If you ever needed proof that even your smallest donation can make a difference, ask the team at St Peters Community Wellbeing Project in Bethnal Green how the price of your morning coffee would be enough to mean the women they work with get vital help.
The centre helps elderly Bangladeshi women in East London, many having been referred by their GPs, at their drop-in club where they exercise, work in the garden, cook and eat together. But the cost of living crisis has pushed charges up – resulting in the number of women coming through the door falling by half for the want of a few pounds.
Charity manager Khondoker Kamal-Uddin said he tried to keep the cost increase to a minimum – so the exercise class that was £1 is now £1.50, while the lunch that cost £1 now costs the women £2.
“Everything is more expensive – the meat, the chicken, dhal, rice – everything,” he said. “The fitness instructor already reduced her rates for us but she comes from Poplar and has to pay for petrol for travel.”
Another cost for many of the women is bus fare and for some that is another few pounds they can’t spare, so inevitably some have stopped coming.
Not that the staff give up on them. Khondoker said: “Our outreach worker calls people at home. I have a list of everyone and if they are not in we call to find out what is going on. We start calling at 9am and at 10am some are still in bed with no reason to get up and get out.”
This project in East London is one of many unsung projects doing vital work to help vulnerable people cope better with the cost of living crisis and it will be eligible for funding in our joint campaign with sister title, the Evening Standard, in partnership with Comic Relief.
Khondoker said many women come for the food, adding: “For some it is the only meal they have all day. They might have bread or tea or have cooked something to last three or four days but nothing fresh.
“With the recent price rises in gas and electricity, the questions always on their minds are, ‘How are we going to pay? How are we going to survive the winter? How much can we ask our son or daughter to help? There is a shame in asking for money.”
One of the attendees, 53-year-old Bina from Hackney, asks her daughter to help pay her busfare.
She said: “I’ve been coming here for 15 years so I’m used to this place and people. It’s like a second home, and so even though it is a struggle to pay for it, it is important for my wellbeing.”
The single mother does not like asking her daughter for money but said they can both see its value. “I have arthritis and I struggle with my mental health and my daughter can see I get worse if I just stay at home. I want to still come and I know that if the price could be subsidised a little more so we pay a little less, many more people would come as well.”
What is happening?
We have partnered with Comic Relief to launch On the Breadline, our cost of living Christmas appeal.
Where will the money go?
To organisations in London and across the UK working to help people on the breadline cope with the cost of living crisis.
How can you help?
To help children and communities most impacted by the cost of living crisis, donate here.