James Caan delivers gifts of joy to sick children at the Royal London Hospital

This week saw the heartfelt launch of Penny Appeal’s UK Winter Appeal campaign. Building on the exceptional work in response to the Grenfell Tower crisis, our teams will be taking your small change and making a big difference to so many in need across our country.

For me, there’s nothing more Christmassy than being more Christ-like, so this winter Penny Appeal will be spending time with sick and vulnerable children, feeding the hungry and homeless, sharing company with elderly people in need, assisting those looking to foster and adopt this and even counsel those suffering from domestic abuse or violence.

We made an important decision at Penny Appeal last year to marry each of our international development campaigns with a sister ‘mirror’ project here in the UK. ‘Penny Appeal @ Home’ is the new face of our domestic welfare programmes and represents our deep commitment to alleviating the suffering of those in need right on our doorsteps.

To mark the new campaign, we packed ‘Penny,’ our trusted double-decker bus, full to the rafters with children’s toys and gifts and headed off to a very special children’s ward at The Royal London Hospital. It’s one of the largest children’s hospitals in the country, home to London’s Air Ambulance and one of the many hospitals and hospices that Penny Appeal supports throughout the year.

Joining us on this very special visit was our newest Ambassador, entrepreneurial maestro James Caan CBE. It’s been a phenomenal journey to witness, having introduced James to the charity earlier this year, to now have him proudly fly the Penny Appeal flag. His endorsement reminds me how crucial this work is and that through hard work and determination success breeds more success.

As founder and Chairman of Penny Appeal, I’ve travelled across the world and witnessed with my very own eyes the most harrowing poverty, desperation and need. I brim with pride knowing that our teams have been able to make a difference to millions of lives across the world and I grieve at the thought of how much more there is to do.

I also know that poverty has many faces. Those nearest to us in need have perhaps a greater right over our generosity than those further away. When my family are in need of me; one of my children takes ill, for example, they become the entire focus of my being. It doesn’t take away from other people’s needs, rather it reminds us that charity, giving and serving, begins at home. As living legend, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) sung on a recent album, “…if you want to help your fellow man. You better start with what is in your hand.”

Visiting the Royal London opened my eyes to this realisation that bit more. We met children who have spent most of their lives at deaths door, moving from ward to ward, not knowing life beyond the hospital. Beneath the warm words and smiles of their carers, I saw parents exhausted from the toll of looking after their sick children. I couldn’t but help but put myself in their shoes, knowing just how any parent would sacrifice all they had for their children. It was thus a special privilege to witness Penny Appeal’s very own ‘Team Orange’ volunteer force in full flow helping lift the spirits of these poorly children and their families with gift bags, brimming with presents ahead of the festive season.

That’s your small change in action, bringing big smiles to poorly children and their families right here in the UK. We hope to have left the families with the knowledge that there are people out there who are thinking of them and remembering them. We don’t have to share the same background or religion to extend a helping hand, this is what we learn from our faith. As a British Muslim, this is what the Christmas spirit is all about, communities coming together to help those in need. At home or abroad, we all bleed the same blood and cry the same tears. We offer our help to people not because of who they are but rather because who we are; people driven to serve others.

Charity is as much about giving with your spirit than it is giving with your wealth and I’m honoured that we’re able to do both at Penny Appeal. This winter, as you snuggle up with your family in the warmth of your homes, spare a thought and a prayer for those who might not have families to care for them or even a place to call home. Sometimes the people struggling could be right under our noses and we don’t realise.

This winter Penny Appeal is serving those in most need, at home and across the world. Learn about our life saving work and consider making a contribution, little or large. Team Orange are waiting to hear from you now on 03000 11 11 11 or head to our website on www.pennyappeal.org

 

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Adeem Younis

Adeem Younis

Founder of SingleMuslim.com and PennyAppeal.org