Hand on Heart: The national charity giving essential items to underprivileged groups including in Northampton

The founder has already won the British Empire Award in 2020 for his 'serial volunteering' in the Olympics and more

By Max Pearson
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 8:15 am

A nationwide charity is looking to expand in 2022 after partnering with Hope Centre Northampton to bring essential supplies to rough sleepers last year.

Hand on Heart, a relatively new charity registered in 2019, puts together gifts of 'essential items' for underprivileged groups like rough sleepers, school children from low income households and refugees such as those who fled Afghanistan.

Founded by Afzal Pradhan in 2019, the charity began its operations with just three employees, those being Afzal himself, his wife Asifa and daughter Sara, who worked out of the family's own living room as a 'hobby'.

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After starting with just one family the charity now has over 350 volunteers

Yet the charity would soon expand dramatically so that the London-based charity was offering their service in Luton, Southend, Birmingham and more.

They also teamed up with Hope Centre Northampton to offer 40 packs to Northampton's rough sleepers back in November 2021.

Afzal said: "When we started two years ago, we operated out of our living room like a sort of hobby. But over time we reached out to more and more volunteers until we had 30-40 at a time, working in a conveyor belt through the house.

"When the pandemic hit, we had to stop that because of social distancing. So instead we asked families if they wanted to collect the supplies from us and assemble the packs at home, just like we had before.

Supplies are given for free and funded by charitable donations

"It became a huge hit. The kids absolutely loved putting the packs together and at the same time the families are getting to have that discussion and help their kids understand what we do all this for; to help people less fortunate.

"With all the added help, we have been able to grow from 200 packs a year, put together by my family in 2019, to 4,000 in 2020 and 7,000 in 2021. So safe to say it's seen massive growth."

The packs contain essential items such as new clothes, underwear, hot water bottles, hygiene products, PPE for Covid-19 and other season-specific items like sunscreen for their 'summer essentials pack' and wooly hats for their 'winter warmer pack'.

Each are distributed across five 'campaigns' launched throughout the year.

One of which, their 'Back to School Backpack campaign' switches gears to provide kids from low income families with the supplies they need to learn, including stationary and activity books.

All of this is funded by donations on the charity's website, as well as through their partnership with Beta Charitable Trust.

Afzal said: "The reason I chose this cause was because I myself was a refugee from Uganda. I saw my parents go through some very hard times. So I appreciated what this country has done for us by caring for us, finding accommodation, educating us. So this is my way of giving that generosity back.

"What we're doing at Hand on Heart is providing a bit of dignity and humanity. Such as for people who are homeless, having to wear the same underwear for months is not alright.

"As such we are helping them and others who may be struggling to keep that dignity and be regarded as a human being."

Afzal said he hopes to expand his charity in the coming year to offer not just the packs, but also medical services in partnership with GPs, among other plans.

To follow the progress of the charity, people can visit their website where they discuss campaigns and how to volunteer.