Audience with Queen at Buckingham Palace moves community worker to tears

Anna Dyson says the monarch showed 'amazing' interest in her Leeds café enterprise


Meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday was an emotional experience for Anna Dyson.

Ms Dyson was one of 160 representatives from different faiths invited to the palace to celebrate the work they do in their communities.

The founder and director of ToastLoveCoffee, a community café in Harehills, Leeds, was also one of the dozen selected to talk to the monarch.

“I just know how proud my family would be,” Ms Dyson told the JC, having wiped away her tears.

“Just to know that what I am doing is valued and important is so amazing.”

Part of the Real Junk Food Network, the café intercepts food destined for landfill and otherwise relies on food donations.

And in return for coffee and snacks, customers offer their money, time or a skill to help nurture the local multifaith community.

Ms Dyson, a one-time northern fieldworker for RSY-Netzer, started the initiative with Anita, a Christian-Albanian asylum seeker she had helped release from detention.

“My work is rooted in the Jewish values of social action and tikkun olam,” she said. “The energy I have for this is because of my friendship with Anita who, six and a half years in, is still trying to prove she deserves sanctuary in this country.

“I wanted to tell the Queen about Anita and get her support. I said I would be writing to her about it.”

The monarch had shown an “amazing” amount of interest in her project — and those of the other representatives invited.

“She thought there was so much good work going on and was excited for us to meet each other.

“As someone from a Jewish immigrant family, I thanked her for providing stability and allowing Britain to be a place of opportunity for families like mine.”

Other members of the Jewish community invited to the reception included Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, director of the Council of Christians and Jews, and Laura Marks, co-founder of the Jewish-Muslim women’s organisation Nisa-Nashim.

Ms Marks said being introduced to the Queen “takes your breath away. There is something very magical about her.

“I think the reception is a sign that she recognises faith communities are playing a major part in society. It is one thing to understand your own faith but it is quite another to understand the importance of the interaction between others — and she does.”

Chaverim founder Shmuel Yosef Davidsohn was invited to the reception in recognition of his work with Orthodox young people.

His charity, founded 27 years ago, works to provide mentoring, training, after-school activities and residential programmes. 

He said It was a honour to make the bracha to meet the Queen. "It was a once in a life time opportunity." 


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