Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Selfless paramedic gets the royal seal of approval
A trailblazing Monklands paramedic received the royal seal of approval as he received a top honour in recognition of his work and volunteering in the community.
Chapelhall resident Araf Saddiq was presented with the prestigious Queen’s ambulance medal by Prince Charles at a memorable investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.
He became Scotland’s first Asian paramedic when he joined the service 25 years ago, and has dedicated years to volunteering with ethnic minority communities on a range of health issues including vaccination, supporting refugees, first aid training and placing defibrillators in places of worship.
Araf first joined the ambulance service by working in patient transport and as a care assistant, then as a technician before becoming a paramedic in 2000.
He was based at Coatbridge for 15 years before transferring to his current post at Douglas in South Lanarkshire; and combines his busy frontline duties with his wide range of community health promotion work, educating and sharing skills with fellow professionals and serving as vice-chair of NHS Scotland’s diversity forum.
Originally awarded the medal in the 2021 new year honours list, his royal presentation took place late last year after being delayed by Covid restrictions; and it proved to be well worth the wait.
He told the Advertiser: “It was amazing. Prince Charles knew a lot about me and what I did and gave me a lot of time; it was great meeting him.
“The first thing he said was that he was so pleased to meet me and had heard so much about me, and reeled off the kinds of things I’d been doing.
“My wife Aysha was with me and we also had a tour of the castle – the whole day was a fantastic experience.”
Araf said of his Queen’s ambulance medal: “It was a huge surprise to receive this in the 2021 new year list, and I think it’s the first time a paramedic has received this award – it’s usually senior officers so to receive it as a frontline paramedic is a real honour.
“When I started out I was the first Asian paramedic in Scotland, and I do a lot of work, especially with faith and ethnic communities on health awareness, first aid training and giving public access to defibrillators, placing them in mosques and gurdwaras.
“It’s about helping marginalised groups get more involved with the wider community, getting out there and breaking down barriers around health.
“Working with refugees, we’ve been able to do a lot in talking about health and signposting them to different services.
“It helps them to become more confident and build up trust in people in uniform by showing we’re here to help – and that we in Scotland are one big family.
“Since the pandemic most things have been about vaccination, talking to communities and getting people the information needed; there was an initial low uptake from for Asian communities and through talking to people and answering questions, we could get advice out there about how to stay safe and follow the guidelines.”
Dad-of-three Araf has previously been a finalist in the Sunday Mail Great Scot awards and received special honours from the Scottish ambulance service, St Andrew’s first aid and at the Scottish Asian and business awards for his community work.
He said of the royal honour: “This award is absolutely amazing and the icing on the cake it’s really nice that somebody appreciated and recognises what you do, and my family and friends are very proud.
“It makes me want to do more as it shows I’m on the right track, and I want to keep doing this as a role model for other Asians and to show what a difference doing something like this job makes.
“Being a paramedic is challenging and stressful, and the past couple of years have been very difficult due to Covid; but my favourite thing about it is that I love being out there on the road, helping people.”