During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, I had the privilege of speaking with Emdad Rahman about his voluntary work for many different charitable organisations in East London. Emdad is a passionate volunteer for several charities, and he’s been keeping very busy during the pandemic, providing support to those who need it most. Here is his story.
My name is Emdad Rahman. I am a charity volunteer and I also work as a Civil Servant. I’ve been a Civil Servant for twenty years, and I love my job because it gives me the flexibility to support lots of charitable initiatives. I’m not based in one place; I work with several schools and many different young people, and I’m pleased to be able to make a difference in their lives. I am now at the point in my career where young adults, whose families I had worked with, will approach me and tell me that even though they hated me 15-20 years ago because of the job I did, they are now grateful that I intervened and helped their family, even though it was hard for them to understand at the time.
Outside of work, I keep very busy. I’m a community volunteer, and I’m quite unique in the sense that I’m involved with lots of different charitable organisations. I believe that if you value someone else’s project, go out and support it rather than doing your own thing. If someone is already doing something good that you’re passionate about, help them.
I’m a Dementia Friends Champion; which involves delivering Dementia information sharing sessions on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society. In this role, I’ve trained more than 3,000 people and I also featured in a recent Alzheimer’s Society promotional video.
I’m also a crisis text counsellor. This entails me sitting on a computer portal and talking to people who are going through a tough time, experiencing difficult emotions, and sometimes even feeling suicidal. The counselling is by text only, which I think is a brilliant initiative. I’ve spoken to nearly 500 people, and thankfully every single conversation has led to a positive resolution. Obviously, we’ve received great training which helps us provide useful support to people, but the main thing is the human connection. This is what these people really need. Covid-19 has had a large impact on the number and types of messages we have been receiving. We’re seeing people’s depression and anxiety increase as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown.
I’m a team leader at 1/3 Soup Kitchen, which runs every Saturday in Tower Hamlets and Stratford. With many homeless people now in hostels and hotels, we’re providing deliveries to ensure people are still getting meals. We had been planning to launch a food bank (the Hedgecock Community Centre food bank) in July, but we decided to bring this forward because of Covid-19. We now have around 50-60 families receiving food packages and approximately 20-30 drivers delivering the food. Each driver does 3-4 food drops, and it’s been great to see the drivers building relationships with the families, while observing the social distancing guidelines, during these difficult times.
I also run a scheme called bookbike london that I launched in October 2019. This involves me collecting unwanted books, and delivering them on a bike to care homes, homeless charities, hostels, and hospital wards, and it’s brilliant – I love it. It combines my love for cycling and books. When the pandemic began, I began delivering food packages and PPE as well as books. This initiative has really grown, and I’m hoping that someone will take pity on me and donate me a nice bike to help me get around quicker!
It might sound like a lot, and perhaps you’re thinking that it would be hard to manage all of these things, but I’ve always liked being busy. I have three children, and I want to teach them certain values like understanding the importance of time and how much you can achieve if you use your time well.
One of the challenges that has been clear through this period is the fear and paranoia that people are feeling. I think that these challenges won’t go away when the lockdown ends or the restrictions are eased. Overall, the community response has been really good. In fact, some individuals have raised the bar for charitable organisations.
People are talking about things changing as a result of Covid-19. If one thing could change, I would want the homeless crisis to be taken seriously moving forward. I believe it’s important that the country’s decision makers consult people on the ground – people who have spent time building relationships with these individuals. They need to listen to community experts.
It’s been great to see hotels looking after homeless people, but what will happen when the lockdown is lifted? If hotels are receiving £50 per night for every homeless person they provide shelter to, what will happen to these individuals when the hotels can reopen and go back to charging £200 per night?
I strongly believe that one person can make a difference, and that’s why I do what do. When you put your passion out there, it’s infectious. If you’ve got good energy around you, people can sense that, and they will be drawn to you.
You can follow Emdad on twitter (@emdad07) and on LinkedIn