The harsh winter months are a time when many people in Britain struggle to afford to heat their homes.
In particular we have the elderly, many of whom are too terrified to put the heating on due to affordability and the high costs of their utility bills
Fuel poverty is not limited to pensioners and with spiralling costs, even middle class families have started to feel the pinch
PAISLEY, Scotland – As many people struggle to heat their homes this winter, a Muslim shopkeeper from Paisley, Scotland has launched a winter Energy Bank scheme whereby those in need have their energy meter cards generously topped up with £5 for home energy.
“To have access to heat and warmth is just as important as food and nutrition. The support we provide is the difference between a family being able to enjoy a hot or cold meal which will impact people’s health positively,” Rehman Afzal, 32, told Ilmfeed.
“There is also the physical and mental well-being aspect to consider. Even now we have no real idea as to the real effect the inability to keep warm in winter has on the mind and body.
Operating from his shop in Paisley, Afzal’s scheme has attracted nearly a dozen people who have benefited from the energy bank.
The young British Muslim believes that fuel poverty is one of the worse issues affecting people and he is determined on helping the fight against it.
The Energy Bank is supported by generous donors and the local business community who provide financial aid for the project.
“Our winter Energy Bank is as a result of the goodwill of those who are in a better financial position to help those less fortunate by donating through our PayPoint system. All withdrawals and donations are monitored and logged on our Epos system,” he said.
With almost 6 million people in the UK facing financial hardships, Rehman urged the greater business community to back schemes like this and has even contacted energy firms asking for support.
“The market is huge and Energy Banks like ours can be replicated easily and on a larger scale. Convenience stores can be a good starting point and the big firms can take advantage of a great opportunity to give something back. It’ll be a great case of putting people before profit,” he said.
Rehman is operating in an area rife with poverty – The neighboring Ferguslie Park is the most deprived area in Scotland.
“For me, this is how we as humans should be conducting ourselves all the time. Unfortunately, not everyone is in the same financial position and we can choose to support each other,” he said.
“My concept of the Convenience Store Support Scheme (C Store Support) will encourage shopkeepers to pool resources together to support the vulnerable.”
The energy bank is not the only volunteer work Rehman works on to provide support to the needy.
He also runs the Community Cabinet and Community Fridge projects which feed the town’s needy residents.
Since opening Paisley’s first Community Fridge, Rehman and his team of volunteers have distributed hot food to almost 5,000 needy people. His goodwill has been recognized with a Scottish Provost’s Award.