Dr Krish Kandiah and Prof Richard Fortey Awarded OBEs

Two Henley residents were awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in New Year Honours list 2023.

Dr Krish Kandiah was awarded his OBE for services to Refugee Integration.

Krish hosted the evening at the d:two in March for people to find out how they could help Ukrainians fleeing from the war.

In February he launched Sanctuary Foundation (gaining charity status in April), a rapid response initiative to inspire people, churches, community groups and businesses to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Working with the media, government, business communities, charities, churches and faith communities. Over 30,000 individuals, communities, businesses, schools, churches and universities have pledged support on the Sanctuary Foundation website for Ukrainian refugees coming into the UK, with many signing up as hosts.

Recent initiatives organised by Sanctuary Foundation include: publishing a colourful, bilingual ‘Welcome’ book for Ukrainian children in the UK, written in Ukrainian and English, with messages from celebrities from the UK and from Ukraine; working with UK businesses to provide items for Christmas hampers for Ukrainian mums in the UK; and delivering a petition to 10 Downing Street, signed by over 4,500 hosts for Ukrainian refugees who have together hosted over 10,903 Ukrainian refugees, asking the government to ensure that Ukrainian refugees are able to take the next steps towards integration in our communities.

On hearing the news Krish said, “I’m honoured to receive an OBE from His Majesty the King. I share this honour with all the amazing people who have welcomed refugees this year. Thank you to God, family, colleagues, volunteers, friends, hosts and donors who have made all of this possible.”

Dr Kandiah has worked with refugees since 1997 with a particular interest in child welfare. With his wife Miriam they are foster parents and their family has welcomed many children in the care system to their home. They are currently hosting someone who has fled the war in Ukraine.

Prof Richard Fortey, a long term palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London was also awarded an OBE for services to palaeontology and geology.

At a young age Richard discovered his first trilobite, sparking a passionate interest that later became a career. He became a palaeontologist after gaining his PhD from the University of Cambridge.  He is the author of popular science books on a range of subjects including geology, palaeontology, evolution and natural history. Since 2012, he has also been a television presenter on BBC Four presenting natural history programmes and has appeared in several of David Attenborough’s programmes, including the second episode of David Attenborough’s Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives.

Richard’s stand at Greener Henley’s Big Green Fair for last 2 years has been one of the highlights; talking and showing people all the various different types of natural fungi.

Richard said, “I was very surprised when I received the letter from the Cabinet Office because I have never run anything or been a volunteer which is normally what I thought people received an OBE for.  I’ve just been writing books or been behind the scenes researching ancient animals (trilobites) at the Natural History Museum.  I’ve been doing specialist research, appreciated by fellow specialists.  20 years or more ago I started writing books for a wider audience which included Dry Storeroom Number 1 which is funny behind the scenes book about the Museum and my best seller (still in print) Life: an unauthorised biography – 4 billion year history of life from the first cell to human beings.  I don’t think it was the Museum who nominated me; I think it was someone else who obviously knows me well. It’s completely mysterious and came of out of the blue. I’m hoping I will be invited to Windsor or Buckingham Palace to collect my award, I’ll have to get my suit cleaned specially.”