Redbridge friends’ ‘bumblebee’ bus to give hope to Syrian refugees

Rizwan Shamim and Atif Jaleel with the bus

Rizwan Shamim and Atif Jaleel with the bus - Credit: Archant

A university lecturer and his paramedic friend have transformed an out-of-service coach into a medical “bumblebee” bus for refugees in Greece.

Fawaz Khalid has his vitals checked

Fawaz Khalid has his vitals checked - Credit: Archant

Mathematician Atif Jaleel, 36, from Redbridge, and Rizwan Shamim, 36, from Goodmayes, wanted to give back to those fleeing war-torn Syria following many sleepless nights thinking about the plight of migrants.

“This was a result of watching the news during the night and being kept awake with the thought of not having done enough for the refugees entering Europe escaping wars,” said Atif.

“You just feel like it’s something you would like to help out with, especially with what’s going on around the world – we just want to help out.”

The pair had been inspired by a Middlesborough man, Ghafoor Hussain, who converted a bus into a mobile kitchen to feed refugees in Serbia and Macedonia.

The Bumble Bee bus

The Bumble Bee bus - Credit: Archant

Atif soon put his PHD at Cambridge University on hold and got the bus ready with the help of the Al-Khair Foundation, while learning about the ins and outs of shipping a bus abroad.

“The bus has been made to look like a bumblebee – an idea that came from my sister who recently moved to Australia as a doctor,” said Atif.

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“She thought giving it a character would provide some sense of happiness when it drives into a camp.”

The medical bus, which was purchased from charity Open Road, is equipped with a blood pressure monitor, heart monitor and a ramp for wheelchair users.

Inside the Bumble Bee bus

Inside the Bumble Bee bus - Credit: Archant

Atif thanked the Al-Khair Foundation’s Isa Jolil, Anna Ovesson and Imam Qasim Rashid Ahmad, its founder, for their support with preparing the bus.

It set off for Greece yesterday and is expected to arrive at a refugee camp on Tuesday, August 16.

Atif said he hoped the project would fill people with “much needed hope and encouragement” during the crisis and called for more volunteers to get involved.

The friends’ next project will be an educational bus packed with learning material.

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