Birmingham humanitarian who rushed to earthquake devastation gets Pride of Britain nomination

Shreen Mahmood tells ITV Central's Rosie Dowsing what it's like working with displaced people in makeshift camps around the world.

A woman from Birmingham has been nominated for a Pride of Britain award for her humanitarian work with displaced people hit by the Turkey Earthquake, and her projects at home to help empower women.

Mum-of-two Shreen Mahmood says she 'loves to help people' and 'serve the community, both locally and internationally.'

The humanitarian rushed to the disaster zone in Kahramanmaraş in Turkey with a relief organisation to bring food and vital supplies in April 2023, after her team raised nearly £35,000 in aid.

Donations from Midlanders, friends and families meant Shreen and her team handed out food parcels, hygiene packs and Eid gifts for the children. 

Shreen said: "We’re so blessed to have what we have and the way we live.

"Having seen the way refugees live in refugee camps and what goes on around the world, it hurts to see. It’s important to also give back”

Shreen has carried out humanitarian work in over 20 countries in the last 7 years.

Shreen Mahmood was one of a few female humanitarians in Turkey, and says being a woman helps when dealing with so many mothers and children Credit: Muhammad Sufi, Global Ehsan Relief

During her time in Turkey, Shreen documented the devastation with videos on her social media, to help encourage people back home to keep donating, so her team can continue their relief efforts.

She said: “We turn on the tv, we see what’s happening. But actually going out there, it was apocalyptic scenes of rubble everywhere. People had to leave their homes.”

“There’s families there, there’s children there. They’re living with very little. Seeing that, it stays with you.”

But Shreen says, as a humanitarian witnessing the deprivation, it's important not to get too upset, and instead bring warm smiles and positive support to those so grateful to have her there.

NGO workers on the ground in Turkey say aid workers like Shreen have a big impact.

Yunus Emre Pehlivan, who works for Hayrat Aid, based in Instanbul, said:

"When she was there, Shreen helped the volunteers in the kitchen and in the distribution point, while also going around the tents and visiting the people in the tents.

"She interacted with the families, mothers and children. Sometimes they had emotional moments while she listened to their stories.

"She was also very good with the kids there."

Shreen Mahmood says she is greeted with smiling faces whenever she goes out to do humanitarian work.

Shreen doesn't just focus her efforts oversees, but at home in Birmingham too - a city with high levels of deprivation and poverty.

She runs self defence classes for women, and holds coffee mornings to give women to have a safe space to talk and open up about the challenges they face.

About her work in Birmingham, Shreen said: “We always say charity starts at home so of course there’s humanitarian crisis all over the world, but even on our doorstep prices are going up, post-Brexit, post-pandemic, and with the cost of living crisis.

“There are local projects and local foodbanks that need support as well as the humanitarian crisis' that are happening abroad.”

“We’ve worked with domestic violence victims, we’ve worked with single mums in the community, and we make sure they have a safe space to come for a coffee morning.”

Shreen plans to head back to Turkey before the end of the year with the relief organisation ILM UK, to help move people from makeshift camps to more sturdy shipping containers until they can find a permanent home.

She also wants to encourage more women to join her efforts, especially as so many issues faced by displaced people involve safeguarding, period poverty, and exploitation.

“Refugee camps are full of women, so having that feminine touch it is imperative.

"Being one of the few female humanitarians on the frontline - I hope people see that if I can do it, they can do it as well.”

Shreen has been nominated for the Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year award for her efforts at home and oversees.

It's an award sponsored by ITV regions, and the winner will be invited to the national Pride of Britain ceremony in London later this year.