Shams Ahmed moved a few years ago to Batley from York with his wife after they agreed commuting to work would be easier and more opportunities would be available once moving to West Yorkshire.
Things however went spiraling downwards for Shams when the pandemic struck in March 2020. His mother who was still living in York with family, tragically became victim to the Covid-19 virus.
Unfortunately, after a three-week battle, sadly Shams mother passed away. Things became increasingly difficult for Shams after realising he would not be able to visit his mother’s funeral or be with family due to restrictions across the UK. He managed to find
He however slowly managed to find a way to deal with her death in the comfort that she lived a happy life and got to meet her grandchildren too. Moreover, Shams mother passed away in the holy month of Ramadan, a month which Muslims see of great significance and reward if one passes in this month. He told Asian Standard that it was also a wish of his mothers to leave this world in the month of Ramadan.
Unfortunately, Shams misfortune didn’t end there, because only nine months after his mothers death, he lost his wife Rubeena in their home in Batley. With having children under the age of five, Shams had to quickly pivot his life into a new direction of being an IT consultant to a full-time mother and father for his children.
Shams explains, “It was a very dark time in my life because my daughters needed me to be there for them and I needed to stay upright and strong for them. It was hard because I needed to focus on the positives even though at that time, I couldn’t see any.
“What really hit me was having to deal with the janazah (funeral) and coming home to a house without my wife in it. That was a difficult task to manage and overcome.”
Shams tried his hardest to keep life moving, for the sake of his children, and they visited family in York as often as they could, until one day during a family get together, he jokingly said: “I have some junk in my house to give away I should open a charity shop” And that’s exactly what he did.
Shams opened Ark a not-for-profit charity shop, based on 20, Commercial Street in Batley.
Shams explained: “It stuck with me when I said it and when I returned, I went on the high street of Batley and tried to find a shop which I could open my charity in. I found one and the moment I went inside I knew this was for me”.
Shams didn’t however want to just open a shop for people to visit and buy goods but have a small corner in which he could create a little table and chairs for people to sit down and just rest from all the struggles life throws at them.
He said: “I want people to come inside and have a coffee, maybe shop around and have a look at the store. I’ve really made it like my own house, and I want people to feel the same when they come inside”.
The name of the shop itself comes after the acronym of both his late mother and wife as the letter A being the first letter of his mother’s name and the letter R being the first initial of his wife’s name. Finally, the letter K comes from both his mother’s and wife’s maiden name.
He finally addresses, “I want this shop to allow conversations about mental health to happen and for them to be explained freely without there being a taboo behind it. A lot of people have come in the store, and we’ve spoke for almost 45 minutes talking about life.
“I want people to not feel the pain I felt and if they do, know that my shop is always open for people to attend and speak”.
Shams is thrilled with the response he has received from the locals as many have visited his store and shared their own stories and battles, they have faced.
We at Asian Standard wish him all the best with his venture.