BRADFORD'S different faith communities are teaming up to help the elderly and vulnerable during lockdown, as part of a programme run in partnership with a national charity.

Faith leaders from Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Christian communities have signed up to the Volunteering Interfaith Programme (VIP), which is run by Strengthening Faith Institutions (SFI) in conjunction with Age UK.

Volunteers on the programme help the vulnerable with food delivery, shopping, well-being support and friendly phone calls, aiming to support local people as well as relieve some of the pressure on the NHS.

Javed Bashir, facilitator of the programme, said, “Every day we are getting bad news about the increasing number of people affected by coronavirus, but this programme highlights the goodness of human nature, as different faith communities come together, along with Age UK and SFI, to support the most vulnerable.

"We're delivering food and essentials to people who are in need. We helped a man who had no money to buy shopping and was self-isolating by himself, and we also topped up his electricity.

"We hope this will strengthen community cohesion and, as a Muslim, I also hope this will show a more positive side to our community. Despite the negative media portrayals we often face, we have people like us who are trying to care for people. We don't differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims - we will help anyone in need, regardless of which community they are from."

One couple who have benefitted from the programme are Mr. and Mrs. Priestly, from Barkerend, who say, "The team have put a lot of effort in and have been a great help", after volunteers from the Madinat Al-Zahra Mosque, on Great Horton Road, helped with their shopping.

"We've been self-isolating and haven't been able to do our shopping, and we've been running out of things", say the couple, who are in their 70s.

"We sent an email to Age UK asking for help and they put us in touch with the programme. They replied within two minutes and then took a shopping list off of us right away, it was very quick.

"It's a big help and it takes a lot of our worries away. Before this, we hadn't heard of any other organisations who could help.

"They're very nice and helpful people. Everyone's in the same predicament at the moment, so we've passed on their details to other people who may need help, too."

Mark Rounding, Chief Executive of Age UK Bradford, said: "We are delighted to be part of this vital inter-faith initiative, working with communities from across the district to meet the challenges we are all facing in these unprecedented times. We are working with lonely older people who are frightened and anxious about their families, their health needs and food and essential supplies. This new partnership will enable us all to reach out to even more older people who are some of the most vulnerable and isolated."

Huzaifa Al Yamani, of Madinat Al-Zahra, said: “We wish to help wherever possible in this time of crisis. The health of our fellow brothers and sisters is very important and we're honoured to work with SFI and Age UK to help support people's well-being", while Reverend Nathan, of GBM Churches, added, “I am delighted to be part of the team in helping the most vulnerable and elderly.”