Yvonne Opebiyi from Guiding Light Leads emerged victorious at the Compassionate City Awards, held on Thursday, 7th December, at Leeds Civic Hall.

These awards recognise and celebrate the positive and compassionate contributions made by individuals and organisations in their local communities, working towards making Leeds an excellent place to live, work, and visit. Their efforts align with the council’s vision to establish Leeds as the premier city in the UK.

Yvonne Opebiyi, the recipient of the Jo Cox Award, was honoured for her dedicated work in enhancing outcomes for young people within the African Caribbean community. The initiative she spearheaded involved conducting workshops with community leaders, collaborating with representatives from universities, housing, health, police, and the council. Together, they explored barriers and proposed solutions to address inequalities.

Securing funding from the Police Crime Commissioner, Opebiyi’s project has empowered young people, instilling confidence in them to access opportunities like higher education.

The Environmental Achievement of the Year accolade went to the DAMASQ project, which trains refugees to become beekeepers, harvesting honey to promote health and wellbeing. Having produced over 150kg of organic honey and trained eight volunteers to become beekeepers, the project is now being replicated across the UK. DAMASQ actively supports refugees, asylum seekers, and minority communities, originating from the firsthand experiences of migrants in 2016.

Another standout honoree was Hala Wadi, named Unsung Hero of the Year. Recognised for her tireless efforts supporting women in Leeds seeking asylum or refugees, Wadi runs a group that fosters community integration. She also serves as a skilled interpreter, aiding others in learning English and undergoing voluntary training to provide basic immigration advice through the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “We love presenting these awards every year to celebrate the outstanding work people around our city are doing every day in their communities or for the wider city.

“Team Leeds is all about supporting one another to make Leeds the best it can be and that is exactly what these people are championing.

“There are so many incredible unsung heroes and they must get the recognition they deserve for making Leeds a better place for everyone. Congratulations to all the winners and highly commended!”

The list of winners includes:

  • Unsung Sporting Hero of the Year: Màire Pogson
  • Unsung Hero of the Year: Hala Wadi
  • Diversity Project of the Year: Leeds City of Sanctuary
  • Health and Wellbeing Project of the Year: Rainbow Hearts and Feel Good
  • Community Sports Project of the Year: Champions Community Sport and Health CIC
  • 2023 Year of Culture Project: Leeds Hospital Charity for the Leeds Bear Hunt
  • Community Organisation or Project of the Year: Leeds Warm Spaces
  • Environmental Achievement of the Year: DAMASQ
  • Jo Cox Award: Guiding Light Leads – Yvonne Opebiyi