Volunteer who cooked 200 meals at a time for elderly during first lockdown is made an MBE

A volunteer who single-handedly cooked around 200 meals a day for the elderly, has been recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list.

Syeda Islam, from Battersea, has been made an MBE for ‘dedication to her community’ for more than 15 years of charitable volunteer work.

Her work includes fundraising, befriending the elderly, working with disadvantaged youth and, more recently, working on the Battersea Covid support fund.

Syeda said: “I was completely overwhelmed and humbled by this unexpected recognition by her Majesty.

“The news has made my mother so happy. I haven’t been able to see her because of everything that is going on, and this has really cheered her up.

“I do not seek praise and feel it is important to take action when circumstances demand ordinary people like myself to help the vulnerable.”

As Covid-19 struck and lockdown began, Syeda identified that the vulnerable elderly in sheltered housing schemes were suddenly cut off from family and carers who would usually help them get their shopping and prepare their meals.

Using just her domestic kitchen, Syeda began cooking and delivering hot meals to five of the major local sheltered housing schemes in the area.

“I undertook this task at the start of Covid-19 because there was a glaring need in the community who I know so well. I felt I had to act,” said Syeda.

“Many years ago, when my son was born, I relied on the goodwill of the Sure Start Scheme in Battersea.

“I later went on to join the Sure Start Board and for the first time realised how helping my local community, in my small way, can bring about actual change.

“The need at the time was great and that initiative made a big difference to the lives of young mothers and children.

“I then started to fundraise and get involved in a myriad of voluntary activities that many of us can put ourselves forward for.

“The prime objective being to offer a helping hand to those in need.”

Initially starting with 50 meals, Syeda increased her cooking to an average of 200 meals at a time, with her ready-to-eat dishes becoming the speciality of ‘Syeda’s Kitchen’.

She continued for 24 weeks on her own, sometimes aided by her son, Ishan, 15, in the kitchen and her husband, Emir, for deliveries.

At the beginning of the project, Syeda completely self-funded the purchase of ingredients and PPE, having no time to fundraise.

She later received donations from family and friends, including the Rotary Club of Battersea Park, where she is a past president.

Lodge Warden Amanda said: “I just don’t know how Syeda was able to keep funding this good work, she cannot realise the difference it has made to my residents in isolation.”

Syeda hopes to continue her work through multiple volunteer organisations, including looking into ways to help support the community through further Covid-19 challenges and vaccine distribution.

Pictured: Syeda Islam

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