ARIF Anis, one of the founders of the David Beckham-backed One Million Meals campaign, has won the prestigious Brain of the Year award from The Brain Trust Charity.
Mr Anis, a world-renowned author, speaker and philanthropist, joins previous winners including Professor Stephen Hawking, rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave CBE and former astronaut Senator John Glenn, in winning the highest award on offer from the Trust, founded by Mind Maps inventor Tony Buzan.
The One Million Meals campaign was launched to feed NHS workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, around 127,650 free meals and nutritious drinks have been distributed to frontline workers across the UK.
The Brain Trust, which works to advance global mental health through research, support and funding, chose Mr Anis as this year’s winner for his outstanding achievements during the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement was made by Trust chairman Raymond Keene OBE.
Mr Anis, a globally known thought leader and author of ‘I’MPOSSIBLE’, ‘Follow Your Dreams’ and co-author of ‘Made in Crises’, said:
“It’s unbelievable for someone who started 20 years back as a shepherd in a remote part of Pakistan.
“I have been an average student and achiever in my academic life. This award means to me that we are bigger than our limitations, better than our expectations and stronger than our fears and dreams could be realised if you keep running, walking or crawling to them, one step a day.
“It also shows that an average brain can find its place among the extraordinary through persistence, perseverance and sheer resilience.”
Since April, an army of One Million Meals volunteers have been serving meals to NHS staff, keyworkers and people facing a food crisis during the pandemic. Boxing champion Amir Khan has also backed the campaign.
Iconic Scottish singing duo The Proclaimers, have also allowed an adapted version of their biggest hit song ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ to be produced in support of the campaign.
Speaking about what inspired him to launch the campaign, Mr Anis, from Epsom, said:
“When the pandemic struck in February 2020, it was so eerie and surreal – like a horror movie.
“I fell sick in the mid of March with what appeared to be mild to medium coronavirus symptoms and the ambulance crew visited to attend to me, twice.
“I was shocked to see they were without the necessary protection equipment, complaining of the longer shifts with no time to eat or having nothing to eat as restaurants were closed. The one who took my ECG had not eaten in the last 12 hours apart from a packet of crisps.
“It seemed it was a war out there and leadership author, speaker and consultant in me asked myself ‘What can I do?’
“After my recovery on 30 March, I approached my foodpreneur friend Suleman Raza who was already thinking on similar lines.
“Suleman was so passionate that he committed to donate thousands of meals to kick-off the campaign and that is how One Million Meals was born on the 1st of April 2020.”
Looking to the future, aside from volunteering for the One Million Meals campaign, Mr Anis is co-authoring a new book on crisis leadership, due to be released later this month.
“Crises bring with them opportunities for the leaders to stretch, embrace, and evolve new behaviours, solutions, and attitudes.
“Like every seriously committed business leaders of today, if you too are overwhelmed what the world experienced in 2020 in the form of Coronavirus pandemic and searching for a new growth trail for your company and have not yet traced out a trajectory towards it, this book is our gift to you.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it seems the whole playbook needs to be rewritten, including the very definition of leadership. This shift from the ‘best practices’ of today to tomorrow’s ‘next practices’ will ensure your business will thrive in the new normal.”
Mr Anis is due to be presented with his award at a ceremony on November 26 at L’Escargot restaurant in London. The date could be moved to January or February 2021 due to the new lockdown regulations.
To donate to or support the One Million Meals campaign please visit: https://onemillionmeals.uk/