Hum­ble vol­un­teers given Em­pire Medal

Work for United Sikhs

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Kather­ine Cle­men­tine

TWO vol­un­teers from Hilling­don were awarded the Bri­tish Em­pire Medal as part of the Queen’s birth­day hon­ours last week.

Narpin­der­jit Mann, 39, from Hayes, and Har­bans Sidhu, 57, from Ick­en­ham, were awarded the gong in recog­ni­tion of their work with the United Sikhs char­ity on be­half of Sikh peo­ple in the UK.

Ms Mann helped hun­dreds of In­dian and Pak­istani na­tion­als in the UK, in­clud­ing those here il­le­gally, who wished to re­turn home but were un­able or afraid to con­tact the author­i­ties.

She said: “In 2009 so many stu­dents came here to the UK from In­dia and Pak­istan and were strug­gling. So I started by hav­ing a word with the lo­cal tem­ple, they gave us a space to work. We helped them with CVs.

“Then home­less peo­ple started com­ing to our help desk with nowhere to eat or sleep and wanted to go back to In­dia and Pak­istan so I made phone calls.”

Peo­ple seek­ing to re­turn to their home coun­tries are of­ten scared to con­tact the Home Of­fice for fear of be­ing ar­rested or de­tained.

Ms Mann added: “They had no pass­port, and no de­tails as such so I just used my con­tacts and spoke to Pak­istan high com­mis­sion and the home of­fice. I’m glad they be­lieved in me, we’ve sent over 500 back.”

Ms Mann, who says help­ing peo­ple is her main hobby and goal, is hon­oured to re­ceived the BME.

She said: “I’m so proud to have re­ceived this hon­our and that my work for the last six years has been recog­nised. I was over the moon and very emo­tional to be recog­nised for my work in the com­mu­nity.”

United Sikhs are based within the Eal­ing com­mu­nity, at­tend­ing the Singh Sabha Gur­d­wara.

Ms Mann acted as a cru­cial con­duit be­tween Immigration En­force­ment (IE) and in­di­vid­u­als, ar­rang­ing pa­per­work and meet­ing of­fi­cials to progress cases. She spent her free time coun­selling in­di­vid­u­als, re­as­sur­ing their travel ar­range­ments.

De­scrib­ing what it feels like when some­one she’s helped is re­turned home, she said: “Money is not a mat­ter, when you help some and they give you their bless­ing that’s worth a mil­lion dol­lars.

“Peo­ple are here for 10 years and they don’t see their fam­ily. They’re miss­ing their fam­i­lies and they don’t know where to go or how to con­tact them. Af­ter­wards, they phone me back, they give me feed­back, give me a bless­ing and some­times I feel re­ally emo­tional and some­times proud.”

Har­bans Sidhu, who also re­ceived the BEM, has a sim­i­lar story.

The qual­i­fied me­di­a­tor said: “It started with an in­flux of im­mi­grants, some of them were des­per­ate peo­ple. I thought: ‘ This could be my son on the street’.

“Ini­tially we started giv­ing them cloth­ing and food but then we found some of them wanted to go home. So I started call­ing the Home Of­fice. It took a lot of meet­ings, leg-work, con­vinc­ing, in­flu­enc­ing but we’ve sent

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re­ally over 300 peo­ple home now.” Ms Sidhu, who trag­i­cally lost her hus­band and brought up their two chil­dren sin­gle-hand­edly, is hon­oured in recog­ni­tion of her hard work.

She said: “I didn’t ex­pect any­thing. I felt a bit shaken, that some­body is recog­nis­ing what I do.”

Hum­ble Ms Sidhu, who says volunteering is “part of who she is” was nom­i­nated by the Home Of­fice for the achieve­ment.

United Sikhs are based within the Eal­ing com­mu­nity, at­tend­ing the Singh Sabha Gur­d­wara.

Narpin­der­jit Mann and Har­bans Sidhu

n RECOG­NISED: Hilling­don Coun­cil deputy leader David Sim­monds

n AWARDS:

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