Last month, Westminster Business School Alumna, Khadija Abdelhamid hosted one of her many successful motivational networking events right here at our Cavendish Campus. Khadija is an award winning activist, entrepreneur, public speaker, YouTuber and spoken word artist, so naturally we were thrilled when she agreed to do an interview with us! Find out what the Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Dreams founder had to say…
My name is Khadija Abdelhamid. I’m an Award Winning Community Development and Youth Ambassador and I am extremely passionate about youth engagement and social change.
I’m also an Entrepreneur, Public Speaker, YouTube Vlogger, Spoken Word Artist and a Mental Health Activist. I studied Business Management with Entrepreneurship at the University of Westminster and graduated last year with a 2.1 degree. My passion is to inspire the young generation and give them the confidence to follow their dreams, I do this through my YouTube Channel Dose of Inspiration, where I discuss topics on motivation, my personal experiences and how I’ve overcome them and the importance of personal development. Sometimes I also express these topics through spoken word, such as my poem Dear Depression or The Man That Changed My Life.
Recently, I’ve started networking events platform for young people called Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Dreams, we provide young people with the opportunity to network with industry leaders and professionals that will elevate their career and business skills whilst developing their networking skills.
I’ve also mentioned I’m a Mental Health Activist, last year I released a spoken word video on my YouTube Channel called Dear Depression, where I spoke about my personal journey with Mental Health. The video went viral in six days reaching 95 countries and has attracted the attention of one of the UK’s largest Mental Health Charities, The Mental Health Foundation.
The Mental Health Foundation supported my Mental Health Work in many ways, including the opportunity of securing interviews for me with BBC, The Independent Newspaper, Reuters TV and The Huffington Post, including a blog. I’ve also attracted the attention of the Muslim Media including; Islam Channel, British Muslim TV, Ahlulbayt TV and Muslim Vibe.
Tell us more about ‘Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Dreams’, what is it about? What inspired you to set it up?
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Dreams is a networking platform which I created for young people between 16-26 years old in the UK. The idea is to bring young people together in one room, for them to network with industry leaders and professionals but also with other young people who are doing positive work in their communities, life or business and a place where we could recognise young people for their talents, accomplishments and contribution towards society.
Our psychographic targets young people who are eager to become a person of value, success and those who want to invest in their future but lack the network and support. We target the school leavers, entrepreneurs, graduates, current students and even those socially excluded. My main aim is to create key partnerships to provide jobs, internships, apprenticeships, mentoring, training and career opportunities for the young people.
The idea for the platform came from my personal experiences since the age of 19 I’ve been attending several networking events, connecting and working with people from different industries. When I was 22 years old, I realised that the world is starting to change and it’s not just about ‘what we know, but who we know also’ which is powerful and I believe young people need to understand this.
Throughout my community work in London I realised a common factor amongst young people; which is many of them are capable of doing great things with the right support. I do agree to some extent that mentoring does help, however, what happens after? What if they really want to take their idea out there, how easily can they get in touch with the Director, or any higher authority within a company to give them a chance to show their capabilities? Their willingness to learn, develop and achieve? Unless their family is well connected than the chance of that happening will be low.
Another reason I started my events was because when I was in secondary school I was told numerous times that I would not amount to much or achieve anything in life because my grades were the ‘door’ to my future and that door didn’t look promising.
My creativity was also swept under the carpet in secondary school and and as a young person that affected my self esteem. I felt dumb, because I felt like I was not good at anything, even my creativity was being shunned. For this reason, I choose the motto for my events to be ‘’Every young person has the power to achieve. If they are given the power to believe’’ and that is the drive behind what I do.
Then in 2014, I started receiving messages from young people asking me if I could connect them with a specific person that I knew and I started doing that for about two years and suddenly it was then that I decided something needs to be done and launched my networking platform in December 2016. My second event took place at Cavendish Campus on Friday 19th of May 2017.
What do you feel is the biggest problem facing young people today? And what advice could you give them?
I believe it’s difficult to choose one problem because young people in the UK today are facing so many problems including, unemployment, debt, educational etc.
However, what I can say is the effect of a problem (above or any) will most likely have a profound impact on young person’s self-esteem which creates a negative impact on their life and could possibly affect their future. Young people today face so many pressures and challenges and failure to find the right support or achieve economic independence can affect their mental well being.
My advice would be to look after their mental well being and to realise that their current situation is not there to stay forever. Sometimes in life we have to go through tough challenges and most of the time it will feel like everything is happening all at the same time which can be very daunting and stressful. However, life’s challenges are there to help us grow mentally and teach us transferable skills that we can use to handle future situations and experiences.
Personally, I still face so many challenges even whilst I’m on stage inspiring people or when I’m recording a new video for my YouTube Channel, it’s all about how we deal with what we’ve been given. Life will always throw challenges and problems but once you learn how to deal with everything it will become less of a problem and you will focus more on finding a solution. I really believe it’s about your mentality and your environment. I’m talking from personal experience. Trust me, once you learn how to govern your mind rather than let your mind govern you, you will find the key to success.
How would you describe your time at the Westminster Business School?
My first year of University (2013) was really good, I did a 3 week internship in South Korea where I was representing my University and I finished the year with a good grade. It was also one year since I had my last counselling session, so I felt like I’ve come a long way and suddenly felt like I was getting my life together again. However, it all changed in my second (2014) and third year (2015).
I remember like it was yesterday, I just finished doing my last exam before we ended the year (2014) and things were looking up, despite the fact I had one retake I was still pleased with how the year went. A week later, during the Christmas break I found out a good friend took his life, and in the most painful way possible. The news had a huge effect on me so I spent my whole Christmas break dealing with his loss, and soon those few weeks turned into one year of grieve. In 2015, my second semester of second year took a huge turn. I was falling behind in University and it had affected some of my work, including having to do a few retakes.
During the summer of 2015, I was selected for an internship to the UAE for one week which was an external opportunity. After my return to London, a few weeks later I was sent an email from the University saying that I might not be able to continue further into third year, so my University journey all of the sudden was hanging by a thread. Around the same time of the email I lost my grandad, and still not having had closure from my friend’s death it all became too much.
However, around early September 2015 I found out that I will be continuing into third year but that was the worst summer of my life. It was then that I decided I need to focus, put my head down and work extremely hard. I went through retaking exams, coursework, losing two loved ones and not sure if I was going to graduate and took all of that and recycled it into motivation.
My first semester of third year was really good, I was even getting better grades, 70+ which I failed to achieve in my first two years. I kept working hard and remained very focused and finally graduated with a 2.1 degree in 2016.
What’s been your greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement to date is a hard one to choose, because I have so many but I would probably say conquering my Mental Health, which is not something tangible like a degree or an award but I believe overcoming my depression is definitely my greatest achievement. I think people underestimate the hardship of living with depression or mental illness and it’s not something that can easily be ‘’fixed’’ overnight. It’s something that needs a lot of time and a huge amount of ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ sort of belief to overcome it. If we look at the definition of achievement, it states ‘’something that requires great courage, has been achieved through effort and a result of hard work’’ and that is what I had to do and the result of my hard work is the fact that I am still here today.
What’s next for Khadija?
Well, my plans for the next five years is to focus on building my brand for Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Dreams and my YouTube platform. I also want to focus on becoming the face of Mental Health for Muslims, because there aren’t many Muslims talking about the stigma of Mental Health in the Muslim Community and so far things are going great with that because the media publicity has been awesome!
Many thanks to Khadija for this incredibly honest and moving interview. Make sure to follow her over on YouTube and Twitter, and visit Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Dreams to keep an eye on any upcoming events. If you would like to find out more about the course Khadija took, check out Business Management with Entrepreneurship.