The Giver: Prof. Peter Virdee, a property magnate and chairman of the Virdee Foundation, which strives to help vulnerable women and children.
Seeing my parents giving money, especially as we came from a very humble background as they had only been allowed to bring £3 with them from India, was inspirational. Growing up I couldn’t understand this — I thought we were suffering at the time, but they were still giving money out to people.
One day I challenged my parents on this, asking: ‘Why are you giving money away when I want a new pair of shoes?’ And my father said: ‘Look, you have a roof over your head, you have all your faculties, and you already have a couple of pairs of trainers!’
That had an impact, as did my religion. The Sikh religion clearly states we should give at least 10 per cent of our wealth to charitable causes.
Property is my core business. I’m involved in several other businesses such as renewable energy, spread betting, insurance brokerage, pharmaceuticals and the care industry. All these have something to do with real estate and we now manage over £5 billion worth of assets. This has allowed me to set up my philanthropic ventures and sequentially I have been invited to sit on the philanthropy advisory board of Coutts. I spend about 30 per cent of my time on charity and community work, often mentoring children and young adults.
I look at the DNA of the charities I give to — what I don’t like to do is reinvent the wheel. The Virdee Foundation looks at the direct impact the charities have on individuals: there’s a test that we do and then I take that to the board.
What drew me to Kids for Kids is the fact they’ve adopted 78 villages and had an impact on over 364,000 people in such a remote place. The work that Patricia has done to date is phenomenal and very touching. I was invited to the Ambassador’s Ball, which is where I met her, but prior to that — and Patricia doesn’t know this — Kids for Kids was on my radar, so when I got the invitation I said I’m definitely going to get involved.
You’ve got to have political willpower in any country — hand in hand with the charity, you need to make sure you’ve got political clout and try and get that directly or indirectly into the region. I’m a very firm believer in lobbying governments to actually make a difference in regions such as Darfur. It’s a shame governments sometimes turn a blind eye. If we don’t keep bringing it to their attention, these issues will drift away to the back of their minds.
Kids for Kids is something we will add value to. I will definitely be taking my expertise and my black book and seeing how I can help in that region, because you have to have a two-pronged approach on this — you can’t just go down the charity route, you have to go down the political route as well.
A step up
Philanthropy is part of a journey. This is a conduit between now and the good times — you can’t have people who rely on charity all their lives, you have to make these people self-sufficient, they have to generate their own income and a better life for themselves.
A good charity should always make sure it allows the people it’s supporting to better themselves by doing and getting into that position if they can.