UNISON Eastern activist Charan Sekhon awarded MBE

Charan speaking at a podium

UNISON Eastern activist Charan Sekhon has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to charity, diversity and the environment, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Charan, the first Sikh Environment Agency officer to receive the honour, is the founder of Bedford-based charity SEVA Trust UK, as well as a UNISON branch equalities and welfare co-ordinator and a local councillor.

He said he was “surprised and incredibly humbled” to be awarded the MBE.

“It is also a reflection on the collective team effort and enormous support and guidance I received from my colleagues at the Environment Agency, UNISON and our fantastic team of volunteers who work with us that makes SEVA Trust UK, a community charity we launched six years ago,” he said.

SEVA works in Britain and India on education, health, welfare and the environment. Since the start of the pandemic Charan’s team of volunteers in Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Hertfordshire have provided hundreds of vulnerable families, rough-sleepers and isolated international students with food and other essential items. In the last six years, they’ve helped over 500 disadvantaged children in northern India.

“During the Covid-19 challenging times, we managed to help a lot of vulnerable work colleagues and diverse communities who faced hardships,” Charan said.

“It has been a true partnership and collaborative work with all those who want to help and uplift others and I would like to thank everyone for their amazing support. I must thank my entire family. Words cannot express my sincere appreciation for their great support and love and above all the guidance by my parents, who taught me a true meaning of life.”

Charan loads bags out of a car boot

Born in the village of Barundi in the Punjab, India, Charan completed a physics BSc and MSc before moving to Britain in January 1995. He completed another MSc in energy and the environment at Cranfield University before joining the Environment Agency in January 2000.

He has served on local councils for many years and played an important role in setting up Bedford’s Sikh temple, the Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara.

UNISON Eastern regional secretary Tim Roberts congratulated Charan on the honour.

“Charan is one of thousands of activists who make UNISON great, going out of his way to help those who need it and promote equality and fairness in his workplace and the wider community.

“He thoroughly deserves this recognition.”