Asiyah Javed, a shopkeeper near Falkirk, knew she had to do something for her community when she met an elderly woman crying outside a supermarket – because she couldn’t get any handwash.
The 34-year-old and her husband Jawad, 35, have given out more than 2,000 ‘coronavirus kits’ – containing handwash, hand sanitiser, cleaning wipes and a protective face mask – to elderly and immunocompromised people in Stenhousemuir from their local Day Today shop.
“I posted on Facebook saying we had these packs free to elderly and infirm customers, and if they couldn’t come in we would deliver to them for free,” Asiyah told The Big Issue. “We started getting phone calls and it went viral. We’ve been having people come in from all different areas for them.
“We’re happy to do that because we’re trying to help the elderly, no matter where they’re from.” At least 30 bags have gone to local care home residents.
Putting together thousands of kits has cost the business around £4,000 so far, but the local community has rallied round the couple to support their generous efforts.
“People have been coming in and giving us donations, a tenner here and there, to put towards what we’re doing. Then United Wholesale Scotland contributed £1,000, which is really good of them.” She rubbished criticisms from a small number of locals who were surprised the shopkeepers would give the supplies away for free.
Asiyah, Jawad and the driver who works for their business have been delivering the packages themselves outside of shop opening hours between 8pm and 10pm.
Their kindness hasn’t gone unnoticed by locals in Stenhousemuir, who have pulled together to show appreciation for the couple in these uncertain times.
“Everybody has shown us lots of love,” Asiyah said. “We are going to continue doing it while we still have stock. We have plenty just now because we ordered lots in weeks ago, knowing that there are a lot of elderly people in the area.”
The couple receive a bunch of flowers nearly every day from someone who has benefited from the initiative and are running low on space for all the thank you cards the community continues to send.
“Business-wise, for us, we don’t know what’s going to happen but we are ready for it. We do know that everyone needs to get handwash and hand sanitiser before, not when the virus spreads.
“And if everyone’s buying up all the handwash and sanitiser, how are the elderly and unwell people going to protect themselves?”
It’s not the pair’s first brush with community spirit – after they gave away free milk and other staples to elderly locals who were kept in during the Beast from the East’s terrible weather in 2018.
Asiyah said being able to help the community has helped keep her spirits up at what is a worrying time for many.
“It’s going to keep me going,” she said. “It’s encouraging me to help locals even more. Everyone needs to stick together.”