Mother Teresa, Olympic diving and Slough were among the inspirations for the borough’s outstanding community volunteers who were recognised this week.

Winners of the second Merton Civic Awards 2011 were presented with their commendations at the Civic Centre on Monday, May 9, across four categories for outstanding achievements and voluntary work.

Outgoing mayor, Councillor Oonagh Moulton, praised each of the winner for their “talent and dedication” for for being a “great asset” to the borough.

Fahim Akhter, a social worker from Raynes Park, was given a Community Contribution Award for playing an active role in the Morden Islamic Centre, organising a religious Inter Faith Forum and for running St Luke’s Wimbledon cricket team.

Mr Akhter, who was also recognised last year in an international Who’s Who magazine for writing short stories in Urdu, revealed he was inspired to be a social worker after working with Catholic missionary Mother Teresa in Calcutta in 1985.

He said: “Working with her was a wonderful experience and it made it clear to me that it is my duty to help other people.

“Now, because of the bad economic situation, it is more important than ever to see what we can do for others who may be suffering.”

Alexander Harrison, a Year 12 student at Graveney School in Tooting, was awarded the Young Person’s Outstanding Achievement Award after numerous sporting achievements, including becoming one of only 11 people in Britain (and the youngest in the world) who are internationally qualified to judge diving competitions.

He said: “I won’t be judging the Olympic Games in London next year but I’m really hoping to be involved at the next Games in Brazil [in 2016].

“I don’t do things for awards but it is really amazing to get this kind of recognition.”

Keith Spears was given a Highly Commended Community Contribution Award after starting the Colliers Wood Residents’ Association five years ago and another voluntary group, Making Colliers Wood Happy, based on similar Slough-based organisation he saw on television.

Mr Spears said: “I watched this programme about a group called Making Slough Happy and it really inspired me to do a similar thing for my neighbourhood.

“We now have over 250 members and Colliers Wood seems a lot more like a village now, which is a real change from when we started five years ago.”

The Community Group award was given to popular drama and dance group Ambition, whose young members have used performance to tackle issues of mental health and discrimination against minorities since launching three years ago.

The Morden-based group’s founder, Adele Gregory, said: “My daughter is from a minority [Romany Gypsy] background and she was bullied, so the aim throughout has been to raise awareness.

“I just think the kids are amazing – they are revising for exams right now but they still find the time for rehearsals in the evenings. I have no idea where they get their energy from.”

Who else do you think should be recognised for something special? Call 020 8722 6335 or email:

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