Teenager battles against odds to scoop top award

A teenager who travelled to the UK alone when he was just 15 years old, has battled against the odds to scoop a top national award.

Ethiopian asylum seeker Abdul Hakim (18) has been named Apprentice of the Year, at the Coach Core Awards – a charity set-up to inspire young people and create the new generation of young sport coaches.

He is now well on his way to achieving his National Pool Lifeguard Qualification at Sharley Park Leisure Centre, Clay Cross -  after first being taught how to swim!

Stephen Birds, North East Derbyshire District Council’s Swimming Development Officer and Abdul’s Mentor, said: “Abdul really has shown a fantastic attitude to everything we have asked from him.

“Abdul came to us unable to swim, so we set a target of getting him up to a standard to take his National Pool Lifeguard Qualification – the most widely recognised qualification for lifeguards in the UK.

“We got him swimming and he was well on his way to retrieving a manikin from the bottom of the pool, but then Covid-19 hit and his training unfortunately had to stop.

“However, it’s our aim to get him back in the pool this year, and while it will be difficult, I’m sure he will give 100 per cent and we will get him there – no matter how long it takes!.

“The staff at Sharley Park have also been teaching him Derbyshire, so well done Abdul me old duck!”

Abdul is a foster care leaver who has a drive to succeed and overcomes language barriers (including broad Derbyshire!) on a daily basis.

The teenager was given the chance to use the council’s leisure facilities through Active Derbyshire’s Active Fostering scheme – which gives free access to swimming and the gym for children and their Carers, and is part of NEDDC’s district offer for care leavers which has been implemented county-wide.

He was then put in touch with the Coach Core Apprentice Scheme – a scheme supported by North East Derbyshire District Council, Derbyshire County Council and Active Derbyshire – which gives young people aged 16-24 the chance to become the next generation of inspirational coaches.

Abdul, Coach Core Community Activator Apprentice at North East Derbyshire District Council, said: “I am so pleased to receive this award. I would like to thank everyone at North East Derbyshire District Council and Coach Core for their support. Without this I would not be in the position I am today.  

“Thank you to everyone for believing in me and changing my life for the better.

“Thank you for enriching my life for the better, your patience and understanding and for welcoming me in to your team.”

Cllr Alex Dale, Leader of North East Derbyshire District Council and Cabinet Member for Young People at Derbyshire County Council, said: “It’s truly remarkable what Abdul has achieved and we are delighted we have been able to support him.”

Gary Laybourne, CEO of Coach Core, said: “Our Apprentice of the Year is always a tightly contested award based on many factors linked to the adversity the individual has overcome as well as the impact and difference they are now making on their lives and on those around them. 

“Abdul is an extremely deserving winner of this year’s coveted national award, with his tenacity, positivity and dedication really shining through.  Credit must also go to his tutor and the mentors at NEDDC who have given such great opportunity and support throughout.  We look forward to seeing the next stage of his journey.”

Stuart Batchelor, Director of Active Derbyshire, said: “Abdul is an inspiration to all young people, he has used sport and physical activity to turn his life around and I am so pleased and honoured that we have been able to support him through Active Fostering and Coach Core. I am sure other young people will follow his example and have successful careers encouraging people to be active”.

It is hoped Abdul will be able to remain in employment with NEDDC or with other neighbouring authorities across Derbyshire, after gaining his qualifications.