Photos by Paul McCambridge, words by Maureen McCoy
Many of us will have set ourselves a personal challenge at one time or another and this year has proven to be particularly apt with gyms, pools and sports clubs closed and a lot of folks either out of work or working from home, solo and outdoor challenges have soared. For many it’s a personal thing, health and wellbeing, a better lifestyle choice but sometimes we find a cause that we feel is so much greater than ourselves and incites us to use our talents to raise others awareness.
Dennis Bree, freestyle swimmer and brother of Olympic Breast-stroker Andrew heard of the plight of undernourished children in Belfast and decided he would help by raising funds for Life Hub NI, Belfast’s own food bank charity.
Dennis’ challenge; swim a mile a day in the sea for the entire month of November.
His aim; to raise £10,000
“I listened to Dr Julie-Ann Maney on local radio talking about the infants and children she treats in Belfast. Children who are so undernourished and hungry that they will tuck toast into their nappy in case they don’t get anything else to eat again that day.
This is 2020, this is so heart breaking and we have to do something to help.”
Dennis was so moved by hearing Dr Julie-Ann Maney speak that he searched out the Belfast charity Life Hub NI and resolved to do what he could to support them.
Life Hub NI was set up in 2017 by Edmund Aruofor to provide fresh food parcels to support families and people in need in the Belfast area.
With an energy and enthusiasm that belies his 60 years, Edmund told me how he starts his day at 4.30am, driving to supermarkets and independent stores who donate foodstuffs.
With a cheeky grin he says;
“I’m 60 and I don’t feel it! I believe if you have a passion and a vision you don’t have time to get old!”
Working long hours every week and with the charity not closing for Christmas or Easter when would he find time to age?
“I believe everyone who needs help should be given help”.
Edmund has seen a huge increase in the amount of people needing this help since the pandemic with an average of 19 additional families every week earlier in the year, this week alone saw a staggering 30 new families reach out for aid.
It’s a far cry from his career as a printer in London and subsequently a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language when he settled in Belfast 5 years ago. Before that Edmund hadn’t been involved in food banks but his wife had. When he saw the need amongst his pupils’ in Belfast he knew what he had to do, and Life Hub NI was born.
Edmund was aware of the amount of food that is wasted and believed he could get that food for free. He was right and M&S Forestside and Lisburn Road branches have supported Life Hub NI from the outset, he is now hoping wholesalers will come on board and be able to add to the produce it is his mission to collect and distribute.
As Christmas grows ever closer, more people are treading a fine line, we often hear of the plight of those having to choose between “heating or eating”, Edmund and his volunteers are doing an amazing job to try to alleviate at least part of the equation.
With the generosity of Slims Healthy Kitchen, Life Hub NI have secured Christmas dinners for 250 adults and 110 children.
Funds raised by Dennis and others will help keep the vehicles on the road to gather and distribute supplies and aid in the running costs of storage and the Life Hub NI distribution centre in Townsend Enterprise Park.
To date (30thNovember 2020) Denis has smashed his £10k target and raised £10,480
Other ways to help;
With covid restrictions, Life Hub Ni have set up a bubble to which currently no more volunteers can be added but Edmund is calling out for businesses and wholesalers who may be able to help.