St Albans and Harpenden natives bestowed with awards in Queen's New Year Honours

Dr Azeem Alam, Stephen de Silva and Sarah Hope

Dr Azeem Alam, Stephen de Silva and Sarah Hope have awards bestowed on them in this year's New Years Honours - Credit: Archant

Three recipients with links to St Albans and Harpenden are to be decorated in this year's New Year's Honours.

The honours, which are announced annually,  are appointments which recognise and reward good works by citizens of some countries under the Commonwealth realm.

Harpenden resident and St Albans School alumnus Dr Azeem Alam will be awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his outstanding contributions to medical education during COVID-19.

The British Empire Medal was founded in 1917 and was awarded for "meritorious" actions by civilians or military personnel.

The medal was reinstated in 2012 after being scrapped in 1993, with around 300 awarded every year to community volunteers.

Dr Alam, 27, is a junior doctor in London and the co-founder of BiteMedicine, a free-to-use complete resource to help medical students excel in their medical studies.

Dr Azeem Alam

Dr Azeem Alam has been awarded a BEM for services to medical education during COVID-19 - Credit: Supplied by Azeem Alam

During COVID-19, his platform has supported the teaching over 10,000 students worldwide via online, live webinars.

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In recognition of the cancellation of teaching and lack of support, Dr Alam has given students hope, offering every student the opportunity to learn.

"I was in absolute shock at the time," Dr Alam told the Herts Ad. "To be totally honest, I thought it was a scam email!"

"I was in disbelief mainly because I had no idea the work I'd been doing had been picked up by anyone other than those in medicine, let alone the Prime Minister and the government!"

Stephen de Silva, from St Albans, and Harpenden's Sarah Hope are to be awarded MBEs (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for their services to their respected fields.

Stephen de Silva

Stephen de Silva has been awarded an MBE for services to heritage - Credit: Hannah Couzens Photography

Mr de Silva, 65, has been a volunteer and guide at St Albans Cathedral for over 40 years, and he has a personal passion to communicate its history and heritage to visitors and to the local community. He is to be honoured for his services to heritage.

Previously a trustee at the Cathedral Education Trust and Learning Committee, Mr De Silva is now chair of the guides and is active in their training and organisation. 

Among his many accolades, Mr De Silva also led a team of volunteers and staff to design a major new exhibition at St Albans Cathedral, after they were awarded a major grand by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2016.

"It was such a pleasant surprise," Stephen said. "I'm honoured. I know it's a pun on the word, but honoured that somebody thought I was worth nominating, really.

"You don't volunteer for awards, you volunteer because you think it does something for people and for your community. But to get something like this was such a nice surprise!

"Obviously, it's an award for volunteering at the cathedral, and the cathedral is just so full of volunteers - so many hundreds of volunteers keep the cathedral active and going, it would be really foolish to forget about them and all that they do, too.

"This is just one award for one little volunteer, there's lots of us who keep that place alive."

The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John Dean of St Albans said: "The whole Cathedral community will rejoice that Stephen has been given this award.

"His contribution over many years has been immeasurable, not only to the Cathedral’s cultural heritage, but also to its worship and community life. We are all proud of him and happy for him, and grateful to him for being the person he is as well as for the work he has done."

Tim Fleming, St Albans Cathedral's chief operating officer added: "Stephen brings a true sense of vocation and care to everything he does, bringing his natural gifts of teacher and communicator to so many people.

"He is always interested in the potential of others and deeply understands why knowledge has to sit alongside meaning. I was privileged to have Stephen as my RE teacher when I was at school; it is a joy to see him receive this honour all these years later."

48-year old Sarah Hope is to be awarded for her services to child amputees and road accident victims in London.

Sarah Hope

Sarah Hope is receiving her MBE for services to child amputees and road accident victims in London - Credit: Sarah Hope

Sarah, along with her mother and then two-year-old daughter, was involved in an accident in 2007 when a bus mounted the kerb in south west London. Sarah's mother Elizabeth died in the incident, and her daughter, Pollyanna, lost her right leg below the knee.

Hope family

Sarah Hope with her family; Christopher, Sapphire, Barnaby, Pollyanna and Queenie the dog - Credit: Sarah Hope

Sarah is the founder of Elizabeth's Legacy of Hope, a charity set up in her mother's memory, to help amputee children in Africa, and has expanded to help children in India.

Despite serious injuries to her leg, Sarah has run in the London Marathon, as well as two half marathons, and has been at the forefront of fundraising efforts to launch and sustain Elizabeth's Legacy of Hope.

Alongside her work overseas, she campaigned for the parents of amputees accessing care through NHS limb centres, after discovering that they did not qualify for running blades.

When George Osborne announced in the 2016 Budget that there would be a £1.5m grant split between new running blades and research for better technology, he credited her campaigning as the catalyst for the decision.

Collaborating with Transport for London (TfL), the Sarah Hope Line was set up in 2016 to support those involved in accidents similar to hers. To support others who might be injured through bus accidents, she made a video for TfL bus drivers, to illustrate the disastrous impact of careless driving.

Sarah said of receiving news of her MBE: "I was really excited, I couldn't quite believe it - I did a little dance around the kitchen!"

"I'm very amazed, I don't quite know what to say. It's very humbling."

The Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss CBE, said: “I am delighted to congratulate the 30 Hertfordshire residents who have been honoured by Her Majesty in the New Year’s List. The diversity of the recipients demonstrates the wonderful contributions made by so many to the community-locally and nationally.

"On behalf of the people of Hertfordshire I offer them all my congratulations and hope we will be able to celebrate their achievements together in 2021.”