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MBE honour for Burnley woman Sajda who achieved her dream to make a difference in the world

Sajda at the Palace with her MBE
Sajda at the Palace with her MBE
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Sometimes you meet people in life who you will never forget.

Sajda Majeed is one of those people.

Sajda at the Chai Centre in Burnley, the place that her vision and drive helped to become a reality.

Sajda at the Chai Centre in Burnley, the place that her vision and drive helped to become a reality.

Full of boundless energy, enthusiasm and a real love of life, Sajda has certainly achieved what she set out to do - and that was to make a difference in the world.

For she was one of the key figures in making the idea of a multi-purpose centre a reality in the heart of a community in her hometown of Burnley.

Her vision and effort saw the Chai Centre come to fruition with around £1M investment coming into the town to make it happen.

And for doing that she was one of the chosen few who recently visited Buckingham Palace to received an MBE.

Still shocked at the news, Sajda (44) said she also feels very "thrilled and honoured" to receive the award.

She said: "It is very exciting but I am not exactly sure what I have done to deserve this.

"Everything I have achieved in life has been as part of a team, I haven't done it all on my own."

But the mum-of-four is underestimating herself hugely.

A former pupil of Barden Junior and Walshaw high schools, Sajda was married at 16 and her first job was as the office girl at the former Northern Textiles in Burnley's Todmorden Road.

Her job mainly involved making brews and doing the sandwich run but Sajda credits the owner, Bill Gleave, who was only 23 at the time, for being one of the key figures in her life.

She explained: "One day he asked me to go into town to buy new cups for the office but he also told me I was not to pay the asking price! "

Sajda lived up the challenge and went into the old Woolworth' s store where she managed to barter with staff twho agreed to knock 10 per cent off the price. She reckons that without realising it at the time that was the start of her

negotiating skills.

Another of her roles at Northern Textiles was to set up meetings with influential clients and customers from across the UK and Europe.

And while doing this Sajda was able to finely hone those negotiating skills.

She said: "During meetings I would listen to discussions and I picked up a lot about speaking to people in business. Having to deal with them directly taught me so much and gave me a lot of confidence as someone

who was quite shy."

One of five children, Sajda's father died when she was only young. He came to UK from Kashmir to work and taught himself to speak English, Arabic and Urdu.

So Sajda's mum became, and continues to be, a strong role model in her life who has inspired her every step of the way.

Sajda believes her mum has instilled a strong work ethic in her children,encouraging them to work hard, the importance of helping and respecting others and keeping yourself firmly grounded.

Keen to further educate herself Sajda started going to college at night and went to work for the now defunct East Lancashire Training and Enterprise Council where she set up administration systems.

Based in Stoneyholme, it was a training centre offering courses and training to women of all ages and from all backgrounds. From there she went to work for Burnley Careers office as an employment and training advisor.

This was a role that Sajda loved and she described it was like being part of one big family.

Working in schools in the community, Sajda got the chance to help young people achieve their dreams and ambitions.

And it was here that her aim to "make a difference in the world" started to happen.

She said: "A colleague, Shah Hussain, said he had an idea that was right up my street. Daneshouse and Stoneyholme had received some regeneration money and he wanted to know if I had any ideas how it

could be spent."

Working with the Bradford and Northern Housing Association and Burnley Council the Daneshouse Economic Development Trust was formed and from it came many ideas for improving the area including a market place, that never got off the ground, and the Daneshouse Football Club, that is still thriving stronger than ever.

Now into health and fitness, Sajda felt there was a need for a facility that would encourage women in the area to step up their fitness levels.

So Sajda came up with the idea for a gym. There was only one women's only gym in Burnley at the time that was beyond the pocket of women from Daneshouse and Stoneyholme.

The idea received backing from the Primary Care Trust and the chief executive at the time, Tim Mansfield, said he would put his name to it.

It snowballed from there and Sajda asked people in the community what they wanted from the project and ideas came flooding in.

SureStart, an initative to support families and children under the age of five, then received a grant for the same area and it was decided to combine the two projects

Funding of around £1M was secured from The Big Lottery Fund on the agreement that the building was used for community purposes.

Sajda recalls on having secured the £1m funding she was speaking to a colleague and saying “it just

goes to show, you can be an average person with no fancy titles or privileges.

"You just need to have passion, focus and determination and you can achieve."

The community was involved with the naming of the centre and Chai, meaning tea, represents reassurance, comfort and friendship. A striking building in the heart of Daneshouse there is a gym, sauna, cafe and a range of health services including midwifery classes.

Having worked in a voluntary capacity for approximately three years developing the project. Sajda was then appointed as the Programme Manager in 2002.

Although she no longer works there, Sajda has been all over the UK promoting the Chai Centre as a great example of what can be achieved.

The Lancashire Care Foundation Trust now own the building and it is managed and run by Calico Housing Association.

And the building itself carries part of the town's history and heritage as a wall in the centre is made from brick that was reclaimed from Burnley General Hospital when it was being demolished.

The Chai has been an example of multi disciplinary working and at the time a unique partnership approach between the community and NHS.

Sajda was involved in hosting visits at The Chai from high profile visitors and MPs including Hazel Blears, Vernon Corker and Saeeda Waris. She also welcomed international visitors organised by The British Council.

Sajda added: "I also had the opportunity to be part of a North West Building Good Relations programme, a three year project focusing on improving relationships and cohesion in communities.

"I was part of a delegation that was invited to Northern Ireland, visited Stormont and also delivered a workshop at an international conference while there about experiences and learning after the disturbances in Burnley which was supported by Burnley Council.

"I also gave evidence at the Parliamentary select committee for Community Cohesion and Migration."

Sajda is proud of the fact that The Chai has played a wider role in the community apart from the traditional health and well being benefits it has been a hub at the centre of bringing communities together.

Sajda now freelances, she is a "Faith Friend" working with The Faith Centre in Burnley, she also offers consultancy services on Community Project management support and funding and is a motivational speaker.

She is a parent governor at Sir John Thursby Community College and also on the Clinical Commissioning Group panel supporting funding initatives.

Sajda is also kept busy with her family including her husband, Abdul who runs his own carpet fitting business and their children, Uwais (24) a promising young boxer, Danyaal (16), 11-year-old Aminah and Aishah

who is eight.

It is very telling that Sajda remembers so many people in her life who have helped and influenced her and she insists the MBE honour belongs to them as much as her.

But it is this modesty that makes her so worthy of this high accolade for Sajda has done herself and the people of the town she calls home proud.