I just wanted to make my mum proud
Charity manager devoted to helping Sunderland’s marginalised communities gets royal recognition
Inspired by her late mother’s altruism, Mahtab “Matti” Morovat, has been playing a pivotal role at Fightback - a Sunderland based charity helping some of the most marginalised people in the city facing multiple disadvantages.
After joining the charity as a volunteer in 2007, Matti later became the manager of Fightback where she is the only member of staff, working part-time, with the support of 15 volunteers – a small team for an organisation that helps over 400 people a year.
“I just wanted to make my mum proud. She was always heavily involved in community work back home. I started out as a volunteer at Fightback and, as I got more involved, I loved it. I was enjoying helping people. I would see a smile on their faces and it would give me more energy to go further. Now, Fightback is like a baby to me; I care about it a lot.”
Fightback works with disabled refugees and asylum seekers, helping to support them with a variety of practical and social services in order to reduce isolation and improve their quality of life. Coffee mornings, a barber service, a befriending scheme, and a drop-in service for people needing advice on education, employment, and housing, are just a small number of services it offers.
The charity has recently received a £144,000 National Lottery funding boost, thanks to National Lottery players, to help fund its vital activities.
After seeing the plight of local people in Sunderland due to Covid-19, with many people experiencing job losses and housing issues, the charity decided to open its doors to anyone who needed help.
“When the pandemic happened, many organisations decided to close because they couldn’t operate safely, but we knew our community needed us and so we started providing clients with essential phone numbers. We set up a Facebook page so people could easily reach us. We worked all day, every day, including weekends, to help people with practical issues.
“People would have fears and we’d chat to them on the phone or do shopping for elderly people who were shielding. Before Covid, we used to supply 30 food parcels a week, but due to the pandemic we had to increase this to over 100 parcels. That shows you how much people need our help.”
Matti’s commitment to Fightback during the pandemic resulted in her sacrificing ambitions of completing her PhD before her 40th birthday. Yet, her unwavering dedication didn’t go unnoticed. In June she received a call about receiving a British Empire Medal as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honour List, in recognition of her support to the local community.
“I was shocked, and I wasn’t sure if it was a joke. I screamed on the phone like a little girl. I could not believe it. It’s an honour to receive that kind of award. It’s been team work though - without our team of fantastic volunteers, our trustees, our funders such as The National Lottery Community Fund, we wouldn’t have been able to provide support during the pandemic and beyond.
“I had to put my PHD aside for the pandemic otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to provide support to our service users. I’ve been given this award though, so it doesn’t matter that I had to sacrifice my PHD.”
Although the effects of the pandemic are still very much being felt by Fightback’s members, Matti is feeling optimistic about the charity’s future. Thanks to its National Lottery funding, Fightback has the ability to continue providing the much-needed support to some of Sunderland’s most vulnerable people and communities.
When asked what Fightback means to her, Matti, said: “…we have our own community at Fightback with the trustees, volunteers and members. I’m fortunate to be part of Fightback and I’m so proud of our team.”