Community lifelines: 'Sometimes I cry', says founder dishing up free meals
- Credit: Grey Hutton//National Geographic Society Covid-19 Emergency Fund
The founder of a community organisation helping to feed Hackney people during the pandemic says making a difference takes an emotional toll but knows vital services like hers must keep running as demand for them grows every day.
Connecting All Communities (CAC) founder Shukri Adan started cooking free meals out of her home at the beginning of the first lockdown last year, delivering them to people in need.
She told the Gazette: “I was doing it in my kitchen and I was doing it for free. There were a lot of people who asked for help and I didn’t have any funding.”
The founder first sought help from members of her community and then later the National Lottery Community Fund and Hackney Council, which led to the organisation securing its premises in Banister House in Clapton.
Not only has CAC been provided free meat and chicken for meals by Kingsway Halal Butchers in Ridley Road Market, it has also received help from the East London Business Alliance and a young Hackney Wick man from Rahims wholesale even paid for £200 worth of shopping after hearing about its work.
Shukri said: “There is a lot of good people in the community that are willing to help, whichever way they want to and can help the community - which is amazing.”
Shukri, a Somali refugee, set up CAC to tackle social isolation within the Somali and larger east African community in 2013, to help bridge language barriers and bring people from all walks of life together.
Initially, the organisation offered language classes, advice and support at Pembury Community Centre in Lower Clapton, making food for special cultural events and feeding the homeless at Christmas and during Ramadan.
But since the pandemic struck, the organisation has shifted its focus.
Shukri told the Gazette: “We still do things online from home, such as education, advice and translation – we still run all that.
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“But the main effort is going on food – collecting, delivering, organising and cooking food. Taking it to vulnerable people and people self-isolating and cooking what they like.
“It’s all about food – whether its food parcels or ready meals, we do both.”
Shukri and five other volunteers make meals three days a week and serve and deliver five days a week from 10am to 5pm.
But demand is increasing, Shukri said, “every single day”.
She explained there are two or three disadvantaged people joining the service daily and before it received funding, CAC had to have a waiting list due to high demand.
In addition, the founder says a lack of volunteers who own bikes or cars means she must deliver to people further away along with a whole host of other tasks.
Shukri explained: "So we had recently two wonderful women who had bikes and they had been delivering for us.
"But one of them, at Christmas-time, she travelled to her family in Europe and got stuck there. She’s there now and can't come here.
"And the other one fractured her leg.
"So now, I am the only person who is delivering with my car but it's not only delivering. I am collecting, helping organise, applying for funds and responding to emails."
The founder also described the “huge” emotional toll of seeing people she has helped pass away and many others isolated and lonely: “Sometimes it affects me and sometimes I worry about myself, sometimes I worry about them, sometimes I cry."
She continued: “It’s really hard.
“But I don’t want to give up because a lot of people say, ‘please, this is making a difference in my life'.”
Shukri welcomes donations and new volunteers, especially those with cars or bikes for deliveries.
Donate to CAC on its new website, which was created free of charge by journalist Abdelfatah Ali Shirwa, at www.cac-cic.org.
The Hackney Gazette has teamed up with photographer Grey Hutton to tell the stories of organisations and people helping their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Grey Hutton’s Community Lifelines project visually uncovers the vast and diverse networks of assistance, community foodbanks and services ensuring people in need in Hackney do not go hungry, without care or support.