By Sairah Masud
THE founders of a volunteering collective from Birmingham have spoken of their aim to break down barriers and address stereotypes in the city by offering practical help and emergency food to residents and also tackling social issues.
Imran Hameed and Naveed Sadiq founded The Bearded Broz, which comprises 70 members who help those in need around the West Midlands. The group originally formed following the tragedy of the Grenfell Towers fire in London, where they helped with food and aid supply for survivors, but their profile was significantly raised recently after they gained national media coverage for their work in helping clear the streets of Birmingham during a seven-week, city-wide bin strike.
Hameed, a self-employed IT consultant, spoke of the group’s efforts during the bin strike. “We struggled through it to make the streets clean again, then we had people calling us
names. It was a real kick in the teeth, but we got back up and moved on to new exciting projects,” he said.
Sadiq, a car garage owner, said: “(The group formed) when a bunch of like-minded lads came together to help people in need after we saw that not enough was being done for the community. All the guys helping at the time had beards and I thought that ‘Bearded Broz’ would be a good name.”
Hameed described the overwhelming response the group has had from different communities and religions.
“We are working closely with churches, mosques and synagogues – they understand our idea that regardless of religion we can work together to make good for our communities. This breaks down barriers, teaches us tolerance for each other and above all addresses stereotypes that Muslims are bad people”.
The group’s motto is “enjoining good and forbidding evil”. Hameed said he was inspired by his late mother, who volunteered to help others in the community.
“Each time someone thanks me or makes a prayer, she gets rewarded equally. That brings warmth to my heart – that after her death, I can still give her something back”.
The group have helped the community with daily tasks from changing lightbulbs and mowing lawns to washing cars and offering food, having sensed that efforts by religious institutions in tackling local issues were inadequate.
“A lot of older generations have this idea that poverty only exists in third-world countries. We’re not telling them to stop helping people in those places, but we are saying, look also at your very-near communities,” Hameed said.
In a recent collaboration with the West Midlands police and local charities, the group successfully helped to deal with issues of noise pollution and disturbing local residents who endured loud music being played in cars, especially during Eid celebrations.
“We have won over people by being able to show and not just preach about the values of Islam. We wish that when a person with a beard meets anyone; people are not afraid of him, that they feel secure around him,” Sadiq said.
The pair now hope that they can attract the younger generation to expand their network to other cities across the country.
“We want to spread our work to other major cities and especially get the youth involved so they don’t fall into a life of crime. This whole project is based around young people and we use social media to spread the love” Hameed said.
“Right now, we have a viral video going around where we ask people – young and old and of every colour – to record a video of something they have done good this week to help their family or community” Sadiq added.
The duo want to extend their community efforts by dealing with issues
such as drugs and prostitution too.