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Heroes of the neighbourhood

HOOD HEROES: Mahamed Hashi and Solomon Smith

BRIXTON SOUP Kitchen began in 2012 when Solomon Smith was moved by the sight of Brixton’s homeless community on the brink of another cold winter in south London.

“I decided to open up Brixton soup kitchen (BSK) because I felt there was a need in the area around Brixton. Even though I knew there were a lot of homeless organisations I just felt that it wasn’t filtering down to Brixton. I’m the type of person where if I see there is something that needs to be done, I will just get up and do it. That’s why I decided to start up the
soup kitchen,” recalls the 31-year-old Brixton native.

Along with co-founder Mahamed Hashi, the duo reached out to friends and family for donations of clothingand sleeping bags to distribute to people in need.

Four years later, their kind gesture has snowballed into a well-respected organisation transforming the traditional soup kitchen model and the lives of those who walk through its doors.

Smith admits that what has become of the organisation is still a surprise for him as he explained: “I didn’t think I was going to do this as a full time job. A lot of people will say to me – ‘Solomon you should be so proud’ and when I go home I’m like – this started from my room and for it to be me having my own centre, being recognised around the world. I went to Miami and I had people from America saying ‘you’re the guy from the soup kitchen’ I’m like – how do you know what I’m doing in Brixton and you’re all the way in Miami.”

In addition to serving up to 40 hot meals a day, the BSK has extended its services to include a food bank, legal advice and a CV clinic for jobseekers.

It all happens without a single penny of government funding, instead relying on donations from local food outlets including Greggs, Nandos, Pret a Manger, pizzeria Franca Manca and Lidl.

Part of BSK’s success can be attributed to a number of factors including its strong social media presence detailing the day to day challenges, celebrity support of public figures ranging from Joanna Lumley to Krept and Konan but most of all the manner in which they’ve included and involved the local neighbourhood.

“We are constantly planning and thinking of new ways to engage with the community which is why we open our doors and host events like the BBQ Splash,” said Smith.


SPECIAL RECOGNITION:Mahamed Hashi collecting his Doctorate at London Metropolitan University

The organisation recently enjoyed the success of its well-attended BBQ Splash to conclude the summer with a barbeque competition judged by ITV’s winner of BBQ Champ, Simon Dyer.

On their use of social media and growing online presence, the father-of-two noted that through mediums such as snapchat and Instagram, the organisation was able to be transparent about the challenges faced and the work being achieved.

Smith said: “One of the main reasons why I have Snapchat, is because I’m letting people know the nitty gritty of what’s really going on. The nitty gritty is that there have been times when I’ve been there at 4am in the morning to set
up for the next day. A lot of people nowadays are using social media. I’ve locked off all my personal social media and just use the Soup Kitchen because everything I do is soup kitchen related. When we celebrate one of our regulars getting a job
on Twitter, we know that a lot of people on our social media are looking for work, and that they can relate.”

The team who have earned countless honours for their inspiring work recently added the award for Voluntary Organisation of the Year presented to them at the Lambeth Community Pride Awards (Sep 6).

“I also achieved my Master’s Degree,” notes Smith who was presented an honorary Masters from the Open
University for his work in the voluntary sector.

“To be totally real, because I’m dyslexic I don’t read letters. I know by pictures and logo’s and once I saw the logo I assumed they wanted me to come and speak to students or mentoring which is something I do.

Because there was so many words I had to ask my business partner to read it out for me. When he read it he was like ‘Solomon they’re giving you your Master’s’”

Similarly, co-founder Hashi was presented with an honorary doctorate from London Metropolitan University.

For Smith, who left education at secondary school with no GCSE’s the recognition was further verification of the importance of the work done by the BSK and further encouragement to continue.

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