Zulfi Karim is well known in his home city of Bradford. He was voted one of the most 100 influential people in Bradford by Insider Magazine.
In March, he fell ill to Covid-19 (on the same day as Prime Minister Boris Johnson), and although he recovered, he described his battle with the virus as among the darkest days of his life.
A former events manager, he is programme director of NHS Well Bradford, President of Bradford Council for Mosques, and was recently made Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire and now has an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford but his career has much more humble beginnings.
“My first job was repairing bikes in Bradford, and my duties included sweeping the shop floor. I realised early on I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life, I wanted to be where my manager was. It took a long time but I got there. My message is to have dreams, to keep going and believe that you will get there.
Speaking of his honorary doctorate award Mr Kalim said:
“I’m delighted and humbled to receive this award. It has been a very difficult year, so it makes these celebrations even more special. My advice to graduates is to thank your parents for everything they have done to make you who you are today and to keep trying; it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, just don’t give up.”
His work with Well Bradford a partnership between Public Health England, Bradford Teaching Hospitals, Clinical Commissioning Group and Bradford Council involves improving health inequality in the district by creating access to green spaces and promoting cleaner air, as well creating opportunities for improved skills and job prospects for young people in deprived areas.
Zulfi is passionate about promoting the district as a cultural sector and is a founding director of UNESCO City of Film Bradford. In 2007, he led the successful UK bid to host the Bollywood Film Awards in Yorkshire, and he has also founded the World Curry Festival.
The grandfather-of-two, who lives in Saltaire with wife and landscape architect Saira, has been honoured by the University for his work on diversity and overcoming discrimination and health inequalities. The University praised his leadership in campaigning against social injustice and fostering a positive culture across the whole district amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zulfi said of the award: “It will act as a motivator in my efforts to advance the work taking place to create a fairer, healthier and stronger future for the people of Bradford, fighting discrimination and prejudice in all its forms. Covid-19 brings unprecedented challenges for all of us living in our great city yet now, more than ever, it’s vital we build a district that truly reflects our diversity, our creativity and our ambitions.”
Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford said: “Zulfi is an excellent role model for all our staff and students, and we are delighted to present him with this honour in recognition of his support to the University and his services to the community.
‘His leadership and passion on many local programmes and groups has had a positive impact on our communities. His contributions to community engagement and improving the health and wellbeing of our city are outstanding and inspiring.”