Pride of Reading: Generous businessman has helped raise thousands for charities
Kiren Sharma MBE has been nominated for a Pride of Reading Award for his charity fundraising
Kiren Sharma (third from right), who has been nominated for a Pride of Reading Award presenting a cheque for £44,000 to Sue Ryder staff, including Ben Bar-Lev (fourth left)
A kind-hearted Reading businessman who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to good causes in and around the town could scoop this year’s Chris Tarrant Award.
Kiren Sharma MBE, founder of Reading-based Gravity Personnel, could add the coveted Pride of Reading accolade to his ever-growing trophy cabinet after being nominated by Sue Ryder’s Ben Bar-Lev.
Mr Bar-Lev, 28, who joined Sue Ryder 18 months ago to develop fundraising corporate partnerships for the charity, said: “Kiren Sharma has devoted his life to supporting numerous charities and individuals, and is a true pioneer in the community.
“He recently helped raise £44,000 for Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent and Nettlebed Hospices. I cannot think of a more deserving individual to receive this prestigious award.”
After being approached by the charity worker to raise money for a new minibus for patients at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice, Mr Sharma, 63, was a man on a mission.
On March 4, he organised a huge charity ball at Hilton Reading Hotel, attended by more than 350 people, who dug so deep into their pockets that enough money was raised to buy not one, but two minibuses for the hospice.
“It is unbelievable how generous the people of Reading are”
Mr Sharma, who lives in Pangbourne, said: “The support we received for the ball was amazing.
“People were incredibly generous in buying tickets, bidding at the auction and donating auction prizes.
“We also had lots of generous donations from those who couldn’t make it on the night.
“It is absolutely unbelievable how generous the people of Reading are.
“And when I see the minibuses travelling around Reading, the feeling I get is like winning the lottery.”
The businessman moved to Reading in 1971 from Kenya, and has lived in the town ever since, setting up Gravity Personnel in 1983.
It is almost impossible to list the number of good causes he had helped during his 45 years in the town or, indeed, to tally up the exact amount of money he has raised or donated, but he estimates the figure runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He is a passionate supporter of ABF The Soldier’s Charity, The Gurkha Welfare Trust, schools such as The Avenue in Tilehurst, and the Thames Valley Air Ambulance as well as a host of other charities including Heartbeat House in Southampton.
In May 2015, Mr Sharma and his wife Cathy organised a ball that raised £30,000 to help Gurkhasaffected by the earthquakes in Nepal.
‘A great honour’
He also helps individuals or organisations who need help financially or otherwise.
Examples include helping a man who was losing his vision by paying for sight-saving injections into his eyes; paying for a young lad to travel to the USA for an operation on his legs; and kitting out the Royal Berkshire Hospital’s isolation unit with toys for young patients undergoing chemotherapy.
When told of his Pride of Reading nomination, the proud entrepreneur said: “It is a great honour to be nominated, and for people to recognise what was achieved by a whole lot of people. I really appreciate Ben putting us forward.”
And on what he finds most rewarding about his charity work, he said: “You can see that what you’re doing is of benefit to others, and that you are helping to make their lives a bit easier.
‘Reading gave me great opportunities, it is only right I give something back’
“Reading has been so good to me since I arrived here from Nairobi in 1971.
“Reading gave me great opportunities that helped me set up my business, and now that I can afford to take time off work and have a bit of spare money, it is only right that I should give something back.
“And the generosity of the people of Reading makes it feel as if the whole population is helping.”
Keen to add to his trophy cabinet, Mr Sharma is hoping to top last year when he was awarded anMBE for services to business and charity, and became the first recipient of the Lord Montgomery Award from ABF The Soldier’s Charity for his ‘exceptional work with the army’.
He was the first ever winner of the Pride of Reading Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2004.
And in October he is set to be recognised at the British Community Honours Awards – a non-profit organisation supporting the welfare and inclusion of minority communities in mainstream British Society.
The Chris Tarrant Pride of Reading Award is sponsored by The Oracle.
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