Project empowering African Caribbean community wins Leeds’ unsung heroes award: Yvonne Opebiyi and Guiding Light Leads

13 Dec 2023

Project empowering African Caribbean community wins Leeds’ unsung heroes award

Charities and third sector Awards Compassionate city

Yvonne Opebiyi of Guiding Light Leads became one of the winners at the Compassionate City Awards at a ceremony held at Leeds Civic Hall on Thursday 7 December.

The awards celebrate the positive and compassionate work that individuals and organisations do every day to make their local communities and city a great place to live, work and visit. The work helps to improve the lives of many people living in Leeds and supports the council’s vision for Leeds to be the best city in the UK.

The winner of the Jo Cox Award was Yvonne Opebiyi of Guiding Light Leads, who was awarded for her work to improve the outcomes for young people from the African Caribbean community. The project she set up has delivered workshops with community leaders, alongside staff from universities, housing, health, police, and the council, to look at barriers and solutions to overcome inequalities.  

Opebiyi successfully secured funding from the Police Crime Commissioner to help deliver support to young people, empowering them to feel confident to access opportunities such as higher education.

The winner in the Environmental Achievement of the Year category was the DAMASQ project, which trains refugees to become beekeepers. They harvest honey and promote health and wellbeing as beekeeping can reduce stress and anxiety.

The project has harvested more than 150kg of organic honey and trained eight volunteers to date to become beekeepers. Their beehives have been visited by many people interested in learning more about bees, and the project is now being replicated across the UK.

DAMASQ works to support refugees, asylum seekers and minority communities. Founded in 2016, the organisation originated from the first-hand experience of migrants. They support new migrants to help empower them and to make them feel welcomed and valued in their local communities.

Also celebrated for her outstanding work was Hala Wadi, winner of Unsung Hero of the Year. Running a group for women in Leeds who are seeking asylum or are refugees, she was recognised for her tireless work to support and listen to the women, helping them to feel part of the community. Wadi is a skilled interpreter who assists others in learning English and is currently completing voluntary training to be able to deliver basic immigration advice through the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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

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

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

Full list of winners:

Unsung Sporting Hero of the Year: Màire Pogson

Unsung Hero of the Year: Hala Wadi

Diversity Project of the Year: Leeds City of Sanctuary

Health and Wellbeing Project of the Year: Rainbow Hearts and Feel Good

Community Sports Project of the Year: Champions Community Sport and Health CIC

2023 Year of Culture Project: Leeds Hospital Charity for the Leeds Bear Hunt

Community Organisation or Project of the Year: Leeds Warm Spaces

Environmental Achievement of the Year: DAMASQ

Jo Cox Award: Guiding Light Leads - Yvonne Opebiyi


For media enquiries contact:

Leeds City Council Communications team