In the depths of winter last year, rays of hope for the estimated 4,095 people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove started springing up across town. These came in the form of take and donate stations – a simple idea where people leave their unwanted warm clothing out for those who need it most. Hats, gloves, coats, jumpers, blankets and scarves are all left at designated sites.
The wonderful Noor Ayoub (pictured above) runs Acts of Kindness: Making it A-OK, a project spreading the idea that a problem shared is a problem halved. She is the mastermind behind the biggest take and donate wall in Brighton and Hove.
It’s located in a shelter next to the King Alfred site in Hove, a location Noor picked because she spotted people sleeping rough there. She makes sure to pop along and maintain the site every few days.
“When someone brings a large donation of five big black bags, that’s incredibly kind, but it does make the shelter look messy,” she explained. “I also get a lot of things like high heels and handbags donated, so I make sure to separate those out and donate them to places that really need them. What visitors to the shelter need is to stay warm, dry and comfortable.”
Noor’s project started in London, not only with a take and donate spot, but also with a wall of kindness. The idea was for people to write worries, woes, and questions on the wall to receive an answer from a friendly stranger. Noor said: “I wanted people to know that no matter how lonely or isolated they may feel, which is easy to happen in a crazy busy place like London, that they weren’t alone.”
She based the idea on the Wall of Kindness concept from Iran, and take and donate walls have been popping up in cities up and down the country all winter.
Inspired by Noor’s project, mum of two Liana Helen took a coat rack into central Brighton during the winter. She stocked it with 30 warm coats and left it near the Open Market – a more central location than Noor’s shelter.
She said: “I enjoyed doing something direct. Giving to big charities is great but also I was thinking about what I could do personally that was more interactive and direct. It’s not going to change the world, but if it makes one person’s night a little bit more comfortable then that’s great.”
Liana came up with the idea after seeing a Facebook post of someone setting up a coat rack in Essex, and parents at the school where she teaches rushed to help with high-quality donations of warm, waterproof gear.
Her little girls also inspired the project – they used to ask Liana questions about homeless people when they were out and about as a family and beg Liana to welcome homeless people into the family home.
“I want them not to be afraid of homeless people,” she explained. “I’ve tried to teach them that even if you can’t give money all the time, you can always say hello and treat people like people – with dignity and respect.
“I also wanted to instil a sense of giving into my girls. I wanted to teach them the importance of not hoarding things and giving what you don’t need away to those who are less fortunate.”
Liana’s coat rack has now been taken down, as coats were being taken faster than they were being donated. Noor’s shelter will stay in Hove until the cold weather passes, and she is hoping to carry out the same good deed in town for winter 2017/18. Well done, ladies!