About 10 years ago, I had a chance meeting with a homeless person in Nottingham, England, where I live. This man was an asylum seeker with no access to public funding and was therefore rendered homeless. It really shook me up and I was deeply ashamed as a British citizen and a Muslim that there are people in our community who need our support and are not getting help.
So I formed a charity, Himmah, that was initially to help asylum seekers and people of color who suffer from poverty, to help empower them through education and employment.
But since then, with welfare reforms in the U.K. and increases in the cost of living, 80 to 90 percent of our beneficiaries are people in our local communities.
In May 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, we had gone from providing 50 food parcels a week to more than 200 parcels a week, close to 1,000 parcels a month and more than 1,500 hot meals a month to our community, and at the same time we were in lockdown and our food bank model had broken. People were unable to drop off food at donation locations because of lockdown and supermarkets were limiting the amount of items people could buy because of stockpiling. Simultaneously our volunteer base had broken down because of lockdown and fears about the virus. It was an amazingly tough time.
Then, out of nowhere, I received an email in May purporting to be from the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle‘s office, stating that she had found our organization online, she was amazed by us and…