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'Ramadan Runner' Nazim Ali honoured by University of Bradford


Dedicated philanthropist Nazim Ali doesn’t like “a lot of fuss.”

But having raised around £750,000 for various charities over the last decade, funded the building of more than 250 homes in places like Pakistan and Uganda, and spent all his spare time giving gifts to poorly children and feeding the hungry, he deserves a little attention. 

Yesterday (Wednesday, July 19th), Nazim stepped onto the stage at the University of Bradford, an institution that has had a huge impact on his life, to accept an Outstanding Contribution Award, in recognition of his significant dedication to charity, fundraising and humanitarian work in Bradford and internationally. 

Speaking ahead of yesterday’s ceremony, Nazim, 42, said: “I am surprised and humbled by this honour from my home city. I live round the corner from the university, I did my undergraduate degree here, the first in my family to go to university. It means an enormous amount to me.”

The list of Nazim’s achievements is simply astonishing. 

This year, he completed his 10th annual Ramadan 10K Run, raising nearly £60,000 to build 36 new homes for families in Uganda. Finishing in 59 minutes, the Lincoln race was one of his best performances in years, completed while fasting for Ramadan. 

Finishing 10k Ramadan Run in Lincoln

Nazim will soon be heading to Uganda to see how those new homes are coming along, a trip paid for with his own money, using annual leave from his day job as a careers adviser for Bradford schools. It will be just the latest in over a dozen self-funded humanitarian trips around the world over the last 10 years. 

As founder and co-ordinator of the Creating Smiles Gifts Initiatives, Nazim regularly arranges for thousands of pounds worth of gifts to be donated for poorly children at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Airedale Hospital, through sponsors, Saveco Cash & Carry.  And every Thursday evening without fail, he dishes out warm meals to the homeless at the Bradford Curry Circle Food Project. 

How he fits it all in is mind-boggling.

“I’m still single, that’s how!” he jokes. 

Growing up in poverty and suffering from TB as a five-year-old, has propelled him into devoting his life to helping others. 

Nazim, who lives at home in Manningham, Bradford, with his mum, younger brother and older sister, said: “I don’t remember much about being sick, just having all these tubes coming out of me and the nurses giving me teddies. 

Delivering gifts to Airedale hospital

“It could have been so different for me but God gave me full recovery to be able to run 10k Ramadan runs and marathons. We did have hard times at home and that’s why I do the Curry Circle.

“Helping others has helped me become a better person.”

Nazim lives a “simple life” so he can use his money for others, something he did while studying for his BSc (Hons) in History and Politics at the University of Bradford. 

He said: "We never had much money. As a student, I used to work 15 hours a week plus overtime at Jackson’s, the former supermarket opposite campus. I’d get about £350 to £400 a month and I’d give two thirds of it to my mum. The rest would pay for my lunches. 

“We couldn’t afford a computer but I have fond memories of working in the library in the evenings and early mornings on the weekends. 

“I never imagined I would go to university and travel around the world, but I will never forget my roots. If I hadn’t gone through what I had in life, I wouldn’t have the mentality and approach I have.”

'That flame inside me'

It was during his final year at Bradford, in 2002, that he completed his first London marathon, something he had aspired to do since childhood.

Nazim said: "Every April, as a kid, without fail, I would get up to watch the London Marathon. I was mesmerised by all those amazing runners, some of them in wheelchairs, and just think, 'Wow.' I’d always been inspired to do it."

He trained in just two months for that first foray, raising £560 for the charity Whizz-Kidz, which provides mobility equipment to children with disabilities. Crossing the finishing line, Nazim knew he would never look back. 

He said: "I have that flame inside me that wants to make a difference, but I always say, ‘You’re only as good as your last performance.’ I have to keep it up. I always want to do more and to try and improve myself."

Best feeling

For Nazim, who also has a Master’s in Management from the University of York, it’s seeing the impact of his good work that means the most. 

In March, he visited Pakistan, where families whose homes were destroyed by the devastating floods have moved into 35 new homes, built with money Nazim has raised. 

He said: "They showed me their former homes, which had been totally destroyed. Some of them had been living in tents. When you see it with your own eyes, you know why you went through the struggle to raise the money.

"Kids were showering me with petals, elders were praying for me because they were so grateful. I was humbled. Nothing comes close to making another human happy, that is the best feeling.

"That’s what keeps me doing what I do. It just shows what one individual can do."

Buckingham Palace garden party

Nazim has received a number of awards, including the prestigious British Citizen Award, presented at the Palace of Westminster. In 2022, he was invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party in recognition of his two decades of community and charity work (pictured above). 

He has previously been a Lay Member on the North and West Yorkshire Advisory Committee and in 2001, aged 21, he was the youngest Chair of Girlington Community Centre. Nazim has also served on several other community and regeneration boards.