Single mum from Warrington is helping Comic Relief’s 2023 campaign
4 weeks ago
A single mum from Warrington is spearheading the Comic Relief campaign and helping to highlight its appeal for donations for 2023.
Shireen Hussain is a volunteer and subscriber to food hub, The Bread and Butter Thing, which aims to prevent food waste and help struggling families get healthy meals on the table.
And hers is one of the faces being introduced this year by the Red Nose Day charity on its website, and campaign and social media ads, to show how it helps communities across Britain and the rest of the world through the work it supports.
The 35-year-old mum says: “It does feel very strange! I am just me, Shireen.
“I never in a million years expected to see my face anywhere, and it’s very exciting – but strange at the same time.
“I just hope the camera caught my good side,” she laughs, before adding: “I am honoured to be taking part in this year’s Comic Relief campaign, and I am proud to be making a difference along with all the others involved.”
Shireen is a full-time carer for her two children Khov, 18, and daughter ‘Little Miss’ who’s nine.
She is unable to work because she has to devote most of her time to looking after them. Both children are autistic and have varying co-morbid conditions including ADHD, learning difficulties, Tourette’s syndrome, and sensory processing difficulties. Son Khov also has numerous other health conditions.
It means life is far from easy for Shireen but it doesn’t stop her from wanting to play her part in the community where she lives.
“I learnt about TBBT by chance when I walked past a school and noticed a van driving into the car park that said “The Bread and Butter Thing” on the side. Being the nosey person I am, I gave the name a Google, learned what it was, and signed up online,” she says.
The Bread and Butter Thing, which now has five hubs in Warrington, is a food club providing people (mainly families with children) with affordable food. Every week, food is delivered in a van containing everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to store cupboard essentials, and packaged into bags by volunteers.
The food is heavily discounted, and £7.50 buys individuals and families three large bags of products worth around £35.
TBBT has received £500,000 from Comic Relief and its partner Sainsbury’s, which means they can expand to other parts of the UK and offer additional services to cover debt, energy, income maximisation, and digital exclusion.
Shireen says: “I started using it around summer last year, mainly so I was helping to helping prevent food waste. Although we could improve, we are eco-conscious in our home and we like to do our bit as much as possible.
“When I found out the food we would be getting would otherwise have been thrown away it really made it that much more special.”
But she adds: “Obviously since then, food prices – along with everything else – have sky-rocketed, so it’s also helpful financially. In my house there are three of us: my daughter only eats certain foods due to sensory processing difficulties and being autistic, and I am on a medical diet. (My son can thankfully eat anything).
“If I had to buy two or three separate lots of foods at full price, in this financial crisis it would be extortionate. Without The Bread and Butter Thing I’d have to either skip meals or be down to tins of soup or something, just to make sure the kids were fed. TBBT means that my shopping bill is more manageable on the weeks we are on the list.”
But Shireen doesn’t just take advantage of the food: “When I went to collect my first set of bags, I saw someone who works at the school who also volunteers at TBBT – and so I started volunteering at Dallam Primary too.
“I love that I am part of feeding the community, albeit I am only a tiny part of it; it’s nice to help. I also love the atmosphere. Every volunteer in our hub is lovely, we always have lots of laughs and share any nice things that have happened during our week, as well as any worries.
“At the minute my priority is my children and supporting them which means I can’t work, but by volunteering I at least feel that I am giving something back and I feel valued.”
Shireen’s efforts were highlighted through her TikTok page (Sugar_Spice_Autism) for which she makes videos helping to support parents of autistic children and autistic people themselves. She made a TikTok video about TBBT which went viral, and she was asked by TBBT if she’d record a podcast with them.
“From there I got involved with Comic Relief and helping more people by being part of the campaign.
“At the minute every single person in this country has been, or is being, affected by price increases across the board. So many are struggling to feed themselves and their children, to heat their homes, to pay their bills. It’s heart breaking.”
But she says: “Comic Relief is doing its utmost to make sure people are getting help. Its funding to TBBT has allowed it to open new hubs, which in turn means more people can get access to more affordable food.
“So I encourage anyone who can to support Comic Relief and make a huge difference to lots of people.”
Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day is on Friday, March 17