A few weeks ago Tim contacted me with a mysterious question about whether I might be free on Wednesday 20 May, to help him out with something. After checking my diary I said yes, thinking it would be a youth activity or need in the office.
And then a letter arrived from Buckingham Palace stating “The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by Her Majesty to invite Mr Faraz Ahmed (me!) to a Garden Party …” Now that was not what I had expected! All those years ago when I started volunteering with The Feast, I would never have imagined it would lead to me being able to visit Buckingham Palace.
I could not sleep the night before. But the day did come, and all dressed up we caught the train to London and joined the queues to get in. After the awe subsided we started to realise where we were … and pinched ourselves.
This is not once in a lifetime experience, but once in a thousand lifetimes.
Tim asked me to share some of my highlights, so here goes:
- First has to be the tea, cakes, sandwiches and ice cream.
- Then being able to walk through the palace, with all its history.
- I also really enjoyed being able to walk through the gardens and take in the majesty, and share this with my family over the phone.
- But of course a huge highlight had to be the Queen herself. I was within meters of her. She was amazing, smiling throughout and seeming to really enjoy being with so many people.
- There were about 7,000 people at the party, from so many walks of life including the military, public service, charities and everyday people. It was such as mixed group but everyone seemed so happy and equal.
On the train ride home I told Tim that I can not say thank you enough for today, and for everything I have received from The Feast.
This is a charity that has an impact on so many people. It is easy to live parallel lives, even with our neighbours and especially if they are of a different faith. The Feast helps break down these walls, and has let me make so many new friends and go on these adventures.
Today, when people asked us “why are you here?”, as soon as we started mentioning The Feast and what we do with people of different faiths and backgrounds, with our similarities and differences, they wanted to know more. All it took was a tiny morsel, for people to get it and say it was important.
It is amazing that The Feast has been recognised by Her Majesty for our contribution to the UK. But I am one of many who think it is very deserving.
– Guest post by Faraz Ahmed, volunteer with The Feast