After listening to a radio interview with consultant paediatrician, Dr Julie-Ann Maney, about infant patients who are so undernourished that they tuck toast into their nappy to eat later, local man, Dennis Bree was inspired to act.
“I was heartbroken listening to that interview”, Dennis said.
“I have two children, a 3 and a 5-year-old, and the thought of them or any other little ones, not having enough to eat, made me want to do something to help.”
“I began to think, what could I do, to raise money for a local charity that is helping to feed people locally.
“Swimming has always played a big part in my family’s life, and something practical that I could maybe do to raise money.
“I decided that I wanted to swim 1mile a day, but with pools shut, I knew I had to finally conquer my fear of sea swimming to do so. I always thought it was something that mad people do, but before I knew it, I had committed, and how glad I am I did!”
“My wife mentioned she had read about the fantastic work that one local man, Edmund Aruofor, from Lifehub NI, had been doing from his unit in Townsend Enterprise Park.”
Edmund set-up Lifehub NI – a Northern Ireland charity which feeds people with fresh food parcels– three years ago, and since then, he has worked tirelessly to feed hundreds of families each and every week, with zero funding.
“I arranged to go up and meet with Edmund, see the work he does and understand more about the challenges he faces.”
“When I realised that Edmund gets up at 4.30am each and every day, works 80 hours a week, drives over 14,000 miles a year and relies on donations from supermarkets and food suppliers to carry out his role, I was gobsmacked.”
“Edmund does this out of the goodness of his heart, his passion for helping people, and I wanted to play a part in that.”
“After that visit I created a Go Fund Me page with a £10K target, and started my daily swim ay Helens Bay – I had no idea what reaction I would get.
“Within 20 minutes of announcing what I was doing, I had reached £800, a figure which has grown each and every day. Last night after my twenty ninth mile, we reached the £10,000 mark and I was emotional and elated.”
Life Hub NI helps over 378 families a week, collecting food that would otherwise have been thrown away and distributing it to families in desperate need.
Demand has steadily grown for Lifehub NI, which in just seven months has helped feed over 4,500 families in Belfast, using fresh foods donated from major supermarkets, food producers, wholesales and restaurants and cafes.
Edmund Aruofor, founder of Lifehub NI said: “I am so grateful and humbled by what Dennis has done to support Lifehub NI. This is a man I had never met, who selflessly set himself a challenge to raise money for people who need it to simply survive.
“The reason I set this charity up in 2017 was in response to a conversation I had at a food bank I was volunteering at. A gentleman said to me, that he didn’t know when the last time he had fresh fruit.
“I was gob smacked, and learnt he wasn’t alone in that. From that moment, I made it my mission to help feed people living in food poverty in Northern Ireland with fresh food.
“I have done that for over 3 years with no funding whatsoever, I drive to the local supermarkets each and every day to collect food and rely on other donations from local food producers.
“What Dennis has done for me, in raising an unbelievable ten thousand pounds, is he will allow me to pay ongoing essential bills at my unit in Townsend Enterprise Park, allow me to purchase more food and perhaps even a new refrigeration unit to house the food in to help me extend the service to more families that need it.
Edmund concluded: “THANK YOU Dennis Bree. Thank you, the Bree family, for playing a huge supporting role.. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation.
“I would like to thank each and every-person who donated money towards his challenge and the Mission of LifeHub NI.”