WOHAA – Semi Finals – House of Commons 22nd June 21, 2023
May I welcome you all today to the semi-finals of The Wings of Hope achievement award. WOHAA as we call it.
When Rajni and I found this charity 20 years ago we never imagined we could come this far.
I remember one of our first speakers – a good friend and a former Ambassador. He said charities are set up by either billionaires or very old people trying to create a legacy.
20 years ago I was neither. Looking back I think it was a leap into the darkness. As they say, a journey of a 1000 miles begins with one small step and that is what we took.But what Rajni and I have learnt in all these years is that when you pursue a good cause without any personal benefit Angels become your best friends. So many of our Patrons and supporters are a testimony that Angels do become your friends. – Thank you Panel for being here.
Dr Ram Sriram
20 years have been very rewarding. We have seen so many students benefit from this charity. Over 40,000 students have been inspired by WOHAA. We have reached out to over 600 schools across the country with over 65% from the state or academy schools . So what have you students learnt from pursuing WOHAA. The months that you have toiled in the cold and the rain and conducted various small and large projects have taught you – Leadership, enterprise, communication, teamwork, resilience and time management . we conduct so many workshops conducted by world leaders – all free of cost. Money has never been a criteria and I hope never will be for the charity. Thousands of students have been inspired to aim high and so they have. From failing state schools they have succeeded in joining top universities and pursued successful careers.
Over the 20 years, we have seen students become distinguished professionals – doctors, surgeons, accountants, politicians, civil servants. WOHAA has given them the wings to fly high. It is so wonderful and heartwarming to occasional meet them and hear how grateful they are for having participated in WOHAA – it has transformed their lives and they still remember every moment of their journey.
Do not curse the darkness when you can light a candle and that is precisely what you have all done by participating in WOHAA. You have lit a candle to spread light. All of you should be absolutely proud of yourselves. I can say with confidence that all of you are winners. Some may win and move to the final stage of the award process but having participated you have demonstrated great courage and leadership and for that I commend you all for commencing this journey of giving.
It is a wonderful journey as I have experienced because it has brought so much joy to our lives. I can narrate so many wonderful stories – A call from a student that he has been given offered a place in a top university because he had benefited from WOHAA. To hear of a student becoming an economist in the Bank of England or a successful orthopedic surgeon. I can narrate hundreds of such stories to fill a book.
I am proud that we have sustained this charity for so long without any big donors. Very rarely small charities can survive this long. It is due to the innovative way we have run it. We have kept our admin costs low, we have not benefitted either financially or otherwise from this charity. We are all unpaid volunteers. We use our network to obtain great venues which are free. Even todays venue in this magnificent Palace of Westminster is free.
Many of you students have contributed to keep us going with your projects, my company Supreme has contributed somewhat to keep this charity going. We organize fantastic workshop conducted by some of the best in Britain. I remember one event when my friend Lord Butler hosted an event called Back to School describing his experience of having served 5 Prime Ministers. What a memorable presentation – again a free event. Students got a first-hand experience from this Great Man who ran this country for generations. Thank you Lord Butler for all the support – you have always been very kind and generous to this charity.
It is however tough and sometimes depressing but we have fought back with a Churchillian spirit very much Jeremy what your Grand Father demonstrated to all of us.
I am pleased that many youngsters have joined us as volunteers for WOHAA. Many have come today to assist us all on a Pro Bono basis in keeping with our ethos. I have always been inspired by great movements when money was never a factor. unfortunately Charities are judged by how much money they raise. Our charities ethos is not how much money but how much we have contributed quietly to society and that I am proud we have. We have not won many awards because we never tried. We have quietly gone about getting on with serving the community first in the UK and then overseas. There is much to be done here. Our projects have transformed individuals and communities. So many stories of students participating in WOHAA and moving away from crime and drug taking, so many wonderful stories of our students mentoring others to be good citizens. We cannot quantity these with financial numbers but all this is very heart warming for us as founders of this charity. This has as I said a long journey and hopefully the baton will be passed on to a more able and younger generation so that WOHAAA continues for another 20 years to come.