Empowering young people to make positive change
Diana Award Strategy 2021 - 2026
We asked our friends to support the launch of our new 5-year strategy by writing a letter to their future selves. Now we are thrilled to share these letters to start the conversation about how we move forward together over the next five years.LEARN HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN LETTER
Thank you for putting so much of yourself into fighting for a better world. I am very proud of you. You are a successful barrister protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable and precarious groups in our society, an academic teaching young people about the law and a civil society leader making the world a better place for others.
Throughout 2021 you mentored several young lawyers and helped them to become what they were supposed to be. You inspired thirty activists to go into schools across the country leading interactive workshops, and you increased the number of young Black and Asian trustees. I have no idea how you find time for it all, and it is clear that by helping others you have helped yourself. The new relationships you formed as we emerged from the pandemic have helped you to improve your mental health and your self-fulfilment.
2026 is a tough time; we need only look at the lack of accountability of the tech giants and the regular environmental catastrophes. Your work is important because it encourages young people to fight back against this context, and I believe you make a positive difference even if you fight against the tide.
Dear future generation,
By the time this letter gets delivered to my door, I hope that I won’t be too old! And don’t get me wrong no one gets old, we only get younger! Not only do I want to see my family succeed in life, but also hope for the best of myself, and become the women I have dreamed of becoming.
These past couple of few years have been the toughest we have gone though, some of us lost our loved ones, while the rest of us prayed for those that were battling Covid- 19. All though we may have had good times and made great memories we all were very confused and worried about our future ahead of us. But guess what life is starting to become normal, and it’s only going to get better once everyone gets fully vaccinated! To those lovely human beings out there, if you are currently reading this I want to let you know that, you are doing amazing to all the parents out there if you are reading this I want to let you know that you have done such a great job on balancing working from home and supporting your family, to all the students out there if you are reading this I want to let you know that, you have come so far and have done such amazing things that would benefit you in the near future, and those who are graduating this year all though you may not get the chance to walk down the hall. With your cap and gown, you worked very hard this term and we are all very proud of you!
This year I had the opportunity to work from home, all though I may have gained new skills that have been very beneficial for myself, I still had my doubts about myself. I have always been very interested in psychology and mental health for many years and have been an active participant in various organizations that support those who are in need of seeking help. As someone who is a Social Worker and also Psychologist, I decided to start my own non-profit organization called “The Mental Health Foundation” The society we are currently living in is not perfect, and there is still quite a lot of gaps that need to be resolved. Nothing can be resolved unless, we as a nation /community speak up against the mental well being of others. Yes, a small difference can make a big difference no matter what as long as we are able to create a positive environment for those who are dealing with a mental illness. Right now, I want you to stop what you are doing, whether it’s leaving the house for a breath of fresh air or calling someone who truly care about or just a simple text message and ask them about how they are feeling and or if they need anything. It takes courage from both sides to open up about a personal issue, but at the end of the day you will realize the connections you were able to make.
My hopes have always been to live in a brighter and better generation, where women are respected around the world, human rights are respected and last but not least where animals and mother nature is cared for by us individuals. I may not know what is yet to come, for myself but when the day comes, and I do decide to start a family of my own with my future husband. I hope to upbring my future children in a safe generation and teach them how to appreciate the little things that are given to them, and not to be afraid of making mistakes, because no matter what age you are we all learn from our past mistakes. Last but not least I hope that my future husband will read this letter one day and know how much I adore him!
To those who are suffering with a mental illness I promise to support you, at the end of the day it is my job to do so. I promise to give you my full attention and help you grow and become the person you want to become. I promise to show the world about how important mental health is, and why we should focus on the well being of others. I promise to educate youth and have them be trauma informed
and have them start a small conversation at school about mental health. I promise my current generation – future generation, that I will do anything to make a difference. My only hopes are to show the world how important mental health is, and how much it could be by just starting a small conversation and or helping someone you know, succeed in life that once had a mental illness.
It’s time to take action, for a better generation.
Dear Future Self,
By 2026, I will be turning 16years old! Sweet 16 and I see myself as a Young Entrepreneur supporting sustainability and Mother Earth, continuing to spread Love and Kindness considering inclusivity, diversity, and supporting all organizations that supports anti-hate, anti-racism and anti-bullying. I see myself as a Young Ambassador of spreading Love & Kindness and a Young Entrepreneur role model.
The lessons I take from 2021, is being accepting and being resilient in any situation, in any challenges and adversities of life.
I want to get involve in the world an innovative, sustainable, Earth-loving environment, and supporting & joining people/ community spreading love and kindness to everyone! A future Forward that is safe for us- the next generation of today and of the tomorrow! Future Self, please be strong! The challenges are not easy. Stay focus! For our Future! iloveyou!
2020 Diana Award Recipient
Hopefully by now you’ll have stopped non-responding to ‘how are you?’ by throwing up a peace sign and learnt how to give a genuine answer that’s more than just ‘chillin’ – unless of course you are actually chillin, in which case, I love to see it!
I hope your (my? our?) life is filled with joy and laughter and care (both the giving of and the receiving) and good friends (old and new) and good music and lots of excellent shades of green (most of which are hopefully natural because that will mean the earth is Not Dead™ and plants are thriving). I hope we’re closer to the abolition of capitalism and the web of interlocking harms that it perpetuates. I hope the world is and feels free.
Advice from others would probably be to ramble less and to slow down when you speak but a couple months ago I read a book where a character’s tangent-filled mode of telling stories was described as ‘telling a tree’ and it sounded so beautiful that I’ve decided you should keep rambling – the faster you speak and the longer it takes you to Get To The Point the more trees you’ll tell.
Instead, my advice for you is that you worry less and move more. But also, don’t forget to breathe.
Here’s to more life,
In 2026 I will be in med school doing my MBBS at a prestigious university on a full scholarship. I will have expanded Global Creative Hub (my social development initiative) to other developing / under-developed countries and would have done lots of research, spoke at hundreds of conferences, and impacted thousands of young girls and women from all over the world.
In 2021 I discovered my hidden potential amidst the pandemic, and that has led me to what I am today. In the span of 5 years, I will have achieved many more incredible feats in my life as a researcher, activist, speaker, and social entrepreneur. I would have learned that I am someone who can find ways to solve problems even with limited resources and start movements all based on passion and motivation.
In 2026 I hope the world will be a more equal place for all girls. Women will be at the forefront in leadership roles, advancing in STEM and making new discoveries like never before. Every person will be a more climate-educated person and endeavors will focus on sustainability. Young people including me would have triggered global movements, made historical changes, and radically reimagined the world as the generation with the most impact.
Letter to my Future Self by Annette K Aiken
I hope when you look back at your life over the last 5 years
You can say that you overcame all the strife and the tears
And that you did your best in all
Despite frequently hitting walls!
As you look back in time and space
You’d like to think that you embraced
All the opportunities in front of you
In all the places you have been
Engaging and inspiring young people you have seen
We are but here for a short while
There really isn’t a ‘next time’
So, go on, enjoy every breath!
Be grateful every day for your health
Treasure the simple things in life
Carve them in your memory with a laser-sharp knife
Once in a while, take time to wish upon a star
And know that those you’ve lost are never far
Remember that when times where tough, you did not quit
You stuck it out
Treat yourself now and again,
Give yourself a shout!
Because you deserve it!
Hold onto your parents and your friends, they really are unique,
Make time, for them, often, to listen, to speak.
Know that whatever the world has in store
You faced it when it came to your door.
Go on now! I’ve kept you long enough!
I’m sure you knew all this stuff!
Well, I think a lot will be changed in 5 years. I’ll be studying in a different school ( and perhaps different country) , maybe living on my own, having 3-5 lifelong friendships. I really like to think I will have volunteered abroad for a 3 or 6 months. That would cheer me up.
Now I’m 15 and can’t believe I’ll be 20 just in 5 years. It feels like forever. I’m looking forward for those days and know that what I’m doing now will affect them. A senior from my school had once said “ It passes in the blink of an eye, do not waste your time for useless things.” and I took it pretty seriously.
I don’t have precise dreams like being a doctor etc. I just want ( nearly) everthing to be my choice and making them real with whom I love.
Dear Future Self,
Life never goes as we contemplate it. But who I’m today is a result of everything that has happened to me in the past. If I go back in time and change even the slightest thing, I would not be here. All of those incidents, heartbreaks, mishaps, and unfortunate events meant to happen to weave me into my true self. Bu, Ayesha considering yourself below others is what you must stop; you’re no less than the others. All the things that align to happen in the future would make you win or learn, and there’s no loss.
As a young girl, bright and beautiful, you often hoped to live in a world without chaos and crime. You dreamt of a world without cruelty and hatred. But change starts from within, and if others aren’t good, start by changing yourself from within. Be more compassionate, be more kind. What someone else is going through, you’ve no clue. Unless we try imagining ourselves in their shoes, it made your heart bleed seeing all of those terrorist attacks on the news. And people don’t respect others’ views. All the minorities face abuse. To become kinder and wiser, they refuse. And for the hate crimes, they always find an irrelevant excuse. Disrespect with love they confuse. Black lives are meaningful, but they’re the ones who are accused. In the crevices of your heart, society and its people have inflicted a constant bruise. And our poverty they misuse. We have no option to choose. But, stay calm because you’re the actual cruise, and it never makes you lose.
In this war of life, you shall not lose. You shall never fail, and that only happens when your soul gets tired when darkness is all it seems when no one hears you when you scream. And when the river of your tears stream. Only then will the strength of your heart and the courage of your soul beam. Don’t let these fleeting feelings of anguish, grief, and distress waver you from the path of your dreams. Even if the future seems too bleak for hope and the burden of life feels too heavy to carry on your shoulders. Even if you feel as though you are drowned in a deep ocean of heartbreaks and sadness, only hope will get you through this madness. Only hope shall do so. Hope is all you’ve!
I’m at a point in life where I’m content with the way I’ve lived. If only I had given up halfway towards the path of my dreams, I wouldn’t be handling all of these women and children shelters in my home country. If I hadn’t believed in myself, I wouldn’t have fed warm meals to all of those people from the underprivileged community as I’ve now; we’re all given life for a purpose. They might curse us, but their words won’t concern us. Because the world has developed so much, economically and educationally, you’ll be offered opportunities, not based on your race, religion, culture, caste or creed, but the basis of your credibilities only. In a world full of discrimination, you might feel lonely. The pain shall kill you slowly. But happiness shall find its way to the doorsteps of your heart very soon. Just like the good times have passed away, the bad times will too. Love strangers wholly. There is a lot of hatred in this world already, and in the end, kindness always wins. That’s what life has shown me. Letting go of all the negativity will set you free because the world that I live in today is far more civilized, eco-friendly and modernized than it used to be. Unity and harmony all around are all you would see. As I sit in a cafe in Sukkur gazing at the sky above me, sipping on my afternoon coffee, wondering where had life taken me, I never expected the world to be this nice. Still, it is calming to know that my children wouldn’t have to live in a world where they would be treated differently just because they’re different from the rest. That’s the kind of world you imagine living in. Congratulations, your dream has come true. Congratulations, you’ll learn more.
Your future self.
Dear Future Self,
It’s me, I mean you. This is a letter from me in 2021 to me in 2026.
I am super excited about this letter, I hope you are excited too. It must be pretty interesting that you’re having a letter from you in 2021.
When you finish reading this; go visit your parents, if you can’t just call them. Tell them you love them; I know they’ll be so happy that they had a call from you, especially mom.
Hope you are happy now and healthy, taking care of yourself, not being stressed about life and the future. Did you get to the college you want, are you still in contact with your best friend(I hope you are because I don’t want to lose her)? Are you still having arguments with your sister and mom?
This year was really interesting, it is the second year of the pandemic, and schools will open in two weeks. I don’t feel ready but I’ll get used to it.
This year you’ve learned quite much about yourself, your interests, phobias; you’ve learned what real friendship is. You’ve had a lot of experiences. You’ve learned how to act in unexpected situations. You’ve been living the best version of yourself. You are studying hard, knowing new people, having new experiences, seeing new places. When I look back to this year, I see thousands of memories, hundreds of new people, and much more than you can imagine.
Before I finish this letter, I have got some advice to tell you. First of all; you’ve been having the leadership of your life, you are in charge now. Don’t let anyone take it from you. This is your life, your choices. You’ve improved so much, don’t feel low and always keep going, I don’t want you to lose all the skills you’ve just got. You’ve figured out that your leadership traits have started to appear, don’t ever lose them. You’ll always need them, for your dream job especially. Give yourself some time, to have a vacation, to cry, to think. Everyone needs some alone time, but don’t keep it too long. Go socialize, go buy that dress you want, go eat your favorite dessert. But I want you to come back stronger, I need you to come back stronger.
And the last one: DON’T EVER LOSE YOUR HOPE! EVER! There’s always hope somewhere, even if it’s hidden, even if it’s as small as an ant; find it! Wherever it is, find it! And hold on to it, this will help you to get over them, no matter how bad the situations are, hold on to your hope.
That’s all actually, you know I’m not so good at saying goodbye (hope you are better than me now).
I love you future self <3
Dear me of 2026,
I have no idea if you’re still alive. But if you are, you should definitely know and remember that you’ve overcame hundreds of struggles. Life has never been easy on you, and will never be. I can foresee that you’re facing some challenges, probably more threatening than high school-teen issues. But whatever happens, you have to remember that you are strong enough to deal with what’s all happenning.
I don’t know where you are right now; Italy, USA, Canada, Germany or Turkey… Maybe Hong Kong. Well first of all, wherever you are, I hope you’re happy. Happiness is and must be the primary issue. BE HAPPY AND LIVE THE LIFE BEFORE LIFE LEAVES YOU. If you’re still in Turkey, *-* I hope it is a better country at your time.
You are probably about to finish your sophomore year at college. I do really wonder your major right now haha. And university, too. I think you’re studying engineering because it’s literally what you are. But god knows, of course.
There are a few things for which I’d like to ask your promise. Don’t stop making music, don’t stop playing sport, don’t stop being yourself, don’t forget or give up your dreams and don’t forget who you used to be. Don’t let the kid inside you die.
Are you still listening to 70s, 80s and 90s? Indie rock? Recently, in 2021, you’ve become a total indie rock fan. Lots of Arctic Monkeys, The Luka State, Oasis, The Smiths, Franz Ferdinand and The Neighbourhood. Also, have been a Lost fan, watching the 2nd season.
You know everything about me but I know nothing about you. That’s kinda unfair. But whatever
I trust you. I believe in you. Keep going mate, the world needs you.
(and for god’s sake tell me you’ve watched the godfather)
Your past-self hasalir
Dear Future Self,
Do you remember 2020 and 2021? Do you remember all the time you spent finally getting around to writing all those letters, making all those phone calls? You actually also made new friends, even friends on the other side of the world. How fun was that? Keep that going. This is truly what life is all about, people and relationships.
Do you also remember that you barely went out shopping? You actually just went upstairs and looked around at your stash and made things for people most of the time. Not only was this a sense of an accomplishment, but good for the environment. Nothing went to waste. And what a great way to share a talent. Keep this going as well. By the time life comes to an end you may have depleted your stash. And think of all the money you will be saving from this point forward?
Last but not least, you are still here on planet earth! I know you really had nothing to do with it. The point is to thank the Lord everyday and your attitude will change when you do. Did you notice how it changed when you had the stroke in June when you did this? Keep it going and I will see you in 2026.
Your future self
I am so proud of you! You’re now a fresh college graduate, soon to be welcoming new doors of opportunities. The door behind may close, but remember, to not let it close on the people who brought, carried and supported you through. Amongst the lows, you were lifted back up by the “I believe in you’s”, strengthened by the God that never forsakes His daughter, and comforted by the belief of yourself as enough. Do not feel small when urdened by the weight of the world, but feel small in the understanding that every single human is of equal worth – no accomplishment, no name, no fame makes one more worthy than the other. Never forget to thank those around you because gratitude never fails.
Right now, as you were writing this, times may not seem the most ideal. You are currently self-quarantined and it’s been 17 months since you last met your friends and teachers. But this is the least you can do in doing your part to help the country, help the world – being temporarily separated for the sake of preventing others from having to be permanently separated.
I hope by now, when you’re reading this, the world has returned to “normal.” But at the same time, I earnestly hope it isn’t the normal normal. I hope we took more out of the pandemic than just the pain of the past. I hope that although we were physically more distant, we were made to realize that the world isn’t supposed to be lived singularly. Not in I’s and Me’s but in U’s and We’s. We are better when we’re together. I hope you continue to live your life without the filtered lens that hyper focuses on differences, rather instead, you continue to learn to embrace them.
This year, 2026, would theoretically mark the eight year of your initiative – your strive to help those who are marginalized like the Down Syndrome community, to be brought to their inherently-deserved spotlight. But, I hope you’re no longer doing that. And it’s not because I want you to stop. I hope you’re no longer doing that, because I hope the world has already become less hostile and instead, more accepting, more loving, more kind. I hope the world has eliminated the necessity to fight for those who are unheard, because they have been heard, and will continue to be heard.
Today, many have doubted, limited and ignored those who they label as different. Never buy into that fabricated lie. You’ve seen it yourself. Your friends with Down Syndrome have silenced the doubters.
They’ve stunned us all with the positivity, perseverance and promise of good, running through their veins, showcased through their works. By empowering them, they will continue to empower others – and cycle by cycle, person to person, we will be able to achieve so much.
Nowadays, society has made it seem that the solution to problems rests in physical, verbal and emotional coercion, rooted in hatred and disunity. You know it’s not true. Putting love in an upheld pedestal, emphasizing on the beauty in worth, and serenity in inclusion, is the fuel that drives us closer to the world we want to see.
But, no society is a utopian one. Trail blazing for change is not an effort spanning years – it may take decades and even centuries. And even when we think it’s already enough, it’s never not. There’s always something you can do to push harder, make better and help more.
I know I say “I hope” a lot. Hope is a strong catalyst of good change. But you must continue to remember that to enliven hope, you must act. Action is what transforms lead to gold.
Continue to take new steps everyday, to step closer to the world you envision, closer to the world you want to make reality. And in every step, remember: be happy, honest and kind.
To a life rooted in joy and hopeful curiosity,
Dear Future Self
Hi 2026, look at what’s been achieved since 2021! The number of young people supported through the Jersey Mentoring Programme and where they are now. They’re thriving, making the most of new opportunities and moving forward with courage and self-belief. It’s ok to take a breath while we reflect, as it’s such a proud moment for HSBC and the States of Jersey Police. Through our joint commitment, we helped to make it happen.
Supporting people and the communities where HSBC is based continues to be a major priority and focus for the Bank. We believe in young people, their determination and power to challenge, innovate and change the way of the world for the better. They are our future.
There’s one thing I’m going to ask you to remember: The reason why back in 2018 HSBC CIIOM (Channel Islands and Isle of Man) started to support The Diana Award Jersey Mentoring programme. It was because of The Diana Award’s belief in and the importance of investing in Youth, providing support and mentorship, nurturing confidence to encourage young people to aim for their chosen careers. Perhaps to become the entrepreneurs of the future or even influencers of change. HSBC’s reason to support this programme was right.
Keep believing that Young People do have the power to change the world, look at the difference that belief has made already.
All the best
Chantal Le Goff
Head of Corporate Sustainability, HSBC Channel Islands and Isle of Man
Dear Charlotte Maeva,
The memories warp and fade, but you will continue to reach up to the stars. In some ways, I feel like you already have your own private constellation. You fill up that space, threading the darkness with glimmering phrases and music and art. Right now, your hands are poised over a series of threads and shining ideas and projects. I believe you will choose the threads that will pull you further into the boundless stratosphere of life.
Your writing recently exploded into a supernova, discarding the chaff and forgettable words. It is a glowing fireball now that eclipses the past and brightens the dark sky. You channeled this energy to start threading a new constellation, a new story. I believe that constellation will glow with an unleashed brightness. I want to see this story to its end. I want to see you fall in love with this story and write it. I want to see you draw in others with the force of your words and characters. I want to walk the streets one day and see your book in the window of a bookstore.
Your journey is not yours alone. You are supported by hundreds of people, through their lessons or words or direct actions. Your private constellation is already so bright to look at. I want to see you teach others how to thread their own glowing lives into the darkness. I want you to start a writing organization with Liza, and I want to see it grow until it spreads to constellations far beyond yours.
I love you.
Dear Future Cheryl
In 2026, I will be 64 years old and my husband and I will be looking forward to slowing down from our busy working lives. My mum, who lives with us, will be 101, and I hope she will still be enjoying life to the full.
Covid has taught me just how important health is, and to take responsibility for myself. I have lost 2 stone since Covid hit and have learnt to enjoy exercise. I certainly hope I have kept it up over the last 5 years and am fitter than ever!
I want to see a vibrant local community enjoying experiences in the town centre, connecting with people of all ages and lifestyles, without judgement.
I hope that everyone will take personal responsibility for their own health, giving the NHS space to breathe without the burdens of obesity, type2 diabetes and drink/drug/ violence related illnesses/injuries.
I want to see proper respect for the environment with companies taking responsibility for their waste, governments encouraging eco and punishing polluters, and the public voting for green companies with their purchases.
It’s highly much appreciated.
The millions of life’s which you have impacted into Equality & Education for a better world which involves stories of millions to call for urgent action. I am overjoyed with the milestones which you’ve undertaken. You’re a blossoming successful campaigner protecting the right for equality and reparations within high earning jobs and in government, challenging a system. With a campaign which has been successful for modern multicultural society. I also want to say personal thank you for highlighting the important message and awareness for hidden, visible disabilities and youth homelessness. Teaching and talking to the world about #TheClaudesSENLaw
Throughout 2020 you were hard at work on your campaign where there you have faced a number of challenges at times personal, however your resilience inspires me. 2017 was a tough journey to face a number of years within your lost provision till now including facing homelessness as a 23 year old sofa sufferer. Who has been neglected, I have the believe you will manifest an inclusive equal world for Neurodivers, hidden, visible disabilities, youth homelessness, equality and SEN Education.
Yours Sincerely, Aquayemi-Claude Garnett Akinsanya (Claude)
#TheClaudesSENLaw Student, Author, Campaigner, Youth Delegate and Philanthropist
From: London, England, United Kingdom
So 7 years ago when you first entered the world of work, you wrote yourself a letter to be opened in a year’s time. Looking back now at that letter from 2014, you said you wanted to be a Project Manager (check) for a youth charity (check), living in London (half-check, you were there for a few years before COVID hit so I think it still counts!) But the key takeaway as I sit down to write this is that success moves and ambition keeps you fresh. Just because you achieved these goals doesn’t mean you stopped a year later – and it takes opportunities like this to sit back, reflect and realise how far you’ve come and the things that can’t be captured in a letter: things like the people you’ll meet, the team you’ll create, the colleagues you’ll keep in touch with and the impact you’ll have on the lives of thousands of young people.
If 2021 you has learned anything this year, it’s – in the immortal words of Justin Bieber – ‘never say never’; the world was almost literally turned on its head and people – young people in particular – need the support of organisations like The Diana Award now more than ever. We can only create change when we support one another, believe passionately in kindness and listen.
To close, I can’t work out if 2026 feels far away or a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ milestone – time has gone very wibbly-wobbly recently. What I do know is that I feel incredibly privileged to be able to work in this sector, to have dedicated almost a decade to lifting up others and to empowering them to create positive social change. Just think of all the people you haven’t met yet who are going to co-create a better future with you! Speaking of the future, I hope that we have stopped killing the planet, made greater strides for gender equality and LGBTQ+ inclusion and have created a stronger, more compassionate society which celebrates, rather than fears, diversity. These are some pretty bold aims but I’ll check back in with 2026 you soon.
Dear Future Self,
Here you are… Still grinding, chasing your dreams & your passion, determined to leave the world a better place and embracing your commitment for lasting change.
Take a moment for yourself! Have you lost yourself amidst all the chaos and all the havoc & all the daily hustle & bustle of life?
Take a minute for yourself to just BREATHE! Look at how far you’ve come and how much you have achieved. You’re living the life you once dreamt of. You have achieved all that you have worked exceptionally hard for. Before you jump onto the next big thing, appreciate all your wins; Big and Small.
As you grow older, re-prioritise your goals and filter through your opportunities. Invest your energy and skills in areas that are truly aligned with your values and your vision. You are surrounded by people who love, empower and uplift you. Practice gratitude often. Continue being a trailblazer & inspiring others with your actions and your words. You have been given a precious gift called life and have been placed in this world for a purpose. Continue making a difference and being a source of happiness and hope for those around you.
To my future in 2026.
Big Congratulations to you for staying safe during the pandemic and post Corona virus era of 2021.
Staying alive shows that the future is bright and to keep the planet safe is for medical researchers to put more effort in ecological issues to safe my future,my planet and that of my generation.
The future is going digital and thus this have create room for digital virus apart from the Corona virus pandemic of 2020.
I need to be sure I’m safe within the new environment of digital virus and to avoid technological hazard to humans and environment.
Scientists should take cognizant of technological hazard to humans and environment to keep us living beyond 2026.
And with the innovative support from the Diana Award by giving young intellect the opportunity to develop, 2026 is in a good and safe hands.
This is my simply definition of my future forward.
– JOHN FRANKLIN IFARA
To my future self,
What are you doing right now? High school is over. Hopefully by now you’re a couple years into college and have more of an idea of what you actually want to do with your life – that may mean something in the legal field. You are only a few steps away from jumping into “real life”. Careers and degrees are important but I hope they don’t allow you to forget what is more important: change.
Don’t forget about what 16 year old you did and continue to make impactful change. The 2020-2021 pandemic taught you to pivot and embrace change. It wasn’t easy but you learned to adapt. You made enough of a difference and inspired enough people and will continue to so. You were given so many tools from the Diana Award team and now you need to use them. Don’t get caught up in job applications and money. Those things only last a little while. Change lasts forever, activism lasts forever. Let your work and your legacy precede you.
Jacqueline Teague 2021 Award Recipient
Dear Future Self
I love and appreciate you even if no one else sees the value of what you do. You have done tremendous things as a young 20 something year old woman from the Caribbean where non-profit organizations are largely unsupported. You are a pioneer. At the time of writing this, you are a 23 year old woman who just received the Diana Award! And before that you received the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Nation Building from the Jamaican Prime Minister and was named among the 30 Under 30 Changemakers for the entire Caribbean region. I hope that you smiled upon reading that last part- it means you have so much light to share with the world. So if you’re feeling discouraged right now, I urge you to get up and remember who you are and why you started the Youths For Excellence mission and joined the Jamaican American Youth Alliance’s vision.
As you read this, Youths For Excellence will have drastically increased its scope. Not only will we have launched our first few community development centres that provide holistic education support for inner-city children and their families (entrepreneurship workshops, vocational training and exit examination assistance for caregivers and bimonthly health fairs, food banks, tutoring and shelter for the larger community) but also our first school based on these same holistic principles. We will have also touched on other areas of education like sports and the arts. It will have expanded to all Caribbean countries and Latin America as well as India, China, USA, Kenya and Ethiopia. What a step up from the five Caribbean countries we were serving in 2021! Yes girl you and your team did that! Your team!- you’re going to have a phenomenal team by your side that is just as dedicated to the vision of eradicating education inequity as you are. You will have helped millions of lives and helped to ease so much suffering.
The Jamaican American Youth Alliance will have also had a facelift. JAYA will have grown to include all other Caribbean diasporas and broadened our advocacy scope. We will have lobbied on behalf of so many Caribbean nationals and ensured their inclusion in crucial discussions about their futures where they have traditionally been ignored. At the time of writing this, you have touched over 20,000 lives with JAYA. Now you should smile knowing that it’s hundreds of thousands!
As for you, young Queen, you will have finished up your Bachelor’s Degree in both Neuroscience and Economics. You will have gone on to get your Masters in Business Administration and your Masters in Public Policy. You also probably started Medical School and have plans well underway for your two tech startups. 2026 is very bright for you! You have stepped into the calling God has for you and he has shown you how far he will carry you.
2021 was a rough year for you with the pandemic. There is no doubt about that. But I’ll say this, 2019 was even worse. And 2018, even more so: you overcame a traumatic bus crash that killed 4 people. This was what pushed you to try harder with Youths For Excellence. 5 months after this crash was when you got your Prime Minister’s Award- you were scared of dying without an impact. The end of 2019, depression and anxiety hit you like a truck. You had to walk away from so many things and felt like a failure. You called yourself every terrible name known to man and spent most of your days crying and in bed. You could have stayed down but you leaned on your family and the Father above. Little by little they helped to patch you back together and you started to recognise yourself again: here you were thinking you were broken and would never bounce back. But in 2020, you went on to represent your country at UN conferences and liase with Congressmen, Embassies, Ambassadors, Leaders of massive business conglomerates and Government Ministers for support for thousands of Jamaicans who were devastated by the pandemic. That same year, you were called on to lead and organise conversations across the region for thousands of young people with UNESCO, UNDP, CARICOM and the Organisation of American States. You, Jénine Shepherd, in the middle of the pandemic found it within yourself to partner with the Jamaican Embassy in Brussels to fundraise for and organise repatriation flights for Jamaicans who were trapped in Europe when the borders closed. And in 2021, you
continued to rise: Diana Award, Caribbean 30 Under 30, two interviews by the Prime Minister’s Office, discussions with the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda to expand YFE to their countries and help their children, an Invitation to host your own radio show on one of the largest news networks in Jamaica and Invitations to speak at some of the largest women’s conferences in the region. Look at God! That is the lesson you should never forget: to always look at God! If you are reading this today and feel low, remember that you won’t always be this way. And just as the persons you loved have helped to piece you together when you are down, remember how it felt to have that support in your corner and pay it forward to someone else who is down on their luck. Always remember that you are a Phoenix and from the ashes you will rise.
The year is 2026. Education inequality for the Caribbean region is largely wiped out. Students no longer worry about how they will get to school because they have no bus fare. This will have been covered. Students are no longer worried about being hungry at school, or lacking school supplies to do their homework or worried they cannot see the blackboard because they haven’t had their eyes checked. They can work at home without worrying about their lack of data, Internet or devices to support their learning. Children can now chase their dreams without fear of if they can afford it. Children are now free to be children at school: sheltered from the burdens of the real world. That would be the greatest thing and you will have worked with so many amazing people God put in your path, to make that happen.
Be gentle with yourself.
The you that is becoming who you want to be
I would really love to see people being a lot more kinder to people with learning difficulties or disabilities because we can’t see the disability doesn’t mean it’s not their and I think by being kinder to yourself and others will really help everyone to feel apart of the community and society from what ever background they come from and I think it’s important that we never judge and that e help them to all feel included loved and important to. I really believe that by being kinder to you our future self will have a huge impact on our mental health wellbeing and how we see ourselves as some may seem themselves as they don’t fit in or that they have to be the same as everyone else and would love to just be themselves I think we are so diverse and we are living in a world where we should be able to create a lot more kindness and compassion and empathy.
5 years is a long time to grow but there are a few things I want to have achieved by 2026. Regarding my social enterprise 8×8 to educate I want to have a minimum of 30 Girls going through our program and receiving their highs school and University Qualifications, I want 8 x 8 to be supporting girls at a minimum three schools in different countries. By using networks to partner with new schools and expand 8×8’s annual fundraising value allowing us to continue to impact more girls through high school and University. Currently 8×8 is helping establish a microbusiness in Mozambique called the ‘Dignity Project’ where reusable pads are being distributed to high school girls. By 2026 I want to have set up or being in the process of establishing two more micro-businesses run by the girls we sponsor, thus encouraging female led ventures and economic empowerment in developing nations.
Personally, I hope to have finished University or be in my second last year by 2026. After graduating I will apply for UN youth Ambassador for Australia to get some hands-on experience working with the United Nations as well as work with young Australian leaders to help effect the changes that they want to see.
2021 has shown me there are more ways than one in which I can approach my future. Initially I thought I had a very narrow career path regarding my experience and what interests me, but now I know there are many different roles that I could apply for. All of these paths require different skills that I would love to learn.
This year has also taught me the value of community and versatility. As a high school student lockdown can be particularly difficult regarding study, assignments and making sure you completely understand the content. My school has been fantastic in how it has adapted to all the challenges thrown at it and has ensured that students are able to continue their lives with immense support and for this I am forever grateful
I want to see more support of female education for young girls internationally, as well as economic empowerment for female entrepreneurs helping build their own communities’ economy. By 2026 the dignity project will be established to the point of self-sufficiency, not only helping the girls in the program but also allowing all the girls who receive pads to continue their education uninterrupted by their menstrual cycle. With the goal of providing 1000 pads to girls annually.
In 2026, I will probably be at University hopefully studying high level maths after getting the qualifications that I needed to be a maths teacher because that is what I have always wanted to do. At the moment I am just about to go into year 10 to start doing my GCSEs which is a big step up. These 5 years will be long and hard but with hard work and dedication, I will get there.
2021 has been hard for a lot of people, especially someone who has disabilities (PTSD, hyper mobility, SPD, autism and anxiety) like I do. I am also an Anti-Bullying Ambassador with the Diana award via my school (Droylsden Academy). Also at school, I earned the community award twice and the Headteachers award for my 150 mile walk during lockdown. Outside of school, I warned the young achievers award for Tameside and I also earned a Gold blue Peter badge. I also had mental health problems myself and I strived during this time.
In 2026, the most important thing I want to stop is racism because that is one thing that I am really passionate about. I have been abused so many times like for my glasses, my disabilities and even the colour of my hair so I totally understand what these people are feeling and I really hate it.
Dear Future self
I hope you’re okay and surrounded with your loved ones. And you’re travelling a lot. You’ve finally received your Master degree. Don’t know exactly about the PHD though. I bet you’re still get into awkward situations while hanging out with the best friends. Your humanitarian projects are bringing impact to the people around the world. And you finally managed to take a safari trip to Africa. Those important dream ideas about developing your hometown are becoming reality.
Just stop for a minute, and take a deep breath (you always forget about it while you’re rushing to do so many things).It’s 2026. Don’t you ever forget to have long vacation, cause not more important than your health. When it comes to the worldwide events, have we already reached Mars? That’s insane, and we finally see that all crucial SDGs have come to reality. I hope that there is more cooperation between the world, and we finally found the cure for cancer.
That has to be so crazy to be in the centre of so many findings. But don’t forget to stop for some minutes, to look at the bluest skies (you do it every time in your city), and just enjoy the world around you.
Khalisa Huseynova (2020 Diana Award recipient from Azerbaijan)
I hope this letter finds you doing well. It’s been a while!
2021 has been quite the journey. You’d be wise to remember the phrase “Unprecedented experiences lead to unprecedented lessons.” In the bizarre year of a global pandemic with all its trials and challenges, you learned truths about yourself and others that would not have been accessible in ordinary times. I hope you have not wasted the opportunity this hard time gave you to discover what’s important to you and what’s not.
Among the lessons you learned is how much you need to be in the physical presence of other people. Connecting, learning and gaining inspiration from others is what stimulates your creativity, enthusiasm and productivity. Something that left a lasting impression throughout this time was the kindness of community, family and friends. From providing free meals to NHS workers to educational materials for home-schooling, you valued the feeling of togetherness, even when apart, throughout these difficult times. I hope you are remembering to bring these lessons of more collaboration and kindness into your everyday.
Over the past year you are proud to have played a part in unlocking the potential in young people and creating opportunities that are helping them use their voice for good. I hope you are continuing to move forward in your journey of empowering young people to make positive change.
As you enter 2026, I hope you have let go of the trivial things that bother you about yourself, and are finding joy in the little things that have truly meant so much in life. I hope you have confronted your inner fears, smashed those insecurities, and embraced your inner strength. I hope you have continued to travel and see places in the world you thought you wouldn’t and made lasting memories with family and friends along the way. I hope you have continued with your desire to learn and grow, to never stop contemplating how you can be a better version of yourself, and to help others see what they cannot.
Life is too short for what ifs or possibilities. So, make the time to get out of your comfort zone, take the opportunities as they come, and be open to all that crosses in your path.
Until next time,
Hopefully, one thing that stands out for me is children and adolescents. I am looking forward to expanding my child- and youth-centred organization working with vulnerable children, young people and their families to improve accessibility to healthcare as well as sustainability and consistency in implementing holistic programs for their health, well-being, safety and development through innovative tools, critical models and best approaches. I am looking forward to be a voice, speaking in various global and local platforms on the health, well-being and development of children. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, World Health Assembly amongst other global forums. I am hopefully looking forward to be in different taskforces advancing adolescent and child health.
To take into account the disproportionate and considerable complexity of various challenges brought about by the pandemic and other emerging risks that children, adolescents and young adults are being exposed to, while developing necessary interventions and programmings. To have in mind the human stories behind the urgent health challenges being faced in the communities. The critical roles of peers and mentors for collaboration, collective approaches in problem-solving and support for self and others.
We, as a society, owe it to children and adolescents to prioritize and facilitate promotion of their health, well-being, safety and development. Designing and implementing tools, models and programmings to enhance the survival chances for children, adolescents and young people substantially across regions and countries, while reducing premature deaths. Contributions to policy changes through engagement in leadership and decision-making. Playing our parts.
Hi Future Self
In The Next 5 Years I want to see employment of Autistic People go up massively from 22%, Autistic People are so talented and it’s not that they don’t want to work it’s the fact employers don’t understand Autism enough and are not giving Autistic People the Opportunity.
I want to see far less exclusions in schools of Autistic People but also people with other conditions, I feel we need to get it right from an education level otherwise I feel it’s a snow ball effect and it will just carry on getting worse for an Autistic person or anybody who has conditions.
I also want to see the whole system to change around who gets what care and support from government and have less cut backs, financially and emotionally for Autistic People as I don’t feel people are getting the care or support, they need currently from Government
The most important to me though is the understanding, many people are aware of Autism but a lot of people still do not understand it and a lot of people’s understandings of it is what they see on TV or Films and don’t get me wrong as an actor TV and Films can teach us a lot about Autism and other conditions but only if it’s done right as if it’s done wrong the damage can be unreversible. We need more Autistic speakers like myself, more teachers like Jon Reid, more parents like Vanessa Bobb More Companies like The National Autistic Society, Dimensions UK and The Diana Awards and More Government figures like Lord Touhig and the late great Cheryl Gillan sharing their stories and getting the message out there that Autistic people need to be heard and need to be given the same Oppurtunite’s as everyone else and all they really want from people is compassion and understanding and I hope in the next 5 years we can do that.
Max J Green
Hey Future Me,
How are you? I hope you’re doing well when you finally do decide to read this. So, mainly this is going to be me asking questions, but I will put in some of my own thoughts here and there.
So, what is it like in 2026? I am writing from 2021, so I am super curious. I hope that COVID-19 is gone now and the world has recovered in an equitable way for all- I hope medical science is a lot more advanced, education is within the reach of all, the planet is greener and no human being goes to bed hungry in 2026. I also wish you had a chance to visit all the saplings that I’ve planted all these years. I bet they are tall and sturdy trees now.
I sincerely hope that you’ve also been continuing with all the environmental and humanitarian work that I am so passionate about, along with lots of other things. I hope that you are still trying to make a difference in even bigger ways than I do at 11 years old right now!
And I have to know, have you decided on a job you want to pursue yet? My internal debate whether to become an A.I. developer or a LEGO designer is never ending! Have you decided between the two yet, or has a whole new option come up?
Regardless, I am really proud of you, for everything that you must have done since I wrote this. I’m sure that you will seem to be a different person now, but I know that deep down, we are not a day different. My dear future self, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, always remember to be kind- to the people around you, to animals, to plants and to yourself.
Yours truly, Your Past Self Mir Fara
Hey there, Future Self!
I’m writing all the way back from 2021, so a lot must have changed between the time I write this letter and the time you read it.
5 years is quite a lot of time. I really hope that in that time, the world has become a more equitable, healthier, and happier place – that we are closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, that every single child is getting an education, that we have made substantial progress in reversing the damage caused to our planet. I also really hope that the pandemic’s long blown over, and that the world has recovered completely.
One thing I’m sure of is that you have definitely not stopped trying to make a change and have a positive impact on the planet. I can only imagine all the opportunities and chances that must have opened up in these five years to make a difference!
I have to hand it to you, future self, I’m really proud of you. You’ve been through some really challenging times, but you’ve been resilient, you’ve persevered, and you’ve pulled through!
And remember, you may be a few inches taller, you may seem like a different person, and you’re probably in a much different position than I am right now. But I don’t think that you must have changed at all. Always keep striving to make the world a better place, as you always have, never forget the value of kindness and compassion, as you never have, and stay the same change-making, passionate person that you were five years ago!
Till we one day meet,
Your Past Self
Dear Future, Me 2026.
It has been 10 years since you fled your country and arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. You had to go through a wave of different emotions and face so many difficulties. You had to figure all of it out alone. Especially in the first 5 years of your life here.
As an unaccompanied young asylum seeker, you navigated your way to England alone, without any support. You did not stop even though your asylum claim got rejected and you had to go through appeal after appeal untill you found justice and were granted leave to remain in the UK.
Even though you were an asylum seeker, your passion for education never stopped. For example, not only did you secure a place to study at South & City College, Birmingham, but you also successfully stood up and were elected as President of the Student’s Union and Student Governor where you were the voice of 24,000 students.
That was the rope you climbed to find yourself and discover your potential. You still remember that your therapist raised money and bought you a suit so you could dress smartly and blend in with other governors at the board of directors.
Your passion for advocacy didn’t just stop there. You always wanted to have the opportunity to improve your advocacy and draw wisdom from different places to understand yourself and the community you live in better.
Following a trustee visit to Birmingham, you applied successfully to become a Young Trustee of The Children’s Society. Your participation at board meetings developed your judgment and extended your influence over time. Your advocacy skills developed and you learned to identify which issues to champion and how to do so most effectively. You always did your best to make sure that the voice and experience of young people is taken into account by the Board when considering policy issues and to ensure that the points you raised were followed through.
You struggled quite a bit as an unaccompanied asylum seeker, and you saw other young people going through similar circumstances. You had this passion for change and you used your experience and joined The Children’s Society in campaigning for a Guardianship scheme for unaccompanied minors, similar to those which exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
After three years of campaigning, speaking up in Parliament, traveling to Scotland to find out how the scheme works there, talking to young people, guardians, solicitors, and any other organisations that were willing to listen to Youth Led Commission on Separated Children, your petition was supported by 21,500 people who like you believe in this campaign. In June 2021 you officially handed the petition to the Home Office. It was emotional to take the first step to bringing the Guardianship Campaign to life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH3puOxzEjE
How proud is The Children’s Society of you? They always believed in you, sometimes more than you did in yourself. You were shocked when Suraya called you and told you that you had received the “Princess Diana Award 2021”. You didn’t know the Diana Award existed. Living with PTSD made you always feel unhappy with yourself, and you always underestimated yourself. That is why It took you a while to digest it all. That was the most beautiful feeling you have ever had, because that was your first time you felt human. You also cried, but don’t tell that to anyone.
Since you were a child wanted to be a doctor. You were always passionate about helping people to solve their problems. In college in the UK you studied BTEC Level 3 in Biomedical Science. You also successfully stood up and became the Patient Governor for Birmingham Children’s and Women’s NHS Foundation Trust because you wanted to meet with Medical School professors and learn as much as you could in that field.
What you did not understood for quite a long time is that while you were completing your UCAS application to study medicine, you had a dream which called you to become a lawyer. You decided to follow your dream and you are still chasing it. Only, now you understand why.
You were lucky because the summer before starting your LLB (Hons) Law with Business degree you were granted leave to remain and you successfully applied for a loan from Student Finance England.
After 3 years of intensive studies, you successfully completed your law degree in Summer 2021. It was hard to adapt studying from home as you are the kind of person who enjoys face to face teaching and using the university’s facilities to study, but you pulled through. After all, it was an unprecedented situation for everyone. That was the time you received the Diana Award. The Diana Award couldn’t have come at a better time. It motivated you to finish the law degree and most importantly made you believe that you could follow your dream.
You also know that the Diana Award wasn’t your only motivation. The passing away of your friend and fellow young trustee of The Children’s Society created a hole in your heart. You both started the law degree together and both wanted to be lawyers and work together to build a safer community for young people.
Unfortunately, on Sunday 17th May 2020 while she was heading to Lidl to buy food for her family to break their Ramadan fast, she got caught up in a fatal feud between violent organised crime gangs in Blackburn. She never returned home.
She was an angel walking on earth and now she is back in heaven where she belongs. We would have both graduated with a law degree, but she never did.
You dedicated your law degree to her because you want to raise your voice and urge the government and organisations such as the National Crime Agency to be tougher on crime to make sure that what happened to Aya’s family doesn’t happen to another family and that organised crime doesn’t take another life.
You continued your dreams and visions and found the strength to complete the Barrister Professional Course with Masters (BPC LLM) the summer of 2022 at The University of Law. You were finally called to the Bar of England & Wales. It is not every day that an unaccompanied asylum seeker that came to this country at the age of 17 becomes a barrister, but today is the day you can call yourself. Musa Nela – Barrister ( BPC, LLM, LLB). You proved to everyone that it doesn’t matter where you are from, but what you choose to be.
You were honoured and quite surprised when Her Majesty and Prince William invited you for tea at Buckingham Palace. Such an emotion. Also, since then you accepted their invitation to be Prince William’s personal advisor for young people. That has been a driving force in you believing in yourself, and an opportunity to influence and promote other organisations and institutions that aims to improve the lives of children and young people.
Only when you became a barrister and reflected on your journey did you understand how many organisations and people have helped you reach where you are today.
People usually ask how you managed to do all of this all on your own. You were practically an orphan here. You always hated this word, because you are not an orphan. You have felt lonely, but organisations like The Children’s Society, South & City College, The University of Law, The Honourable Society of The Middle Temple, Eve Brook Foundation, The Matt Kandle Foundation, Birmingham City Council & The Diana Award never made you feel alone. They went above and beyond to help you achieve your potential and be the man you are today.
You wanted to be a barrister because you wanted to go to work everyday knowing that there is someone needing your help, but most importantly there is some way you can help them. That would be the greatest privilege you could have. After a year of becoming a barrister, you knew that you couldn’t help everyone and felt that you needed to be in a position to do this more widely. You opened your law firm that you had been structuring since you started your law degree. NELA & ASSOCIATES ( BARRISTERS & SOLICITORS) where your main focus is to help people in need find the rights they have been looking for.
It was quite hard in the first year as having a law firm was not as easy as you thought, but now it is a stable firm that is going above and beyond. The firm make make sure that when it comes to pro-bono and young people financial means and legal issues are not a wall to stop them from becoming somebody for themselves and their community, but a bridge we can help them cross.
Your commitment to supporting asylum seekers and children in care will never end. You wanted to advocate as wide as possible. Recently you stood up and became an MP. Musa Nela MP. A secret dream you had in your diary since you were a kid.
Being an MP has given you the opportunity and made you more influential in proposing new laws, continuing with other campaigns that you had in mind and joining organisations with their campaigns.
You also started a new campaign where you are calling on the Government to give leave to remain to every asylum seeker who has finished school or college and has received an offer from a university. This way, they will be skilled and become someone of value in the United Kingdom.
You don’t want to stop here. You want to continue your aim of being in a position that can make great change for the better and become Minister of Immigration, Minister of Education, Minister of Justice, Secretary of State for Home Department. To conclude my political career, I will become The Prime Minister of The United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Dear Future Nik
I would like to say that I appreciate that I’m here every day for many reasons one being for what I’ve achieved in raising awareness in anti-bullying and my medical condition in connection with my campaigns for facial equality and bekind showlove .
My medical condition, I hope there is a cure for this rare disease for sure as it has a very heavy impact on childrens and adults lives, I’m happy I survived this rare disease and it didn’t define me but make me a stronger person ,So I see yes I’m still campaigning for facial equality to help others get through their difficult journeys .
I have a vision; for all individuals to be accepted in society for who they are. My outlook on life is, if we all embrace each other’s differences, no matter what they are, the world will be a better place. I have a passion for face equality and kindness. I campaign through my art, singing, and motivational speeches, seeking a future of acceptance in all communities and cultures throughout the world.
I was born with a pre-cancerous large congenital melanocytic naevus covering 2/3 of my face. I underwent removal, leaving me with a lot of scarring on my face. I’m considered ‘disfigured’ by terminology under the ‘Disabilities Act’. This is a term I strongly disagree with and whilst I want equality, I also advocate for facial equality.
I have been severely bullied all because of the way I look. I believed people when they told me that I was worthless, when they told me I wouldn’t be anything because of the way I looked. But throughout the years, I have learnt that what we look like doesn’t define us. The only thing that can define us is our drive for change, the dreams we have and our actions. But, throughout it all, we must always remain humble and true to what we believe in. It took a long time for me to realise the good impact I could have on the world.I know that I have in I hope in this time that I m still as happy as I am doing what I love best .
When I was in year 1, my teacher asked the class to draw themselves. I just drew a face as any child would. I didn’t see myself as different, just a round face with eyes, with a nose, with ears, a mouth, that’s it. This is how I saw myself in the mirror.
When I got older and people started picking out faults, they believed were wrong with my face, I then noticed lines and scars….and it made me think ‘oh I have scars’. And whilst they were telling me these were ugly, which made me feel bad about myself, I realised that actually these scars, were simply scars. Nothing more, nothing less.God I hope my scars are seen as a warrior type image and hopefully I meet a nice girl friend who can embrace that .)
My scars simply told me and showed everyone that I have been through something; a long hard journey of countless surgeries and I am still here standing.
I am a survivor; I am not a victim and those in Uni where I HOPE to attend will accept that .
Three years ago, my life changed for the better. Kinder Chocolate opened a competition in the UK, asking for children to send a self-portrait of themselves and the winning self-portrait would appear on the Kinder Chocolate bars across the UK. This really made me think…what did I see myself as?
So, when this competition came out, I thought ‘yeah, I have scars on my face, but this is me’…I am proud to be me. So, I entered the competition and my art piece took 3 days to produce. I submitted my picture and didn’t think any more of it. I felt proud I had drawn myself…my true self…not that round head with just 2 dots as eyes, 1 dot as a nose and ears…. but me…with all my perfections and imperfections.
After a few months I received the news that Kinder Chocolate had chosen my entry as one of five winners in the UK. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I became the first ever person in history, a person with a facial difference, on a famous chocolate bar. I couldn’t believe it.
Even though I was on a high….. something still didn’t sit right with me. When newspapers in the UK were writing about me, I noticed some newspapers using the headline, ‘Birthmark boy becomes Face of Kinder’. I sat in my room repeating ‘birthmark boy’. Is that really what I was seen as by people? A birthmark boy? I felt deflated; rather than someone who has made history, I was seen as ‘birthmark boy’.
Why are we in the 21st century still being defined by the way we look? Why are we being discriminated against based on things that make us all different and unique?
I don’t have the answer and I still don’t know. But my vision is for all individuals to be accepted in society for who they are. I want equality.
Doing art was something that I found comfort in, as I lost my voice during my ordeal with bullying. Art was a place that I could be myself without any prejudice. My art always has a meaning behind it, and it advocates for kindness, love and compassion. I decided to come up with the initiative of printing my art onto thousands of cards and just handing it out to the public wherever I went. Even such a small act, can have a big impact. My art has gone global, all the way to America, Greece, Australia, Dubai and so on. This idea was so I could make people feel good because we do not know what people go through every day in their lives and reach more internationally around the world .
I am proud I have had the courage to change my life around. I know everything happens for a reason. My ‘difference’ will not go away with age or with more surgery; it will always be there. But I am happy with that, I am proud to be me.I m hoping I can still be proud now .)
My vision is for all individuals to be accepted in society for who they are. I want to encourage individuals to embrace what they do have and what they can be, rather than focus on what they do not have or may think they cannot be. I want others to continue my work maybe with my own committee where kids can contact me and I still give my motivational speeches in schools Uk and Internationally as I do now .Im always hoping that Im in my Diana award fam that I can appreciate them even more than now and if in need can turn to them for anything like I do now .) I hope by then I would of visited Fred .) whos been my mentor a great friend .) and as my mother would say a brother from another mother lol ..mum ..
For the future I would like to aim now in politics as I see so much confusion unkindness in our communities .Too much pollution of lies with all is just not kind and is not the be kind ethos that we are all taught .So it’s one rule. I hope you’re doing well. Life is hard in these times with covid so i hope it’s all cleared up in five years. I hope you’re coping well in university and don’t find it too stressful. Maybe you might not even want to become a lawyer of therapist. I do change my mind quite a bit. All in all, I still hope you’re in just as good as an environment as I am now with Mum, Dad, Christina and now Yiayia. Don’t worry if times get tough. It will get better in the end.
From yourself Nik.
Year 2026 seems like quite a long time away from now. Honestly, looking back 2 years ago, we never expected the world to change so much in such a short time. I mean, a worldwide pandemic is the last thing anyone expected, but here we are, in 2021, getting used to the ‘new normal’. Regardless of how far away 2026 is, we can all plan and dream right? Personally I see myself as a 23 year old who has passed out from her university and probably in the first year of her masters. I see myself more mature and in more control of my life and dreams. I hope my youth group, ‘The Blue Dot’ is thriving and creating more initiatives for a good cause towards the wellbeing of humanity and the environment.
This pandemic really taught me the importance of finding solace and happiness in one’s own company. It taught me to be more independent in many aspects of my life. I learned to adjust according to the situation, and even though it was hard, it also made me appreciative of the privileges we already had. The pandemic was harsh in many ways, but the good aspect of it was that I found time to improve my art, read more, and spend quality time with my family which made me realize how much I was missing out on it. This year taught me how scary change can be, but how it can also have a positive side to it. Moving forward into adulthood, I think that lesson will be very important to me. Overall, this year taught me to understand myself more, self-reflect, be more realistic and practical, and to always try and be optimistic and believe in myself.
In the year 2026, I hope that the situation of the pandemic has ceased. A lot of the younger population is very aware of the environmental changes and are constantly working on protecting the environment and spreading awareness. I wish that this change is seen and that the situation of all the current environmental issues that the world is facing is improving. My youth group ‘The Blue Dot’ will also be constantly striving to create small impacts.
How is 2026 looking? The World Cup fever must be on… will it be coming home?
By the way, has time travel begun? Are robots living amongst us yet? You must be graduating from school this year. Are you still going to pursue sports commentary? Whatever you have decided to pursue I hope you are continuing to do your bit to better the world.
I am sure no one has forgotten the period where COVID 19 changed our world forever. I think in some way, it made me reach out more to those less fortunate than me. Maybe because I felt lucky and grateful to be unharmed by it.
I am excited that the world is closer to achieving the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. More and more students must be getting inspired to make a positive change.
Remember you are doing a great job! Stay happy, eat healthily, exercise and continue to spread positivity.
Dear Future Self,
From now on, change your life and mindset. Make future plans, achieve everything gradually. Focus on small achievements first, focus on small dreams. Because your achievements and small dreams will lead you to your big dreams, patient and gradual. But don’t push yourself too hard either. Don’t be ambitious in your future plans, turn Ambitious to Realistic and make Strategy. Because life no one knows. Your life is today, do your best for today. Enjoy the opportunity of your life today and do all the work with all your heart. It can be really annoying sometimes doing something we really don’t like, but that’s okay. Rest assured it doesn’t last forever, because your life is your story. Never compare your story with someone else’s story, because you are not on the same line. Everyone goes with their own process and time, so do you. Never give up just because of a failure, failure is not an option! but failure is part of growth. And lastly, don’t just because many people don’t see how hard you are fighting. That doesn’t mean your struggle is in vain. Because you are the one who knows how hard your struggle is until now and at this point. And all that is not easy.
How many more years to finish college with a bachelor’s degree. focus on achieving that as well as looking for experiences to be more productive. After that, will start working and achieve small dreams, especially saving to make parents happy and want to travel the world.
For me. Every time you feel hurt, if you are sad, think of yourself as being metamorphosed to become more beautiful. It’s okay if many people hate you or don’t like you. Don’t try too hard for everyone to like. Stay focused on growing. Remember, your goal is to be the best version of yourself. Not for everyone’s liking and pleasing to everyone.
Proud of myself and I love you,
My lovely intersectional feminist who is a global citizen in 2026, I am hoping your non-fiction book has gotten published if it hasn’t…I know you are relentlessly editing the final draft and your agent is annoyed. Don’t drink chamomile tea, do the editing.
2021 taught you how to accept your 22-year-old body which is full of scars, it helped you in finding your voice which is of an ambitious utopian artist who learnt that this world is cruel but kind, This year you lead multiple teams simultaneously.
In 2026, I know your aim to fight period poverty, collecting E-waste and mental health awareness campaigning in India has helped many lives. I hope you are smiling while reading this letter because I love you… I write about you every day.
Dear Future Self,
If last year taught me anything it is that no one can wholly predict the future, let alone control it.
The future can bring hope, good fortune, opportunities and new connections. Yet in the same breath it can also bring misfortune, setbacks, loss and isolation.
We cannot cherry pick the good bits of human existence: it is this rich tapestry of emotions and experience that makes us who we are. And what we are to become.
What is certain about the future, however, is that it is continually challenging us and continually surprising us.
As I look to the future, I hope to apply all that I have learnt from the past. I will challenge myself to embrace disruption. And I will accept that all the best plans are made to be changed.
But whatever the future holds, I pledge to stay rooted to my core values of justice and kindness. My inner compass will remain a constant, as will my growing appreciation of the present.
It is with excitement then that I look forward to hearing what you’ve got up to and all your insights along the way!
Dear future self,
Thank you for never giving up on yourself. You’ve achieved so much since 2021. You’ve successfully graduated university with a business degree and currently enrolled in the human rights master’s program in London, the city of your dreams. Together with The Diana Award, you have helped thousands of young Syrian refugees all over the world regain their strength and hope. They’re thriving against hatred and moving forward with much bravery and self-belief.
2021 was a breakthrough for you! The pandemic has helped you grow mentally and emotionally in the most beautiful way. Spending the time that you did with yourself unlocked ideas and cleared your path ahead. It taught you how to follow your dreams and take them seriously. Things will always be better no matter how hard they get.
I am so proud of you for everything you will have achieved since I wrote this. Things maybe different when you read this, but you will forever be the same. Always remember to be kind to people around you, animals, the environment, and yourself 🙂
How are you feeling babe? Are you still strong and beautiful? Yes you are. I hope so keep going writes. If you still haven’t accepted your mother keep trying. People’s idea not important. Don’t forget. I wonder where are you living? I hope you living Europe or America. Don’t doubt yourself.
You are so powerful. Do not forget sweetheart. You’ve done great things so far. Keep succeeding. Keep shining your light. Keep calm and move on with love.
Dear future self,
Wooo-hoooo! Finally, you have made it through law school after FIVE LONG YEARS. As a first gen lawyer, you should be proud and happy of how far you have come!
Your past self writes this on Day 4 of SCLU and at the moment, I seem to be a little daunted with all that’s going on, and the fact that it is all online doesn’t seem to help. But I know the struggle it was and still is to get here. There is no going back now even if it is a long journey ahead.
As far as 2021 is concerned, the biggest lesson I learnt is that achievements mean nothing if you have no one to celebrate it with. 5 years down the lane, I hope I have many friends to share the joy. Maybe even two golden retrievers like I have always wanted 🙂 Although, taking the first step puts you in a very uncomfortable situation (not to mention the sweaty palms), I hope you have expanded your circles and have gotten a little better at expressing your emotions. If you haven’t, (A+ for consistency) we can work our way around it in a few years.
In 2026, I sincerely hope there are no longer masks that hinder pretty smiles of those around you, hugs are no longer just virtual ones, sharing of food is brought back (priorities), and the world is a better place for you. Happier. Healthier. Harmonious.
Rooting for you!
Dear Future Self,
I am writing to you from your desk on July 29 2021. I never thought 2021 would actually get here. That magical year from your younger self where we would be flying around in cars like the Jetsons and the world would look drastically different. The world does look different, but not in the ways we had dreamed about. Some of those changes have been good, like medical advancements and technology, and some not so good, like increasingly fast-paced stressful lives.
I wanted to let you know, that 2021 is going to be an amazing year. You will have successes, failures, and many moments in between. You will make memories, meet new people, create new partnerships, and help provide for a healthy community. Time will fly… for some reason it feels like each year it’s picking up speed.
The global epidemic of Covid-19 has exposed the weakness of the health sector in different countries of the world. The state of the health system in any country has been revealed. All levels of mismanagement, lack of coordination and indecision have been exposed. All corruption related to this has been exposed openly. It is known how much incompetent manpower is being used to run the health system. In a real sense, the picture of the miserable condition of a country’s health system has emerged. Covid-19 has proven that not all countries are as interested in healthcare as they are in spending time and money on the capabilities of war and diplomacy. So I will say that in the next 5 years we will improve the gaps in our health sector
On January 1, 2021, stop and take a moment to reflect. 2021 was crazy year; our team took on a countless enrichment programs Since our world is heading towards disaster in different ways, we have tried to plant trees in different places and planted about five thousand trees. If our team is very small, our project plan is very big and there are many opportunities here and it will play a very important role in the defense of the country and the whole world.
Our small but mighty team has spent this past year working tirelessly to create amazing opportunities for those in Longview and those who visit. You are part of an incredible team that has made the quality of life better for our community and you should be very proud.
Now I ask you to visualize what 2026 will look like. Create in your mind what a successful year looks like. Imagine completing all that you want to do and being surrounded by positive people looking to make an impact in our world. Now think about the tough days, the difficult times, and prepare by imaging facing those trying moments with patience, grace, and an open mind. 2021 won’t be perfect, but it will be wonderful.
Be very excited.
It’s not going to be easy; nothing is easy when you are trying to grow and improve – its actually downright messy at times. We will stumble, have setbacks, and wish we could have done more for our little town. Don’t worry so much about that, we will be successful in our endeavors to make Longview a happier, healthier, and more playful place to be. Everything our team does has that goal in mind, and that’s how you’ll know we are headed in the right direction.
You will have days that you will get frustrated, you know this from past years. Things might not progress at the speed you like, projects may not turn out as planned, or one thoughtless unkind act will make you wonder if it’s all worth it – Don’t Give Up. Remind our team that we are here for the greater good, the people who do care (and there are a lot of them), and a City poised for greatness.
It… is… all… worth… it, and it always will be.
2026 is going to be fantastic. I promise we will have enough time to make an impact solicit for feedback and truly listen.
Enjoy it, all of it – each and every day of next 5 year, because no matter what, there is something good happening if you take the time to look. We will grow, we will learn new things, and we will improve all for the betterment of our little town.
Get ready, because this is going to be a whole lot of fun!
DEAR FUTURE ME
I really wonder how is your life going? Is it going on the path which you always wanted or did you find other paths that made you happy? 15 years old Zeynep has a lot of dreams and goals. Are you going to make her proud? I will be proud if you are happy with the things you are doing. It doesn’t matter if you are writing, drawing, reading or studying. Just live this life in the way you want. I want to study neuroscience in US. Did I achieve this goal or am I in Turkey? I believe Turkey is the easy way for me to have a future but if you choosed to stay here, it is totally fine. I hope you have your family and best friends next to you. Are you still writing to get your mind out of real world? You are 20 or 21 and it means that you are going to graduate from collage in one or two years. And also do not suprise me in a bad way like not going to collage because probably my biggest dream is to live a collage life fully. No need to feel pressure but if you make your parents proud with your works, I am sure they will be so happy. Do not lose your control but live this life full up and don’t forget that it is your life to live just once. I am already so proud of you and happy for you.