Chosen for the rare Diana Award this week, Kamalpreet Kaur Aulakh from Leicester has been felicitated at a crowded ceremony at Town Hall. A teenager of Indian origin, Kamalpreet had made a pledge at 13, to serve the needy. In just three years, she has lived up to it.
The Diana Award is given to youths between 12 and 18 years for outstanding community work.
Manjula Sood, the first Asian to be the Lord Mayor, had nominated Kamalpreet for the award.
Aulakh is the first person from Leicester to be given the honour. She shows no sense of triumph at the achievement though. “To care for others, to respect elders was taught to me and my sister by our parents,” says the shy and modest 16-year-old.
Her voice is girlish, but her responses are adult and mature, especially when she talks of her approach to life. She responds to questions without a pause, like someone who knows her mind and what she stands for.
When pressed to speak on the award, she says she was “really happy receiving the award and kept shaking” because she didn’t expect it.
She and her sister Jaspreet were born in England after their parents migrated there in the early 80s. Her father — Satnam Singh Aulakh from Malot village in Punjab — had married a Kenyan of Punjabi origin and has been working night shifts at the Walker Crisps factory. The mother has “health problems” and the two daughters help out with household chores.
A student of Beauchamp College, she hopes to take up medicine. “I intend to teach rather than practise,” she says.
After school and during holidays, she volunteers at the Loros charity shop and takes part in Lotus, a youth programme, where she teaches values of compassion to the youth.
Aulakh has also carried out fund-raising work for youth groups, Good Values Club and Wishes 4 Kids.
She helps to serve freshly cooked food at the communal hall and organises cultural evenings and inter-faith events for youngsters. Her grandmother had died of cancer, so Aulakh likes to be with and help children with cancer.
How does she feel about the liberated lifestyle in the society she is growing up? “I would like a mix of our traditional values and the mores of the country we live in. Both are important.”
Aulakh is clear in her mind what she wants to be. Here is a girl who is saying “no” to pop culture but is not willing to entirely go the Bhangra way either.