Oldham has been through the wringer these past few years.
And right now, its residents are under a relentless siege from coronavirus.
The region’s alarming infection rate has seen Oldham receive more national press coverage than it has since 2001 riots – with talk of the town being cut off from the rest of the UK as part of a local lockdown.
Still as troubled as it may be, but Oldham isn’t a lost cause. People like Nadeem Iqbal have proven that.
For the past four years, this guy has been delivering food parcels and essential items – for free – to anyone who needs them via his charity group Oldham Helping Hands.
Every week, Nadeem – who runs a 24/7 breakdown recovery company – and his volunteers surrender their precious spare time to support those in need.
Their actions aren’t just keeping spirits up; they’re saving lives.
The organisation has been a crucial ray of light during a dark time – with their assistance proving invaluable throughout the pandemic.
“A while back, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to a charity event in Bradford,” Nadeem tells The Manc.
“I started doing it every Sunday, and then I decided to set my own up back here in Greater Manchester.
“We began by going out to Piccadilly Gardens to feed the homeless, and it gradually built up from there.”
During the winter seasons, Nadeem has even been known to use his ‘big monster truck’ to take people to work when they couldn’t drive themselves in heavy snow; offering his assistance wherever he could to those who needed it most.
As coronavirus crept into the town, Helping Hands swiftly evolved into a delivery service – dropping parcels on the doorsteps of vulnerable residents.
Ultimately it’s meant that, despite suffering a particularly nasty dose of the virus, Oldham has remained well-fed.
“At the beginning of lockdown, I was going home to home between the elderly and vulnerable people,” Nadeem explains.
“I put messages on my pages, too, so people could contact me.
“It got to a point where I was loading a whole van up and knocking on doors in the town and just asking people if they needed anything. Not a problem.”
Nadeem himself has seen real defiance in the town – which has been teetering on the brink of quarantine for several weeks.
“Everyone’s stuck together – which is a good thing,” he says.
“At times like this we all need to stick together.”
Of course, Helping Hands are indebted to the kindness of the community.
They’re always on the lookout for food and toiletries, and Nadeem wants people to know that they can get in touch with him at any time.
“Anybody that’s suffering in silence – speak up and message me through Oldham Helping Hands,” he says calmly.
“It doesn’t have to be public, you can just send me a private message – I’ll be glad to help.
“I know there’s people out there struggling who don’t want to be named; and I know where they’re coming from.
“But there’s no shame – everyone is going through a bad patch right now. Anyone can contact me for help; no one else has to know.”
With groups like Helping Hands in the town, Oldham just might get through this after all.
You can donate by visiting the Oldham Helping Hands page here.
If you are in need of any assistance, send a private message on Facebook.