Douglas Macmillan Volunteer of the Year winner 2024

Published: 22 May 2024
Salim Sidat is the winner of the Douglas Macmillan Volunteer of the Year Award at the Thanks to You Awards 2024.

'I think if you can make a difference to one person’s life then you should just go for it.’

Salim is standing outside. He is wearing a full suit with a dark jacket, grey trousers, white shirt and a purple tie. He is holding a honorary award in his hands. He is also wearing dark rimmed glasses.


Salim, the former chair of Masjid E Sajedeen in Blackburn, has been passionate about getting people within the Asian community talking about cancer ever since his own diagnosis many years ago. 

‘I had a brain tumour, and it changed my perspective on life,’ he says. ‘I was told that they needed to operate but I had an 85% chance of dying. I felt like I had nobody to speak to about it all. I didn’t want to speak to my wife, because I worried that if I shared my thoughts with her, then it would make her worry more. She felt the same way. The result was that neither of us were talking to each other about how we felt.’

After a successful operation, Salim began to think that if his family were struggling to communicate about cancer, then other families within the Asian community were probably in similar situations.

‘Not only did people find it difficult to talk about cancer, but they also didn’t know about the cancer support that was available to them. More needed to be done to support people when they were at their most vulnerable, so I decided to use my platform to do something about it,’ he explains. 

To begin with, Salim organised awareness events at the mosque called Macmillan Cancer Support Breakfast Mornings. These popular sessions included talks from healthcare professionals and featured local support organisations. The events let people know about the importance of early cancer intervention and showcased the wide range of cancer support available locally. 

After discovering a lack of awareness about the local hospice, Salim set out to change that too.

‘The hospice is less than two miles from the mosque, but people didn’t know it existed,’ he says. ‘As well as raising awareness, I also worked with the hospice to make it more inclusive. It now has a prayer room and offers halal food.’ 

To keep the momentum for change going, Salim successfully applied for members of his mosque to become Macmillan Community Champions. These volunteers now raise awareness of cancer, help to reduce the stigma of diagnosis, and ensure that anybody affected by cancer has somewhere to turn.  

‘Sometimes people don’t want to talk to complete strangers at the hospital or hospice,’ he says. ‘Having Community Champions in the mosque space means that people can have confidential conversations with people from similar backgrounds. One in two people are going to be affected by cancer. It’s going to touch us all in some way, so it’s really important we get people talking about it. The more information that we can get out there, the more we can be there for people.’ 

Salim’s endless enthusiasm for change comes from a relentless desire to make life better for people. 

‘I'm very passionate about the things I do. My family tell me that I go overboard, but that's just the way I am! I think if you can make a difference to one person’s life then you should just go for it.’

Find out more about the Thanks to You Awards.

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