ICSS providing food and education in Ilford

27 April 2021

ICSS works with vulnerable children in East London, providing food parcels to the children and families they work with.

ICSS collects food through FareShare via Waitrose South Woodford and Tesco, which is used to support families that are struggling as a result of the pandemic. They also offer access to education, which is delivered online, to students in the area.

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, Trustee at ICSS, explained: “Prior to the pandemic, we’d been providing food parcels to the families of vulnerable children – refugees, domestic violence victims, and children from families that generally need assistance. We get referrals from refugee centres, and other organisations refer women to us that have suffered domestic violence and they come along with their children.

“When the pandemic started, we had to close down all of our operations. In conjunction with another charity Newham Project, we started providing meals to international students but the funds ran out fast – it’s amazing how quick it goes when you’re making food. So we applied for grants and were very successful, receiving funding to continue producing meals.

“We provide 600 meals per week, with most of those going to international students in the Newham area as well as some elderly and homeless. We have a lot of volunteers, some help with cooking and others deliver meals.”

With some of the grant money they received, ICSS also set up an online teaching platform to assist the children. They contacted a tutoring company and secured teachers at a subsidised rate to teach English and maths. They also have a team of volunteers that provide one-on-one tutoring.

Sharlin continues: “Some of the kids we just can’t help because they don’t have access to WiFi. We were able to assist with tablets which we handed out to families that didn’t have access to them, but even then some families don’t have internet access.

“Since we’ve been doing this online tutoring, attendance has gone up to 75% which is great. It’s taken up a lot of time but we’re lucky to have such a dedicated group of volunteers.

“Our intent is to grow further, even when the pandemic ends. It’s really nice seeing the children grow through the programme, there have been some really positive aspects to this all.”

ICSS has been operating 15 years and has linked with other local food groups to minimise the food that ends up being thrown away. Sharlin says: “Through this, we meet new people and have formed a community – you know them, they know you.

“It is hard work, there are only about four of us solidly working behind this – juggling work and family etc. But working from home means you can do something useful and I feel very humbled by the responses we’ve had. We know that we’re doing a good thing.

“We’re cooking two days of week – Tuesday and Saturday – and working with another organisation in particular producing meals for them. They’re doing a fantastic job, they’re a Scouts organisation but they aren’t meeting at the moment so they get the kids involved, helping to pack things up. Their queues are huge, they serve roughly 700 international students which are on their list.”

ICSS has also taken part in the recent FareShare trial with Uber, which supported charities collecting food from supermarkets with much needed transport: “We’re really pleased to have been able to use Uber, so a huge thanks to FareShare for the initiatives they come up with. Sometimes we can’t get people at short notice to collect and deliver food so with Uber, we can put it in a car and get it delivered. It’s absolutely fantastic and makes a difference to us.

“With the food we get through Waitrose, we make up bags and these are so well received. The refugee families we’re helping, when you give people that are actually hungry a bag of food or a hot meal, the appreciation they give is so encouraging to us.

“The food from Waitrose is always really high quality. The staff are very respectful and friendly. They will go out of their way for us, the food is always packed nicely which is really good for us as it helps when it comes to organising everything.”