#bookbikelondon WAS BORN in Barking & Dagenham and is the brainchild of resident and community volunteer Emdad Rahman, who wanted to combine his passion for books and cycling.
Zoinul Abidin, Head of Universal Services at Barking & Dagenham, helped Emdad launch his fledgling project at the Barking Learning Centre with a cycle sourced by his friend Rofikul Islam from Tower Hamlets. This was apt, as these are the two boroughs Emdad has lived, worked and volunteered in his whole life.
Very soon after Emdad launched the programme, the world came to a standstill due to the global Coronavirus Pandemic, and Emdad found new and vital relevance with his fledgling project.
Emdad says, “A national lockdown meant a steep learning curve for many community volunteers like myself. Up until then I had been sharing books with care homes and schools and by making individual deliveries, but all of a sudden we had the whole nation on lockdown and this brought people’s emotional and mental health instabilities to the fore.
“I found pockets within East London communities in Barking, Redbridge, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Hackney, where several people were suffering greatly as a result of isolation and lack of human contact.
“I found that a good book or word-search greatly helped soothe people’s anxieties, stress and depression. We started a Foodbank in Tower Hamlets using the name East End Covid Support Network. The Hedgecock Centre in Barking and #bookbikelondon began to play an increasingly crucial role in the community, enabling me to go on to share and deliver books, food parcels, clothes and medicine with friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers.”
Being on a bicycle meant Emdad didn’t have to worry about parking, and through his daily commuting he was able to maintain his own physical and mental health. Emdad explained, “#bookbikelondon allows me to spend a few precious extra seconds on people’s doorsteps to have a chat and check on their wellbeing. It keeps me fit and happy, and I don’t have to worry about parking tickets. I twice saw police cars get parking tickets during lockdown!”
Emdad recently reached the milestone of sharing 4,000 books as #bookbikelondon, and he already has a new target in his sights. “I generally like to keep things moving forward,” he said, “and I have my eyes firmly set on the 5,000 figure, which I want to reach by Christmas.
“The East End Covid Support Network has shared 34,000 food parcels during Covid, and we have used #bookbikelondon as a big feature of our outreach support. I’d like to thank my family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers for donating books for me to share. Some people have travelled hours to come and drop books, take a selfie and go back. The support has been phenomenal.”
●Follow Emdad on Twitter @emdad07 to interact on #bookbikelondon matters.
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