New group providing mobile outreach in Sudbury
'We should feel like this could be our brother, this could be our mom, dad, it could be anybody'
What started as a volunteer project to celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad quickly "spiralled into something much bigger," said a Sudbury couple.
Ali Farooq and Evie Ali took their eight-year-old son to hand out sandwiches to people in need just over a month ago.
"We noticed the demand for it and decided to start doing it more frequently," Ali said.
Now, Ali and Farooq, along with friends, have incorporated a new outreach organization, called The Go-Give Project. They're aiming to provide people with basic necessities, while also helping with harm reduction.
'It could be anyone'
In the weeks since they began their outreach, volunteers with the group have provided support to more than 500 people, Ali says, through events where they give out food and warm clothing, as well as driving around the city to provide mobile outreach.
"It is very important to have it in the city, to have somebody to go to these people who cannot go to physical locations themselves," Farooq said.
The couple says they've noticed a significant increase in poverty, homelessness, and addictions issues in the city in recent years and that their initiative has been well received, both by those they're helping, and the community more broadly.
"A lot of the community in Sudbury has been affected by these problems personally, or by somebody they know. So Sudbury is very willing to help as much as they can to their fellow community members. And we're just a vessel to forward that help," Farooq said.
Jessica Small agrees. A close friend of Farooq and Ali, she quickly jumped on board to volunteer and coordinate donations.
"We should feel like this could be our brother, this could be our mom, dad, it could be anybody. It could be our children one day," Small said.
As well as handing out food and clothes, and connecting people with resources, the group is also putting a focus on harm reduction. The goal eventually is to provide a needle exchange program, but in the meantime volunteers are travelling with sharps bins to collect used drug injection supplies.
While there are various safe disposal sites in the city, Ali, a former addictions worker, says people aren't always able to make their way to those locations, particularly when they're under the influence of drugs.
She says people have had a very positive reaction when she and other volunteers have shown up with sharps bins.
"We were receiving overwhelming numbers at a time, people were giving us bottles full, telling us where they were dumping them. So that's when we really sort of started to realize that they don't want to be doing this any more than we want them to be doing this. They just don't have the resource. So if they can't get to it, why not just bring it to them," Ali said.