Leicester charity boss who dealt with aftermath of 9/11 takes on advisory role during lockdown

Leicester charity boss who dealt with aftermath of 9/11 takes on advisory role during lockdown

Leicester Children’s Holidays chairman Parvez Bhatty is using his experience as an investment bank’s former global co-head of technology to keep his charity on track during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The coronavirus lockdown has prompted him to use his expertise developed after the 9/11 terror attacks to advise other charities and businesses on how to cope during the difficult time.

Parvez, who worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was meant to be in New York for a meeting on September 11, 2001 but sent some colleagues to attend instead.

They were meeting in the bank’s headquarters, right next to the Twin Towers, when the first plane hit the north tower at 8.45am. They survived but Parvez knew many colleagues who were in the towers who died in the blast. 

Over the next few months, Parvez and his co-workers arranged the transfer of the bank’s entire American operation over to London and made repairs to the tech remotely.

Parvez and his team of trustees updated his Leicester charity’s tech in place two years ago and he admits that without that move, the charity would have closed during this lockdown period.

He took over as chairman in January 2019.

He said: “Our charity has been running for 121 years and had been working with computer equipment from the 1980s.

“It was vital we upgraded our systems, including laptops and the latest digital telephony. With all this in place, our staff were able to switch quickly from their Highcross office to working from home.”

His role has extended to helping another charity and two other businesses based in Leicestershire.

He said: “I have been advising them on how to stop any panic or fear. I learned in my former role troubleshooting many difficult problems over the years that it is vital to develop a key skill.

“And that is that when the pressure kicks in, the calmer you must become. I am advising these friends and business associates to plan just for today. And then at 10pm on that day, plan what they are going to do tomorrow. At the weekend, plan what you want to do the next week. Filter out what is just noise and focus on what’s ‘real’.

“It really means having a plan. And part of that is to plan for the worse and realign your priorities. This nationwide pause has been an opportunity to get your house in order and work out what is important. Then, when the upturn comes, you will be ready.”

Leicester Children's Holidays offers holidays to disadvantaged children and, while working from home, the staff, volunteers and trustees are focusing on trips for the eight to 11-year-olds scheduled for this summer. It was set up in 1898 and has so far given 60,000 children a free holiday.


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