How a Brother & Sister ‘Saved Lives’ during Covid-19 Pandemic

For some communities, the Covid-19 pandemic was tougher. Here is how a brother and sister from Cambridge “saved lives”.

How a Brother & Sister 'Saved Lives' during Covid-19 Pandemic f

One woman said this effort likely "saved her life".

A brother and sister from Cambridge have been praised for saving lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, some communities struggled more than others.

For BAME communities, they were dying from Covid-19 at a disproportionate rate to those of white ethnicities.

By April 2020, the UK was over a month into its first national lockdown. The UK was also entering Ramadan.

Siblings Shahida Rahman and Kal Karim decided to do something.

They were concerned about the isolated families in Cambridgeshire struggling to provide for their families for the two meals per day that occur during the holy month.

As they were unable to travel during lockdown, many could not access the culturally appropriate food and halal meat they needed.

To address this, Shahida and Kal targeted the most vulnerable by creating a coalition.

Along with the Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum (CECF) and popular multi-cultural Mill Road food store Al-Amin owner Abdul Quayyum, Shahida and Kal established the Cambridge Muslim Covid-19 Response.

The siblings raised £5,600 for the cause in addition to the £18,000 they had already raised for Cambridge City Foodbank.

One woman said this effort likely “saved her life”.

She struggled with health issues and was awaiting an operation. As a result, she was forced to shield for most of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The collaboration sent her hot meals as well as essential food parcels that she was familiar with.

One person said: “We felt that we had been forgotten.”

Shahida said: “Since the pandemic, we have learned that ethnically diverse food is not always available at food banks that meet the dietary requirements of our local communities.

“Some from ethnic groups feel reluctant or ashamed to seek help from a foodbank – with many suffering in silence.”

According to the Women’s Budget Group, across the UK, 25% of BAME women were struggling to feed their children and more than half did not know where to go for help during the pandemic.

This is compared to 18% of the general population struggling to find help.

Shahida and Kal have since created a charity called the Karim Foundation.

The partnership has helped approximately 100 people, 61% per cent of which were asylum seekers and refugees.

Others included single parents, those who had no recourse to public funds and domestic abuse victims.

In September 2021, the Karim Foundation celebrates its first year and has helped over 450 people in gaining shop vouchers to assist with appropriate food, emergency fuel provision, blankets, heaters and over 180 food packs.

Shahida said: “We still search for those invisible communities who may lack the confidence to ask for help.

“They may need more diversity in their food items or necessities to help them retain their cultural identity.

“Foodbanks are open to all but lack the capacity to cater to minority communities with specific needs.

“We try to fill that gap with vouchers for food, utility top-ups and fuel, ensuring all benefit from the compassion and generosity of the wider community.

“We would like to thank all who have helped us grow and supported us in many ways. It has been an incredible year.

“We would not have been able to do this without them all.”

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

Image courtesy of Cambridgeshire Live