CHAN Parmar is a great believer in bringing people together “to promote peace, harmony and understanding”.

It is something he has always done in a gentle way since he first came to Bolton from India 50 years ago. And it is definitely something he has worked hard to bring about during his 12 years as Strategic Officer for Bolton Interfaith Council.

Chan was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but, because of the Mau Mau troubles of the 1960s there, his father sent him, his sister and other family members to live in India in his home village.

The youngster had an enjoyable but low-key life in this rural spot. He had a British passport and when, at the age of 18, it looked like immigration might be under future threat, his father sent him and his sister to England, to live with his uncle in Bolton.

After starting to study biology and science at Bolton College, young Chan felt he needed a job and so put his studies to one side to work, like his uncle, in the textile industry. He got a job at Nelson Tufting in Halliwell in the warehouse.

Everything was new to the youngster. “I didn’t even know how to make a cup of tea because I’d lived a very simple rural life,” he explained. Even the mid-morning brew was a mystery to him. “These two ladies, Elsie and Ethel, took me under their wing and made sure I had a cup of tea and something to eat and then some lunch each day. They were wonderful with me,” he recalled.

That kindness was the first of many he was to experience in his new home town. When the ladies asked him his name, he told them it was Chandrakant “but they said that was too long and they would call me Chan, which I’ve been ever since.”

After two years, Chan moved to get a better job with the Gas Board where he progressed through the ranks over the next 27 years to a supervisory role, in a team responsible for appliances in gas showrooms all over the region.

When the Gas Board was privatised, he got a job at Asda at Middlebrook which he loved and where he stayed for eight years before working briefly for RBS.

By then, he was married to Prabha and they had two daughters and now have two grand-daughters. Chan had already started volunteering for Age Concern and had begun to appreciate and enjoy the voluntary world and making a difference.

As a self-confessed “happy-go-lucky person”, Chan had made friends wherever he went. “I’ve always felt that people are basically good,” he stated, “and I’ve met a lot of good people and experienced a lot of goodwill in Bolton.”

When the Rev Michael Williams, then the Vicar of Bolton, decided to bring different faiths together at regular meetings, Chan – a Hindu - was a natural choice. He found those meetings very valuable so when it was suggested 12 years ago that he apply for the role in charge of the newly-created Bolton Interfaith Council, he successfully applied.

Since then, the work of the Council has expanded and grown to all kinds of events bringing together all faiths and creeds. Chan helps organise civic events, Black History events, supports other community partnerships and has been involved in many projects that help break down cultural barriers.

The Bolton Faith Trail introduces people – especially youngsters – to other religions and helps them understand different beliefs. Interfaith Young Ambassadors engage young girls of 11-plus in working together to respect and value other people.

The Interfaith Council organises open discussions, presentations, information-sharing and, above all, a coming together of like-minded people to help others. Chan has been at the centre of many initiatives that have raised money for, for example, people affected by the Nepal Disaster and by the Manchester Bombing.

His philosophy is simple – “If we can get people together, talking, listening and sharing views, we can do so much.” He believes that young people are key here and also that Bolton is a town of predominantly good people who show that they care.

“I’ve seen that so many times,” he added. “And, yes, we do all have more things in common than those that are different.”