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The Cost of Living crisis Heroes

Meet the women doing all they can for their communities

Up and down the country women are doing all they can to ease the cost of living crisis for their community.

Struggling to pay bills, choosing between eating or heating. It’s clear families are being hit hard and we need action.

But through this, It’s heartening to see how women across the country are pulling together to help within their communities.

In partnership with Stylist, we're celebrating six women, documented by six female photographers, who are changing lives with their compassion.

These are their stories. 


Christine at a food pantry

Photo by Maryam Wahid

Mother-of-three, grandmother and volunteer at Smallshaw Hurst Community Action Group Pantry Store, Ashton United In the Community Luncheon Club and Cedar Park Chefs.

“I came to this area 40 years go and never left. I help out at the food pantry where families can get £15 worth of shopping for £3 and a luncheon club for older people. I also work on recipes for families using a slow cooker and calculate exactly how much gas and electric it’s going to cost them to make. I volunteer in the community most days – I never stop, no rest for me!

“Families at the moment are finding it really, really hard. Food, gas, electric, baby milk, nappies...they’re deciding whether they sit in the cold and eat and whether they sit in the warm and don't get to eat anything. We’ve not seen poverty like this before, and some families on our estate are very low but we have got a good community, they can knock on anybody's door and we’ll look after them."

Christine at a food pantry

Photo by Maryam Wahid

“If someone asks me for help I’ll often suggest the food pantry. When it first opened families wouldn't come because of pride. Some thought they'd phone social services and some have mental health issues and won't leave the house. I encouraged them to come and use the pantry and I even go and knock on their doors sometimes saying:
“I'm coming today, you be ready, and you come with me.”

"People don’t always know there’s others in the same situation, they feel embarrassed like they’re the only ones. It's more than a food pantry though, they’ll tell me if they've got illnesses, a problem, anything going on behind closed doors that needs to be aired."

Christine at a food pantry

Photo by Maryam Wahid

“I enjoy trying to help families. Many of them feel like my family too now because I've been here 40 years and they seem to come to me for everything. If they've got an issue with the council, or food, I'll always put them in the right direction of where to go. There are 144 houses on our estate. I don't always know the new ones who move in straight away but I always go and say hello, “if you ever need anything just give me a knock if I can help you out”.

“I think I started doing this work because I’d seen my mum do the same sort of thing. When we were little my mum used to organise all the coach trips for where we lived – she was the one out there in the community. Now I’m trying to involve the next generation, my daughters, my friends. They think they can't do it, but they've done amazing so far. They’ve got determination.” 


Portait of Nerys

Photo by Kirsty Mackay

Community Support Coordinator with Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), a community development charity owned and run by residents based at the Dusty Forge.

“After being made redundant after 12 years working in banking, I retrained in health and social care. I was a volunteer first, and now I’m staff. I’m proud of being able to work in my own community as it’s where my roots are. I think when you live in somewhere like Ely and Caerau, which is a deprived part of Wales, everybody makes assumptions about you. It’s really hurtful because the vast majority are good, honest, hardworking people, and there's a lot of untapped talent here. No community is perfect, but this community is perfect to me."

Nerys at her nursery

Photo by Kirsty Mackay

“I’ve been helping people with financial advice for a number of years but since January in response to the cost-of-living crisis we set up “Crisis Hour”. Every morning local families can come and see us for immediate access to things like food and fuel. We see about 50 households a week and we’ve helped about 2500 households with fuel in the past few years altogether.

'I had a lady come in yesterday morning and her hands were like ice. She basically gone all weekend without any gas which was really, really cold. She'd had to send her children to her mum's house because she felt that she couldn’t meet their basic needs. She sat in front of me and was just so broken. I was able to offer vouchers and grants to help her, which is amazing that we can do that but it's just sticking plaster, isn't it?

'There’s massive concern as to what things will look like this spring when government energy support is withdrawn."

Portrait of Nerys

Photo by Kirsty Mackay

“I feel very strongly that the cost-of-living crisis is robbing children of their childhood. They're being exposed to things they have no business knowing. They don't need to know that mum can't afford to put money in the electricity, or that mum can't afford for them to go in their school trip because she doesn't get paid enough. Poverty is going to ruin the lives of these young people and they don't deserve this.

“I don't know what the answer any of this is, but I think there’s power in numbers. It’s about sharing my own experiences and encouraging other people to do the same. Take away that shame and stigma. And in a crisis women do just roll up their sleeves and get on with things. A strong woman will also attract like-minded women or draw people in who are less strong, and then build up those networks. They bring people in and empower them to find solutions to what's going on.” 


Moni and Shuily

Photo by Serena Brown

Friends and volunteers at the Aberfeldy Community Centre (managed by Poplar HARCA) where they support women’s groups and run a weekly healthy cooking class.


"We’ve been running a cooking class for nine months now where ladies come and we make dishes that are healthy and cost £5 or less. I think if you know how to do something, why not share that skill? We realised that people didn't know how to make a wide variety of dishes in a healthy way and save themselves money, especially with the conditions we're under at the moment. And Moni is a very good cook. She's done many competitions and been on TV!"

Portait of Shuily

Photo by Serena Brown

“The cost of living crisis is affecting families, and affects us personally too but we try to do our bit. We can signpost people to help, to support and to food banks. We’ve said to the ladies, if you do not want to come and cook, just come and have something to eat with us.

“I’ve been a volunteer for a long time now and I grew up in Aberfeldy. The first thing I did was a coffee morning spoken in English, then I used to help with IT classes, then take ladies on trips, and I formed the Independent Women’s Group. The cost of living crisis has impacted the entire community, but with Aberfeldy, because it’s quite deprived and a little bit cut off there’s been more of an effect. We’re so happy about our cooking project because we’re here every week without fail and we hope we'll be here long term.

Moni at her cooking class

Photo by Serena Brown


"For four months I was in a cooking show called Cooking Queen for a Bangladeshi TV channel. After that lots of ladies joined our cooking class! Sometimes a woman’s life is all cooking and it can be boring, so Shuily and I decided to do the classes with different meals to give people more variety.

"We’re always thinking of things we can do for local women. A lot of women are housewives, not going outside and are busy all the time, or elderly women who can be lonely. We think this project is very important, especially making sure that everything is done on a small budget of £5. Right now, the economy is very difficult for people, as salaries are not going up but everything is expensive.

Food from Moni and Shuily's cooking class

Photo by Serena Brown

“I also run a walking group called Women's Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Walking Group. It’s very popular and people tell me they feel good and it’s relaxing. I’ve also helped organise an event for 50 ladies with stalls selling jewellery, cloth and saris. They are housewives so that's why we give them an opportunity to come and sell and create financial opportunities.

“I just want to make ladies feel happy – full time happy! Every woman is a working lady. That might be working at home, or outside, everyone works in a different way. On International Women’s Day, all women are equal.” 


Portrait of Ingrid

Photo by Joanne Coates

Co-Founded Dreamshine Community Interest Company, and now runs The Well Bee-ing Hub & Cafe with Clare Haidari, which serves low cost food, provides support and social activities for the community.

“I grew up in poverty as a child. My dad was unemployed and wasn’t always able to work though he was a volunteer and activist. My mam worked as a cleaner. I saw them struggle all their lives and you see that mirrored now in the cost-of-living crisis. Though what people are going through now is much deeper because of mental health challenges. You do feel overlooked in this region on a national level but we can’t really change that so we just have to do what we can to help people. The problems that they face aren’t going to disappear."

Ingrid and her daughter

Photo by Joanne Coates

“I’ve done all sorts of jobs over the years, customer service, working in factories, I’ve written a lot, and I feel very rooted in this community and wanted to help. A few years ago me and my friend Clare Haidari set up the Dreamshine Community Interest Company, and she’s now a voluntary director. Dreamshine set up a befriending service during Covid and also opened the cafe after the first lockdown.We even opened on Christmas Day in 2021. As well as serving teas, coffees and lunches at low cost we run a women’s group. There’s also yoga, a knit and natter group, we can provide the Feeding Families emergency food parcels, and if we have funding we can provide emergency energy top ups. We do children’s events too and we’ll do something for the Coronation. There are people who come here everyday, and they are part of the family."

Food made by Ingrid

Photo by Joanne Coates

“There’s a lot of people with significant mental health problems, people who come in who are homeless who need sign posting to accommodation. We never turn people away. Even if we are really busy and they need to talk we’ll give them a small task to we can continue the conversation. They might come in for a chat and then they’re sorting cutlery! But we’re listening and giving people a chance to talk.

“I work between 12 and 14 hours a day and we are aiming to rely less on grants and become a self-sustaining enterprise, but it’s very difficult to make that transition. We’re going to try some outside catering, we’ve set up a TikTok account, we’re trying to be creative!

“If I had a magic wand I’d like to see a Universal Basic Income that allows people to volunteer in their community in return for that income - that would be amazing and I think that’s what would transform people’s lives. For my own part, all I can do is help. There’s always been activism in my DNA and blood – I just grew up with that.” 


Portait of Danii

Photo by Camilla Greenwell

Co-founder of AberNecessities child bank with her mum Michelle which provides disadvantaged families with essential items from birth to the end of school.

“One in five children living in Aberdeen city and shire are living in poverty. Since launching in 2019 we have supported over 10,000 children across North-East Scotland. For me, this is a huge sign that we are needed and that AberNecessites is a vital service to our community – and we are very proud that we can help."

Danii at her commuity center

Photo by Camilla Greenwell

“Families are referred to us daily by the NHS, social work, education system and fellow charities and we provide everything a parent needs for a child growing up; from nappies and formula to clothing and beds for pregnant Mums to children up to 18yrs.

“This all came about as I am a Specialist and Early Intervention teacher. I was meeting children who weren't going to school because they didn’t have the most basic essentials. One teenager didn't have a bra, another didn't have shoes. It got to the point where I thought 'Why are we not able to just meet that need?’ So, I started collecting pre-loved items that I'd store in my garage and do deliveries with my children in the car. Now five years later we're a registered charity, with employed staff and volunteers, delivering much needed items to thousands of families."

Photo by Camilla Greenwell

“As the cost of living crisis digs deeper, we are seeing more families come to us for top-ups of nappies and formula milk and hearing about more families turning their heating and lights off to save energy. By providing basic essentials to a family we alleviate some financial pressure, meaning they can put the heating on for a bit longer, or can cook a warm meal. Our goal and hope is to remove barriers so that a child is able to have the best start possible; to grow, develop and thrive.

“What keeps me going is the end result; a child opening a pack and that smile, that excitement, and that sense of relief a parent is getting. Moments like that are so important, for every family, for better mental health, your journey through motherhood, they're absolutely priceless. We're gifting those moments to other families.

“I am very proud to be a woman. I feel very proud to work with and for women and AberNecessities is a proudly women-led organisation which champions female empowerment. We're strong, our bodies do amazing things. When we look at our children, we need to empower each other and make each other feel good about the fact that we've brought another life into the world.” 


Photo by Laura Pannack

Deputy Manager at Meadows Nursery, a first of its kind partnership between Sheffield Hallam University, Watercliffe Meadow school, Sheffield City Council & Save the Children.

"We're a nursery, but people say it feels like 'home'. My door is always open and the kettle is always on!

“This area of Sheffield is quite deprived. Most of the children at our nursery are claiming free early learning entitlement [FEL]. There hasn't been that provision here for nearly ten years.

“We opened during the pandemic which was difficult. We knew we needed to meet the community, so we literally walked the streets with flyers. Not many other nurseries would do that. We've achieved more in two years than I thought we would in five."

Photo by Laura Pannack

“My role is all about parental engagement. I feel passionately that we should support parents. We've seen such growth from those who've attended workshops here - when they go home elated and empowered, it's likely that their children are going to have a better day. We look at the whole family, and by doing that we've noticed it's had a huge impact on the children's development.

“The parents came up with the idea of a weekly Breakfast Club, which is now a huge part of the nursery. They wanted a warm, safe space to come, where they could meet other parents, and have something to eat - a place for their wellbeing.

“The cost-of-living crisis is massive and families are really struggling. Last week a parent said to me "I'm going to get fed twice this week because you're putting on a workshop and Breakfast Club". My heart just sank. Parents are feeding their children, but not themselves."

Photo by Laura Pannack

“In addition to nursery provision, we offer help in many ways: we give out food parcels, hygiene packs, nappies; kids' shoes, clothes, and school uniform. We've provided blankets, warm coats and hot water bottles. Some parents even come and use our washer-dryer. Other parents come to get help with job applications, grants or Universal Credit, we're like a drop-in centre sometimes

“I grew up on a council estate in Sheffield. My parents worked hard but really struggled, and I know what that feels like. It really made me want to better myself. I say to other parents " If I can do it, you can do it too". I want mums to be proud of themselves, because raising children is the biggest job of all.

“The children here now are going to be the ones who change their lives and those of others in the future too. I feel really privileged to be part of that.

“This nursery isn't just about me. It's about all the staff, the families and the community. I couldn't do it without them. I've been in other settings and turned down for other jobs, and when I look back now I think 'Ah-ha, that's because I'm meant to be here, with these families'." 

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