The next blog in the series looks at how Hamara Healthy Living Centre (Hamara) , which is servicing the ward of Middleton Park, has been working with Community Care Volunteer and third party organisations to carry out vital services within the local community.
Before the pandemic, a major part of Hamara’s work centred around raising aspirations, building resilience and generally helping people of all ages. The current pandemic has highlighted how important Hamara’s work is - acting as a hub that promotes health and well-being to individuals.
Operations Director, Shanaz Gul, describes how the centre’s services have had to adapt during COVID-19.
“We have changed our services from face-to-face to online. We have been doing a lot of well-being calls. Leeds City Council have done a fantastic job at responding to COVID-19 and the crisis.
“We have also been supporting our volunteers with befriending services. We have supported with shopping, prescriptions and tailored the service to individuals, considering social distancing as well as we can.”
Picture of Hamara Operations Director - Shanaz Gul
Hamara used to carry out a wide range of activities that served the community, which included a community cafe, arts and crafts club, Saturday school, cricket club, Baithak gatherings, English classes, tai chi and much more. When lockdown commenced, all these activities came to an abrupt halt.
Hamara shifted its focus to provide a streamlined yet vital service to the community, ensuring that vulnerable people still had access to food and support.
“We have really tried to tailor the service, so you have your everyday essentials, as well as snacks and little treats as well.
“Our cultural food parcels consist of spices, vegetables relevant to different cultures and different ethnicities. We have consulted with lots of different people to find out what it is exactly that they would like to see in their food parcels.
“We catered for Middle Eastern, Eastern European, East African communities and just consulted with as many community leaders as we could to make sure that what we provide in our parcels is essential and authentic to each cuisine.”
Picture of Hamara volunteer - Faisal
Hamara receives food from other local organisations such as Food Revival, Fair Share Yorkshire and The Real Junk Food Project. Once the food arrives at Hamara, the job of packing the food into parcels is done by volunteers. Shanaz said: “The volunteer support has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s been very very inspiring and heart-warming.”
Billy, who is 12 years old, chose to volunteer at Hamara because he enjoys helping his community. He said: “ I am glad that I am helping out my community at such difficult times.
“When I arrive [at Hamara], we usually tidy up the food and empty the bags of food, and then we put it in the designated areas.
“Dal [the Community and Youth Project Lead at the Hamara Centre] keeps a list of food parcels that need to be collected and we fill up big crates of food based on what the person has asked for. Then the delivery men or women come to collect the food parcels and deliver them out to those who are self-isolating.”
Picture of Hamara volunteer - Billy Hassan
Billy, was too young to sign up for the Community Care Volunteering programme, which saw over 8,000 registrations from the city’s residents, but nonetheless his efforts have been monumental and Shanaz says the support from volunteers like Billy has been overwhelming.
Once volunteers like Billy make up the parcels, they are ready to be picked up and delivered within the local area by Community Care Volunteers like Garnel Singh Gataura, who signed up to volunteer when his work as a school teacher became limited during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Garnel has been spending most of his time delivering food parcels and medical prescriptions in the Middleton Park area.
“I think Hamara is absolutely brilliant at what it does because there’s fresh food in the parcels and that must be a real treat for some people.
“My little boy has been coming with me recently. I wanted him to see that these are the kinds of things we should be doing, just good values. He even enjoys it and looks forward to doing it
“I think as a society, we are getting more detached from our community and neighbours and this just shows how much kindness is out there and how much people are willing to help .”
Picture of Hamara Community Care Volunteer - Garnel Singh Gataura
The sense of neighbourliness has played a big part in helping to make sure that everyone has access to support. Volunteers consistently mention how food parcels are important, and how preventing feelings of isolation and the impact this can have on your mental health, is also crucial.
Shanaz describes this sense of connectedness when speaking about Hamara, “It’s got a very family, homely feel to it. I’ve made a lot of friends - colleagues have turned into friends and volunteers have become part of the family as well. It’s been an absolutely amazing response.”
Picture of Hamara Community Care Volunteer - Tahibah
The Community Care Volunteering Programme is not currently accepting applications from new volunteers but there are still lots of other volunteering opportunities available in Leeds. To find out more, please visit https://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/i-want-to-volunteer/
Shanaz would like to thank the following organsations for their help and support :
Fair share, Hunslet involve, Slung low, Food revival, Real junk food project, Leeds community foundation, Martin Lewis, B and M bargains, Leeds baby bank, The White Rose Academy, Voluntary action Leeds, Leeds City Council.