as the charity began to grow and I began living the life of dedicated humanitarian that’s when my journey really began.

From the inception of Penny Appeal, we were moved by a vision. It was more than fancy slogans and mission statements, it was an aspiration that brought together the faith in my heart, the ideas in my head and the resources in my hands. Even though it was a small effort, especially in the first few years, it brought me a sense of contentment that my business endeavours never could.

It’s no surprise the success of Penny Appeal has, in many ways, outstripped the success of my businesses. From humble beginnings, the charity has evolved into an institution serving millions of people across the world as well as right here in the UK too. For me, 2017 has been the year of Penny Appeal. After years of diligent groundwork, so many different elements have come together to take the charity to soaring heights I could never have imagined.

From meeting Prime Ministers and Presidents to the countless features across renown international, national and local media outlets, reaching literally millions of people with our vision. Penny Appeal has become more than a charity, it’s become a movement. Beyond the record-breaking amount of funds raised, people served and events run, this year saw new partnerships with an array of institutions as well as a whole host of incredibly accomplished role models including Yusuf ‘Cat’ Stevens, James Caan, Baroness Warsi and even the Mayor of London. We’ve set up new offices in the UK and around the world, while nurturing our relationships with international partners too. Our trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams with more accolades and recognition than we’ve ever had and our numbers of staff and volunteers have almost doubled.

What I’m most poignantly proud of this year is our commitment to investing in the poor and vulnerable right here in the UK. Each of our international programmes are now matched with a domestic sister-project under our re-branded “Penny Appeal at Home.” The effort now commands an annual 7-figure budget and growing. Note, it’s not parachuting money into the big gaping wounds of our society, rather, our team diligently and strategically addresses the root causes of poverty and work to tackle them in all their ugly forms. Having this work recognised at the highest of levels and finishing the year with our nationally-trending Winter campaign, was more than I could ever ask for.

As I reflect on all of this momentum (and what I’ve described is really just the tip of the iceberg,) I can’t help but feel indebted to the unsung heroes behind the scenes who have made all of this possible: my wife, my mum, my kids, all of whom have been the backbone of all that I’ve been able to do. Our leadership teams and executive office who keep the ships running on full steam, all of our staff and volunteers, from the top to the bottom who each contribute their skills and gifts and help shape the work we do. I say it all the time and I’ll say it again: it’s team work that makes the dream work, and when the dream is thriving, all praises due to God, it’s because the team is striving!

One of the seemingly oxymoronic teachings in Islam, oft-repeated by our fundraisers, is the Prophetic tradition that states charity does not decrease one’s wealth. Some interpret this metaphorically, that while your finances may deplete, your character and spiritual vitality, bloom. Others insist on a more literal interpretation, that by giving to those in need, God will ensure much more will find its way to you. Personally, and by personally, I mean experientially, I’ve found both to be true.

The first beneficiary of any donation is the donor themselves, and the first beneficiary of Penny Appeal, has indeed been myself. Just as I took my fledgling resources, burgeoning businesses experience and digital savviness to help incubate and nurture Penny Appeal, I see the dividends of chairing this award-winning humanitarian movement ooze into every sphere of my life.

Fuelled by our vision to embody the highest ideals of our faith through serving those in need, Penny Appeal has allowed me to see and do, that which I never thought I’ll be able to see or do. I’ve met people, I never thought I’d be blessed enough to meet, let alone work with or call my colleagues and friends. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve been honoured to be able to serve my fellow sisters and brothers in need across the world, in ways I never dreamed I could.

This is the power of a vision that is laced with light and love. We never chased big numbers or ran after celebrity endorsements. They came to us. We believed in something greater, even when Penny Appeal was a small idea, a pocketful of pennies to help transform the world, we were content with what we aspired to. Just as back then, we continue today to look beyond ourselves and envision a sustainable world with empowered people and strong communities. This past year we have reaped the fruits of the hard labour we had seen in the many years prior. I close the chapter of 2017 comforted with the knowledge that much more has been planted for the months and years to come. I have no doubt next year’s harvest will be more bewildering than ever before and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

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5 Essential Solutions before your New Year’s Resolution!

Adeem Younis

According to Google, the word ‘resolution’ originates from the Latin root word ‘resolvere’meaning to disintegrate, dissolve or solve, in this case, a problem or obstacle. Every year wide-eyed optimistic entrepreneurs set themselves ambitious New Year’s Resolutions in the hope to motivate themselves to achieve that which could never be achieved before and every year, they mostly fall flat on their faces.

Before sharing my New Year’s Resolution, I thought it would be wise to reflect on essential solutions (from the Latin ‘solvere’ similar to ‘resolvere’ just less intense) that every entrepreneur needs to consider before drumming up their elaborate New Year’s plans.

1. Know Thy Self

This is crucial. How can you start planning for the future, if you don’t know yourself first? And when I say know yourself, for an entrepreneur, that means knowing your business inside out, your audience, your market and your industry. Setting yourself a resolution that you simply can’t do is like asking a fish to climb a tree. You can’t set goals unless you have a map of the pitch, or in the case of the fish, a map of your pond.

To understand where you’re going, you have to first know where you’re coming from. Before you start thinking about resolutions, take stock on the last year. What worked, what didn’t work, what surprised you, what were the highs and the lows and so on and so forth. This doesn’t have to be a laborious, painful task, it could literally take a few hours of crunching numbers, researching online and talking to key staff. Trust me, it’s not time you will regret.

Once you’ve done this assessment, you’re going to have a much better grip of where you can potentially go in the comings months and years.

2. Dare To Dream

Human beings are naturally averse to taking risks. It leads to disappointment, waste of resources, let downs and ultimately failure. Sometimes we set ourselves goals that we know we are going to achieve anyway, kinda like when you put something on a to-do list that you’ve already done just do get that little lift when you cross it off (we’ve all been there!)

Your New Year’s Resolution is not another item on your to do-list. It should demand a to-do list of its own just to realise it. It’s supposed to push you and pull you and drag you to a higher level. It shouldn’t be something that you would do in any case.

Once you’ve carried out your review of the year, you’ll be in much better stead to set yourself a resolution that will push you to go that bit further for you and for your business.

3.     Cover Your Bases

Listen very carefully. If your New Year’s Resolution is to fulfil a core component of your business: YOU ARE IN SERIOUS TROUBLE.

You shouldn’t be waiting around for a random date in the diary (1st of January) to motivate you to do something you should already be doing. This time of year, for some becomes a kick up the backside but that’s not how your business will thrive. If your New Year’s Resolution feels like this, you really need to think long and hard about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

It’s like a husband setting his resolution “to be nice to wife” – seriously? You’re deep in trouble. Go get help. Now. Don’t wait for New Years’ Day, do it now. (And if your New Year’s Resolution is “to be nice to wife” – go get counselling. Don’t wait for New Years’ Day, do it now.)

4.     Discipline!

One of my teachers once asked, what is the difference between someone who has discipline and someone who doesn’t? He didn’t wait for answer, “DISCIPLINE! That’s the difference!” he exclaimed to the class!

If you can do a day, you can do two. If you can do two days, you can do four. If you can do four, you can do a week. If you can manage a week you can manage a month. If you can do it for a month, you can do it for the year. Human beings are capable of remarkable things, in every sphere of our lives, but only if they can be disciplined.

Set yourself milestones. Reinforce accomplishments with rewards. Push yourself. Dedicate time to evaluating your performance in realising your New Year’s Resolution. It’s not supposed to be easy but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it. Take it one day at a time, chip away at the master plan bit by bit. You can do it.

5. Have Fun!

Being an entrepreneur is about enjoying what you do and fulfilling your dreams. So, don’t forget to have fun in the process.

Now that’s off my chest, I can start planning my New Year’s Resolution! Hope you found this useful and if you did, let us know in the comments below and be sure to share the article on your networks and with your staff!

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My Top 10 #AsBritishAs Tweets

We’ve had a phenomenal response to our #AsBritishAs A Cup of Tea campaign. So much so that we were trending as number 2 on Twitter on Christmas eve! With so much negativity purported around our faith, we wanted to showcase the incredible contributions British Muslims make to wider society, day in and day out.

I’ve scoured through twitter and plucked out these top 10 tweets – enjoy!

  1. Baroness Warsi

You can’t get more British than the Queen! Loved this cheeky jibe from Baroness Warsi.

2. Apprentice candidate Bushra Shaikh

This picture just exudes class! Great to have Apprentices’ Bushra Shaikh back our campaign with strawberries and cream!

3. Creative Director, Bilal Hassam

4. Teacher, Heledd Owen

This tweet really moved me. A member of the public was so moved by our ad on the telly, she sought out the charity and tweeted to say thanks! How lovely!

5. Shiekh Babikir

Now this is an instant classic! Sheikh Babikir is a traditional Islamic scholar who got behind our campaign with this brilliant video!

6. BBC Citizen Khan Actor, Abdullah Afzal

BBC’s Abdullah Afzal touched a nerve for some poking at some Brexit-related current affairs.

7. NHS Million

Was heart warming to have NHS Million jump on the hashtag with a special dedication to the NHS. Doesn’t get more brilliantly British than them!

8. CEO of Disasters Emergency Committee DEC, Saleh Saeed

Saleh Saeed is one of Britain’s leading lights in the development world, his testimonial means a lot to us at Penny Appeal, thank you Saleh!

9. Harris J

British Muslim pop sensation gets behind our campaign with the iconic Cheeky Nandos!

10. Chief Superintendent Mabs Hussain

Last but not least, our local Police Commander, Mabs Hussain gives us a special shout out. There’s no doubt he wouldn’t be where he is today without the Sherlock Holmes in him!

Hope you enjoyed those tweets. Don’t forget to share our ad on your social media channels and let us know what you thought!

Adeem Younis

Founder of the UK’s largest Muslim website SingleMuslim.com and chairman of Britain’s fastest growing Muslim-led charity Penny Appeal, award-winning entrepreneur and humanitarian making a difference around the world.

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#AsBritishAs A Cup of Tea!

If you missed this one, where on earth have you been?! I’ve been blown away at the response to our most ambitious campaign to date and I wanted to share a few thoughts on this record-breaking moment of our charity’s history.

It’s really a beautiful reflection of British Muslims that wherever you go in this country, to communities rich or poor, you will find sisters and brothers with open hearts, ever-ready to pour out their hard-earned money for those in need. I could tell you story upon story of donors who have left me speechless in the face of their astounding level of generosity and just as you can count on Muslims to be generous beyond measure, you can count on them to be even more humble about it!

Humility is a beautiful character in our faith, in fact the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, described it as the very hallmark of Islam. What this means is so much of our giving goes under reported and I think for the most part this beautifully reflects on the nature of our Muslim communities; day in, day out; giving, serving, building and bridging hearts and minds. At least in this regard, we are people who walk the walk but we must also be people who can talk the talk too.

One of my friends joked to me once that the secret to good PR is ‘PYAR’ (that’s the urdu/hindi word for love!) ‘Love the message that you have,’ he passionately went onto say, ‘and love for the people to know what it is you have to say.’ Muslim organisations have, right at their fingertips, enough feel good, positive, cheerful news to fill every newspaper in the land. Instead, what do we see reported in our mainstream media? Day after day, the same depressing, misinformed, misleading, sensationalist slander about our faith.

In the face of this, Penny Appeal resolved this year that just as we are committed to make a positive difference in people’s lives, so too should we be committed to ensure that we are being seen to make this positive change too. We all have to ensure the stories that are told about Muslims of Britain, reflect the beauty, kindness and sense of responsibility that is at the heart of our lived experience as British Muslims.

What better season to do that then during the winter. We know at Penny Appeal, that the poorest in our midst are particularly vulnerable during this time of the year. Every day, tens of thousands of families in the UK turn to food banks for support, more and more people are sleeping rough on our freezing cold streets, elderly people feel more isolated than ever before and so on and so forth, the list goes on. Thus, our Winter Emergency programme will be providing frontline support and reaching out to those in greatest need regardless of faith or background. Providing In excess of 20,000 meals to homeless and vulnerable people by way of hot food provisions and family food parcels, distributing 500+ winter warmer packs to rough sleepers containing basic essentials, our teams will be hosting tea parties for the elderly in our effort to combat loneliness and isolation as well as reaching out to sick children in hospital with festive gifts providing a positive and enriching environment for them to mix in.

To celebrate this momentous contribution from British Muslim communities – in other words, to ‘talk’ the ‘talk’ after ‘walking the ‘walk’ – we launched this week our bold new #AsBritishAs campaign. With a moving advert on ITV and Channel 5 at the heart of the campaign, this is the first time a Muslim charity has been featured as such on terrestrial channels. The adverts were first screened on Christmas Eve and will finish on New Year’s Eve. In conjunction with the TV adverts, our poster campaign also went live this past week in tube stations across the capital with the strapline, “As British As a Cup of Tea.

Tea is the iconic drink of Britain and yet it comes from the East. Likewise, our faith may have come from the East but as British Muslims, we’re at home in Britain and proudly so. We set about asking British Muslims to get involved and reach out on their social media on Christmas eve to tell people what they’re “#AsBritishAs” – the response was phenomenal.

Within an hour we were trending across the UK on twitter, eventually reaching the coveted ‘number 2’ spot, just behind Christmas Eve itself! Well known personalities as well as members of the public chimed in with the social media conversations ultimately reminding us that we can all come together to make a positive difference and it starts with a smile and a nice cup of tea! The best posts were able to remind us that Britain is at its best an amalgamation of cultural contributions from all over the world. While Islam may have arisen from the East, it’s universality meant that the faith married with local culture to remain dynamic and ever-contemporary, much like a cup of tea!

Once again, I’ve been humbled by our incredible team, from our programme staff on the ground helping those in real need to our marketing gurus who have been able to orchestrate an incredible campaign, together we have a new bar for our industry and indeed ourselves.

So, what are you waiting for? Get involved! The hashtag, #AsBritishAs is still floating around the ether-web and most importantly, if you’re able to donate towards Penny Appeal’s Winter Campaign, please visit www.pennyappeal.org/ or call 03000 11 11 11

Hope you enjoyed my article. Don’t forget to share!

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Muslim Panto? Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes, it is!

It’s been a phenomenal year for us at Penny Appeal and I can’t think of a better way to close the 2017 chapter by reflecting on the success of our phenomenal ‘Muslim Panto Tour.’

We pride ourselves at Penny Appeal as being a dynamic, fresh and ‘youth-full’ organisation, with almost our entire senior leadership in their twenties and thirties. As such, we ensure we keep our ‘fingers on the pulse’ and our ‘ears on the ground,’ so as to remain connected to the ever-evolving nature of British Muslim communities. Our success, after all, is thanks to the generosity of our donors, hailing primarily from Muslim backgrounds across the country

Serving in the leadership of brands that have become, with Allah’s blessings, household names, has afforded me an incredible window into the nature of our communities. This past year I’ve been fortunate to sit and share a hearty meal with some of the most senior scholars in our country and also have had the honour of serving food to some of the most vulnerable and poor in our country too. Likewise, I’ve had a chance to spend time in the company of senior Muslim politicians, cruising the corridors of power whilst also taking to the streets in solidarity with the politically disempowered and disenfranchised.

Experiencing such a range of engaged, contributing British Muslim leaders fills me with hope. In almost every branch of society, if you look hard enough, you will find emerging talent, unapologetic of their Islam and not afraid to define what it means to belong here in Britain. The cultural expressions of Islam that I grew up with were mostly half-baked Indo-Pak cultural mishaps that were simply not fit for purpose. Today, however, there are a generation of ‘renaissance’ women and men embracing the timeless values of our faith whilst remaining culturally relevant to the lived experiences of British Muslims today.

It is the great challenge of every generation of Muslims, since the passing of our beloved Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him; how do we balance traditional ethics with contemporary aesthetics? Looking back, I can see this is what we did with SingleMuslim.com and perhaps explains why we’ve reached over 2 million members, I just couldn’t quite explain it as well I can now.

I never set out with this grand mission to ‘make our faith relevant and engaging’ for young committed Muslims. I set up SingleMuslim.com as a natural extension of who I was, a reconciled British Muslim on a mission to find a wife! I had a problem and I set about crafting a solution, drawing on the confidence of my faith and the comfort with the tools that were at my disposal (thank God for internet, even though it was dial up back then!)

Fast forward to today, I’m so grateful that Penny Appeal, a multi-million-pound, award-winning charity with hundreds of staff can put its entire institutional weight behind supporting new dynamic expressions of British Muslim culture and entrepreneurship, helping them reach heights that I could only have dreamed on when I was on the beginning of my journey.

Enter, the Muslim Pantomime Tour. Embracing the festive spirit with crazy costumes, silly songs, bizarre blunders and lots of laughs, “If the Shoe Fits,” is our first foray into on-stage theatre. This tour sold our faster than any other event we’ve done. We had an incredible time across 6 cities, sharing a lot of laughs and raising an incredible amount of money for Penny Appeal’s OrphanKind programme.

The success of our Muslim panto tour further evidences what I’ve been exploring thus far. Across society, Muslims are looking for spaces that bring together their faith and values with contemporary expressions of British culture. Especially the younger generation who even further removed from wherever ‘back home’ might be.

We live in strange and difficult times, but where there is a crisis there is also an opportunity and you can count on Penny Appeal to be there serving society every step of the way.

 

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James Caan delivers gifts of joy to sick children at the Royal London Hospital

This week saw the heartfelt launch of Penny Appeal’s UK Winter Appeal campaign. Building on the exceptional work in response to the Grenfell Tower crisis, our teams will be taking your small change and making a big difference to so many in need across our country.

For me, there’s nothing more Christmassy than being more Christ-like, so this winter Penny Appeal will be spending time with sick and vulnerable children, feeding the hungry and homeless, sharing company with elderly people in need, assisting those looking to foster and adopt this and even counsel those suffering from domestic abuse or violence.

We made an important decision at Penny Appeal last year to marry each of our international development campaigns with a sister ‘mirror’ project here in the UK. ‘Penny Appeal @ Home’ is the new face of our domestic welfare programmes and represents our deep commitment to alleviating the suffering of those in need right on our doorsteps.

To mark the new campaign, we packed ‘Penny,’ our trusted double-decker bus, full to the rafters with children’s toys and gifts and headed off to a very special children’s ward at The Royal London Hospital. It’s one of the largest children’s hospitals in the country, home to London’s Air Ambulance and one of the many hospitals and hospices that Penny Appeal supports throughout the year.

Joining us on this very special visit was our newest Ambassador, entrepreneurial maestro James Caan CBE. It’s been a phenomenal journey to witness, having introduced James to the charity earlier this year, to now have him proudly fly the Penny Appeal flag. His endorsement reminds me how crucial this work is and that through hard work and determination success breeds more success.

As founder and Chairman of Penny Appeal, I’ve travelled across the world and witnessed with my very own eyes the most harrowing poverty, desperation and need. I brim with pride knowing that our teams have been able to make a difference to millions of lives across the world and I grieve at the thought of how much more there is to do.

I also know that poverty has many faces. Those nearest to us in need have perhaps a greater right over our generosity than those further away. When my family are in need of me; one of my children takes ill, for example, they become the entire focus of my being. It doesn’t take away from other people’s needs, rather it reminds us that charity, giving and serving, begins at home. As living legend, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) sung on a recent album, “…if you want to help your fellow man. You better start with what is in your hand.”

Visiting the Royal London opened my eyes to this realisation that bit more. We met children who have spent most of their lives at deaths door, moving from ward to ward, not knowing life beyond the hospital. Beneath the warm words and smiles of their carers, I saw parents exhausted from the toll of looking after their sick children. I couldn’t but help but put myself in their shoes, knowing just how any parent would sacrifice all they had for their children. It was thus a special privilege to witness Penny Appeal’s very own ‘Team Orange’ volunteer force in full flow helping lift the spirits of these poorly children and their families with gift bags, brimming with presents ahead of the festive season.

That’s your small change in action, bringing big smiles to poorly children and their families right here in the UK. We hope to have left the families with the knowledge that there are people out there who are thinking of them and remembering them. We don’t have to share the same background or religion to extend a helping hand, this is what we learn from our faith. As a British Muslim, this is what the Christmas spirit is all about, communities coming together to help those in need. At home or abroad, we all bleed the same blood and cry the same tears. We offer our help to people not because of who they are but rather because who we are; people driven to serve others.

Charity is as much about giving with your spirit than it is giving with your wealth and I’m honoured that we’re able to do both at Penny Appeal. This winter, as you snuggle up with your family in the warmth of your homes, spare a thought and a prayer for those who might not have families to care for them or even a place to call home. Sometimes the people struggling could be right under our noses and we don’t realise.

This winter Penny Appeal is serving those in most need, at home and across the world. Learn about our life saving work and consider making a contribution, little or large. Team Orange are waiting to hear from you now on 03000 11 11 11 or head to our website on www.pennyappeal.org

 

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The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur of the Year!

For the first time in a long time, I actually felt nervous walking up to the podium this week to collect The Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Award for the North. I was already chuffed to bits having collected the “Entrepreneur for Good” award on behalf of our amazing teams at SingleMuslim.com and Penny Appeal. Before the closing of the glitzy ceremony, the infamous GoCompare opera singer, Wynee Evans, announced there would be an overall winner across the ten award categories and I was left speechless when they called my name out – ‘Adeem Younis, The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur of the Year’ – I had to pinch myself.

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards celebrate the hard work and inspiring stories of businesses across the UK. Now in its fifth year, with stiff competition from over a 1000 entries nationwide, these awards represent the crème de la crème of Britain’s Entrepreneurial best.

Taking home the most coveted prize of the night meant more to me this time than ever before. My social media erupted with commendations and congratulations flying in from all over the world. One of the phrases that filled up my notifications was “role model” another was “trailblazer” – big words that I hadn’t really reflected on before.

A role model is ultimately someone you hold in esteem that you also can identify with. When I was young, the only people I identified with, in so far as a business role model, were taxi drivers and restaurant owners and if you were really successful you might be a taxi driver who owned a restaurant! With my father passing away when I was young, God have Mercy on his soul, and my mother just about making ends meet, real commercial success was hardly something people of my generation aspired to.

Whilst I never got around to driving a taxi, unless carting the kids around counts, true to my inspirations in my early 20s I set up my own restaurant and even pioneered Britain’s first ‘Chocolate Curry,’ which went down as well as it sounds. (Not very well!)

What made a huge difference for me was having the courage to step out of my own comfort zone and into the unknown. Through opportunities at Wakefield College I ended up doing an internship at ITV Studios in Leeds.

Through hard work and determination that internship became a job where I picked up essential skills and the confidence to start my own business, SingleMuslim.com – you guys know the rest of the story!

Winning these awards and stepping up to that podium, having been acknowledge by veteran Judges from the CEO of JustEat.co.uk to Toni (from Toni&Guy), felt like breaking through another glass ceiling. To have a British Muslim of Pakistani extraction recognised at this level, with a company that couldn’t be more overtly Muslim, is a big deal, not just for me, but for our communities too. Just like Tony and Ron at Wakefield College, who set up that internship for me, there are people outside our communities who recognise potential and can help open new and exciting opportunities.

We’ve come a long way with SingleMuslim, even further with Penny Appeal and I know we’ve got an even longer way to go. But when I think of the young British Muslims in their teens or 20s, maybe even reading this now, instead of their bar being set at taxi drivers and restaurant owners, perhaps now they might aspire to be the ‘Great British Entrepreneur of the Year’ and if they dare to grow beyond their comfort zones? They’d trump all I might hope to achieve and I couldn’t be prouder for them.

Ultimately a role model is someone you look up to and someone you hold in high regard. If I’m ever worthy of that title, I can only hope to be a springboard for even greater successes, so that those who come after us might be able to do more, serve more and become more than we can ever imagine.

Adeem Younis

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Remembering Grandad on Remembrance day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of every year our country marks the sacrifice of soldiers that fought and gave their lives to protect Britain.

Like many others in this country, Remembrance Day has a very special place in our family. Alongside over million other Muslims, my maternal Grandad, Abuzar Khan – affectionately known as Babba Jee, fought in the British Army and served our nation all over the world. Every year on Remembrance Day he’d share stories from the war and remember his fallen comrades, of all faiths and backgrounds.

Ever since I can remember, my family would don our poppies with pride and huddle round the television to watch the marches and ceremonies across the globe. As the clock struck 11, even when we were all at home, Babba Jee would lead us all into the minute silence.

After the war, he settled in Yorkshire and came to work in the Mills making Wakefield the only real home our family has ever known. Sadly, my father died when I was 6 years old and so I was very much raised by Babba Jee, a towering man who left an incredible legacy that continues to inspire me to this day.

Like many of his generation, he spoke little and did a lot. We never had much money growing up but he was an incredibly generous man and taught me that generosity of spirit was far more important than being generous with your wealth. It was as if our home belonged to the community, anybody would be welcome in, regardless of age, race or religion. He taught our family, through his example not his words, to serve others with grace and humility.

The war shaped Babba Jee and he, in turn, shaped me. I feel his impact in the work that I do and in the sense of responsibility I have to those around me. He was always looking to help others; in retrospect I feel our charity, Penny Appeal, was built very much in his image.

Although it feels like just yesterday, it’s been three years now since we lost Babba Jee and nothing reminds me more of him, his bravery and his courage, than when I see people wearing poppies ahead of Remembrance Day. People often see the success of my business and our charity, however that success has only been possible through building upon the legacy of those giants who came before us and sacrificed so much. Babba Jee is one such giant, he made me into the man I am today and I will forever be grateful for his gentle yet firm guidance.

It troubles me deeply when people question the loyalty of Muslims in this country. Babba Jee didn’t try to articulate how his British, Muslim and Pakistani identities go hand in hand, he simply lived it, fighting for our freedoms during the war and building our country as he raised our family after it.

Babba Jee, my Grandfather, a God-fearing Muslim, who prayed five times a day even as he lay on his death bed, helped build the Britain we have come to know and love. This Remembrance Day, in remembering his sacrifices and those of his fellow servicemen, I hope to further my resolve to help build a Britain that our future generations can know and love too.

Adeem Younis

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Adeem Younis

Adeem Younis

Founder of SingleMuslim.com and PennyAppeal.org