Bedford volunteering legend and Bedford Independent Everyday Hero, Charan Sekhon, has collected his MBE from His Majesty The King at Windsor Castle this week (31 January).
Charan Kanwal Singh Sekhon was awarded his MBE in the late Queen’s 2022 birthday honours list for services to charity, diversity and the environment, particularly during Covid-19.
A Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), is a national honour awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community which has had a long-term, significant impact.
“I am truly humbled and honoured to have received my MBE from His Majesty The King,” said Charan.
“It was a very special moment to have a brief conversation with His Majesty, who wanted to know more about my journey and the key challenges I faced…
“Before the ceremony, I was a bit nervous but I must say he was really engaged in the conversation and he made me feel special and I feel extremely grateful.
“You only have a few minutes for conversation but I felt like I had a really good conversation that lasted a bit longer.”
While Charan is a Senior Environment Officer for the Environment Agency during the day, he is also the Founder Chairman of SEVA Trust UK, a registered charity working in the UK and India on Education, Health, Social-Welfare and the Environment.
This included leading a team of volunteers to provide hundreds of vulnerable families, homeless, rough-sleepers and international students in the area with food and other essential items during the Corona pandemic started.
Previously he played an important role in establishing a new Sikh Temple in Kempston, where he served as an Assistant Secretary for over 15 years.
Further afield, Charan and his team have supported thousands of disadvantaged children in north India in the last seven years.
“A special day”
On top of his charity work, he is also an Equalities and Welfare Coordinator for UNISON, a Parish Councilor in Sharnbrook, a former executive committee member of Bedford Race Equality Council and the Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara.
While Charan said collecting his MBE was “a very special day”, he said he missed his dad not being there.
“It would have been more special if my father was here with us to witness this occasion,” he said. “We lost him last year but I am sure he is watching us and must be very proud in the same way my mother and the rest of my family are.”
Charan reacted in his usual humble and said he wouldn’t have been awarded had it not been for “unconditional support” from those around him and that he’s not ready to stop doing more to help others.
“I must thank my family for their unconditional support, all my work colleagues at the Environment Agency, my colleagues at UNISON, SEVA Trust Trustees, Teams & Volunteers in UK and India, the community, charity and faith group leaders and all the other colleagues & friends, whom I had a real privilege to work with in the past 28 years of my work in various fields.
“This special recognition will always motivate me to do more and better for the next time & will try my best to continue to make a real difference for others, help to protect and save the environment, promote diversity & equality for all and better support through SEVA Trust UK for all communities”, said Charan.
A not so Everyday Hero
Charan’s charitable work and contributions have already been widely recognised by many local and national organisations including Bedford Borough Council, Papwoth Trust, Cambridge, The Sikh Missionary Society, UK, Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust, UK and Bedfordshire Asian Business Association (BABA).
In 2002 he received Bedford Mayor’s ‘Citizen of the Year’ Award for his charitable work and community services.
Then in 2013, Charan was honoured with the British Asian Pride of Britain Award in an event held at the House of Commons in the UK Parliament
More recently, in December 2020, he received a Sports Award from Bedford Borough Council for supporting diverse communities with free online yoga classes and an Everyday Heroes Award from the Bedford Independent and the Harpur Trust in 2022.
“I want to give something back”
Born and Bred in a small village in Barundi of Punjab in India, Charan faced many challenges during his educational carrier in India and in the UK. But, he completed his BSc. and MSc. in Physics from India and moved to Britain in Jan. 1995.
After completing his MSc in Energy and Environment from Cranfield University, he then joined the Environment Agency in Jan 2000.
In a recent interview with Cranfield University alumni podcast channel’s program of ‘Leadership on-the-go’ Charan said he wanted to use his experiences of struggle and hardships to help others in line with the concept of Seva (selfless service) gifted by the founder of the Sikh faith Guru Nanak.
“I believe there is no better reward than serving the country by supporting people who face hardships and wants everyone to work in unity to serve others,” he said.
He added, “I got superb support from the local community here in the UK and India and I want to give something back”.
If you’d like to nominate someone for an Everyday Heroes Award 2022, you can find out more about the categories and access the nomination form, here.