Stepney entrepreneur collects 30 tonnes of food for Syria after Facebook appeal
PUBLISHED: 12:29 19 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:29 19 August 2013
An entrepreneur collected 30 tonnes of food in a week after launching a Facebook appeal to help tackle Syria's humanitarian crisis.
Mohammed Ali, of Stepney, was inspired to act after an Imam at the East London Mosque gave a sermon on the tragic scenes at Middle Eastern refugee camps.
The 37-year-old, who ran the London Marathon this year, decided to take matters into his own hands by launching social network appeals for people to come forward with food donations.
Soon, the plea went viral and there was a “snowball effect” in the number of people wanting to get involved.
“I thought ‘what am I doing praying in a beautiful mosque under air conditioning?’” said Mohammed. “I thought ‘OK, I will do something about it’.
“I wrote a message and put it on Facebook. All I wanted was 1,000 kilos, one tonne of food. Within 24 hours I got 10,000 kilos, and within a week I got 30 tonnes.
“People were texting me every 30 seconds asking ‘how can we donate?’ It was manic.”
Mohammed, who runs a fizzy drinks business, started using his mum’s living room in Stepney to store the goods, recruiting a team of 100 volunteers to help coordinate the operation.
“When I told my mum she nearly fell of her chair!” he said. “Her living room is totally packed up to the ceiling.”
Space soon ran out, and Mohammed hired a shipping container to store the food, having also raised £60,000 in cash donations for the appeal.
In September he will follow the container to Syria to help distribute his collection.
“I just want to make sure this food gets to the right people who need it, so I want to have a hands on approach to the end,” he explained.
“I was really shocked at this time of austerity that people are still very benevolent and very charitable. It was such an amazing feeling.”