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South Leeds loses community hero Mohammed Farouk Butt

27th May 2022
South Leeds loses community hero Mohammed Farouk Butt

Mohammed Farouk Butt, a “South Leeds hero” and the founder of the Hamara Centre in Beeston, Leeds, passed away peacefully at his home on February 17, following a brief battle with cancer.

Farouk, who moved to Holbeck from Pakistan with his family aged seven in the 1950s, was a builder by trade. Three decades ago, he established a community centre in South Leeds, running it from a small office with just three staff members. The centre, then known as the South Leeds Elderly Group, helped Asian seniors with their official paperwork by helping them fill out forms when they could not read, write, or speak English.

In response to the increasing demand for the group’s services, Butt received £1.2 million to build a large community centre.

The Hamara Healthy Living Centre, which currently employs 35 people, hosts a wide range of activities, provides support for youth projects and tackles unemployment and health inequality. Butt started full-time work at Heathrow Airport in London in 2000, whilst managing the centre. He was training young people to organise events, as they would be the future leaders of Hamara.

Butt’s volunteer work extended well beyond Leeds. He also started a tuberculosis (TB) awareness campaign in Pakistan. Butt’s close family friend, Mir Bostan, paid tribute to Butt. “I knew Farook from a very young age. He spent his entire life working for the community. He was never interested in personal gain or fame. The group members used to collect money and buy ingredients to make their food. We used to make curries and share them with group members. Farook became the chair of Hamara Centre and spent the rest of his life helping the community, running many projects for everybody, young people, women, and older people“.

Farook was open to challenges even when the project was running on scarce resources. “It was Farook who always believed that one day we would have a place that would be for everybody. He proved it and ran a very successful community centre for over 30 years.“

Hunslet and Riverside councillor Mohammed Iqbal, the deputy chair of the Hamara Centre, said: “He was an unsung hero, a gentle giant who devoted his whole life to the service of his community and he achieved so much.

“Over the years, hundreds of youngsters have volunteered for the Hamara centre and it shaped their future to being successful professionals. Thousands of people have had help from the Hamara centre. He was never interested in personal gain or fame. He will be remembered forever, and his legacy and vision will continue.

Director of the Hamara Centre, Shanaz Gul, added: “He was a true community leader through and through, a huge loss for the community, Hamara and all who knew him. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and wife, whom he loved dearly and spoke so fondly about on a regular basis.

I was blessed to work so closely with him over the last few years and have experienced his passion, determination, and love for his community first-hand. His dedication is unheard of. He strived to see the South Asian community flourish, and as the leader of Hamara and on behalf of the whole Hamara team, I say, with confidence, we shall work relentlessly to bring his vision to fruition. His legacy and vision will continue.“

Butt leaves behind his wife, two sons and two daughters and a lifetime of community service to Asians in Leeds.

(Photo courtesy of the late Mohammed Farouk Butt’s family and friends)

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