British Prime Minister Theresa May has recognised Muzoon Almellehan, from Newcastle, for supporting children uprooted by conflict to access education.
Muzoon became the youngest ever UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador last year at 19 and is the first person with official refugee status to take on the role. She has been campaigning for children’s education in emergencies since she was forced to flee Syria in 2013 with her family.
Muzoon started her campaigning in Jordan, where she was living as a refugee in camps for three years, including 18 months in Za’atari. As part of a Unicef-supported back-to-school campaign, Muzoon advocated for more girls to go to school and went from tent to tent speaking with parents of children who were at risk of child marriage or early labour. Over the next two and a half years she became synonymous with standing up for the rights of children, particularly girls, to stay in school and accompanied Malala Yousafzai on two visits to the camp.
Muzoon offers a powerful, credible, authentic voice on education in emergencies and has travelled with Unicef to Chad and back to Jordan to promote understanding of the challenges children affected by conflict face in accessing education.
Muzoon is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
In a personal letter to Muzoon, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Your work advocating for the education of the world’s most vulnerable child refugees is truly inspiring. As the youngest ever Unicef Goodwill Ambassador you are changing lives for the better, preventing child marriages and supporting young people uprooted by conflict to be able to go to school.”
Muzoon Almellehan, Unicef Goodwill Ambassador said: “Thank you so much to the Prime Minister for this award and for recognising the importance of helping children affected by conflict get access to quality education. We must all raise our voices on behalf of these children who have been silenced for too long – and who simply hope to have a safer and better future.”
Mike Penrose, Unicef UK Executive Director said: “Muzoon is a shining example to us all, so it is very fitting that she has been recognised with the Points of Light award by the Prime Minister. This acknowledgment reaffirms our country’s commitment to supporting the education of children who have been affected by conflict around the world.”
Muzoon is the 966th winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.
Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Points of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.