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Queen's Birthday Honours: MBE for Sandwell volunteer

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image copyrightHarmohinder Singh Bhatia
image captionMr Bhatia delivered three prayer services a day and conducted funerals over Zoom during lockdown

A community leader who supported hundreds of front-line NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic has been appointed an MBE.

Lay preacher Harmohinder Singh Bhatia, 75, also delivered virtual prayer services to thousands while shielding.

He has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to race relations in the West Midlands.

Having worked with groups for more than 50 years he said the award was not for him "but for the community."

The 2020 honours list was due to be published in June but was postponed in order to consider nominations for people playing crucial roles during the first months of the Covid-19 effort.

Although shielding himself during lockdown, he orchestrated a team of volunteers to deliver hot meals daily to NHS workers at three hospitals across Sandwell.

'Community togetherness'

Fresh fruit was also delivered to patients and sanitiser with a value of about £25,000 donated to hospitals.

"Nurses were going home after their shifts and they were not finding any hand sanitiser in the supermarkets," he said.

"So we found a donor, a wholesaler and importer and we were able to give one full lorry-load to the hospitals."

image copyrightHarmohinder Singh Bhatia
image captionSince emigrating to Britain in the 1960s Mr Bhatia has worked with numerous community and faith groups

Since emigrating to the UK from India in the 1960s, Mr Bhatia has worked tirelessly on community cohesion projects across Sandwell.

"We had the racist elections in Smethwick in the 60s, but we learned from them and since then the Black Country been working for community togetherness," he said.

Described as "inspirational" by friends, he has worked with numerous faith and community groups on a voluntary basis over the past 50 years and also founded Sandwell Multi-Faith Network.

"This award is for the community, because it's the community that has supported me for 50 years."

Another recipient honoured for her work during the pandemic includes NHS England's infection prevention and control lead Gaynor Evans.

The 59-year-old from Wolverhampton becomes an OBE for her "tireless" work during the pandemic.

She was due to retire from the NHS but "did not hesitate to return to support the national response", said the Cabinet Office.

Other honours recipients from the West Midlands include:

  • Carol Shanahan, 63 from Stone in Staffordshire, who is appointed an OBE for her work helping to feed families through the charity she founded, The Hubb Foundation, in Stoke-on-Trent
  • Oliver Chambers, 38 from Amblecote in the West Midlands becomes an MBE for his work with Birmingham Vernon Sea Cadets in Ladywood
  • Jane Davenport, 59 from Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire is made an MBE for services to young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Robert Thomas, 60 from Hereford, Herefordshire, who helped introduced a street pastor's scheme, becomes an MBE for services to the community during Covid-19

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