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University of York student wins prestigious Diana Legacy Award

Posted on 11 April 2024

An undergraduate student at the University of York has won a prestigious Diana Legacy Award in recognition of his social action and humanitarian work.

Joel Mordi holding his award in London

International Development student and University of Sanctuary Scholar, Joel Mordi, has been honoured with the award, set up in memory of Diana, the late Princess of Wales. 

Joel was one of 20 young people from across the world honoured with a Legacy Award for The Diana Award's 25th Anniversary year. He was presented with his award by Prince William at a ceremony in London.

Joel founded the Mordi Ibe Foundation, Nigeria's only charity catering for LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable students to keep them in school, including young people experiencing period poverty. The foundation has so far impacted over 100,000 young people. 

Having grown up experiencing bullying behaviour at school, Joel created Nigeria's first ever anti-bullying policy across schools in Delta state to combat children targeted for being different and further dropping out of school.  

Joel said: “Winning this prize is humbling and surreal, but more than anything it’s a call to action. There is so much more work I want to do, and hopefully I can inspire a few more young people to take up the mantle and show up, challenging the status quo.”

Sanctuary Scholar

Joel came to the UK as a refugee in 2019 and started his studies at York as a University of Sanctuary scholar – an Equal Access Scholarship which supports students who have been forced to leave their homes – in 2023. 

“Growing up in Nigeria I felt very out of place as I hid my sexual orientation all through my teenage years”, Joel said.  “But at York, the staff and students who bring the University to life are welcoming and without an ounce of  judgement from my experiences so far. Every day truly feels like a gift to meet beautiful and kind people. This is belonging, it does not seek to know if I’m a refugee, a person of colour, gay or whatever, I am seen as a human being without fear of harmful stereotypes. 

“I’d like to see more refugees and Asylees in higher education as only a fraction of us on a global scale get the opportunity. I look forward to seeing the University continue to champion this cause and I could never thank the donors to its Equal Access Scholarships enough.”

York became a University of Sanctuary in September 2020, to find out more about this work to support those affected by global crisis visit The University of Sanctuary Fund page.

Joel is now undertaking a year-long Guinness World Record attempt by walking 15,000km backwards, in order to “highlight backwards opinions” towards LGBTQ+ people.