Coronavirus: Ishfaq hopes to change image of Muslim community

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Ishfaq Hussain (right) along with other volunteers delivering food parcels to vulnerable residents in Peterborough

Ishfaq runs a car dealership company 'More Cars' in the city. His business had to be closed to adhere with the social distancing measures, so he decided to use this time to help people in need instead and started with funds from his own business.

Three of his sons have cystic fibrosis and so he along with the family were in isolation the first weeks of the lockdown. Members of his family, including his two sisters work for the NHS. 

To give back to nurses and medical staff, who have helped him over the years with his sons, Ishfaq started his charitable work by delivering hot meals along with a local business to the city hospital. 

Speaking to Peterborough Matters, Ishfaq said: “Since my business is closed, I wanted to keep myself busy and thought 'what better thing to do than help people in need?' 

“I was told that the nurses at the hospital are overworked and have no time to eat a decent cooked meal. So, I along with Zi foundation and Tavan restaurant delivered hot food to the NHS staff at the hospital on the first Thursday of Clap for carer day. 

“People might have seen this on social media and contacted me for help, so I started delivering meals in co-ordination with local businesses and takeways to the homeless people at the Garden House. They have been placed in temporary accommodation in hotels but needed food and other essentials.

"Takeways and organisations including The Big Mouth, Tavan restaurant, Zi foundation, Children of Adam, Eagle Foods, Empower and Evolve charity, Muslim Council of Peterborough, local mosques and staff at More Cars among others have been very supportive over the last few weeks. We will be delivering food to them for at least the next 12 weeks, having completed three weeks already. 

“Even members of the public have been offering money and food donations. We have been providing hundreds of hot meals and food parcels to the elderly and struggling families across the city every single day. We have also been delivering food to foodbanks in the city.

“We have also delivered PPE to care homes and other medical staff, and hand creams to staff at the hospital. We've delivered over 6,000 face masks to nursing homes running low on PPE, and over 1000 masks delivered or handed out to vulnerable families. 

"We've also donated arts and crafts to Club 73- a club that supports hundreds of disabled people in the city.  

“We have been helping people in so many different areas of Peterborough. Even in Whittlesey. I also helped arrange for food essentials for people in St. Ives.

"So, we are helping anyone who needs help during these challenging times. I am glad I have got the opportunity to spread this positivity and offer help. 

“Obviously, I couldn’t do this without everyone chipping in- from local businesses to families to restaurants, community organisations and even the city MP. A massive thank you to all.

"I am not part of any charity or run any organsiation. I reached out to my contacts and we built this network and did this work in the last three weeks. The Coronaheroes page on Facebook have also been very helpful in signposting us to the vulnerable community and individuals who we are trying to help. 

“I have an overwhelming response from the communities in Peterborough offering help. People are actually waiting for their turn to contribute- that's how many people have joined me. I have got people sponsoring meals for at least the next four weeks. 

“We will also start extending support and food parcels along with meals to refugee families settled here in the city. “ 

Ishfaq was due to stand in election for the Dogsthorpe ward in May this year. He had tried previously as well a few years ago. But the aspiring candidate for the Conservative Party says some people have been critical of his work and called it a 'publicity stunt'. 

Ishfaq added: “Some people think this is a political act of publicity. It’s absolutely not. I am a Muslim first and charity is a big part of us - it's one of the five pillars of Islam. I would have done this irrespective.

"I am reaching out to people in so many different areas of the city- a lot of them I have never met before. Why would I reach out to people in remote areas of the city – they wouldn’t vote for me anyway? I think everybody needs to come together and work together in such difficult times.  

“I had actually got a car to be used for my canvassing- it has more space for leaflets and to travel around. It’s now being used to transport all the meals and food parcels. 

"If people want to know what my actual drive behind this is, then it’s the fact that I want to show the positive side of us Muslims. 

Ishfaq Hussain delivering PPE in Peterborough