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So many people in need

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One of the hardest moments in any mom's life? Seeing your toddler go hungry when you can't afford to make ends meet.

Such was the case for Nesi Armstrong, 25.

The Florida native was new to the Island and unable to work.

Her Bermudian husband, Ian Armstrong, was in between jobs — and while their money covered rent and bills, they didn't have enough for groceries to last them the month.

Her survival instincts kicked in.

Mrs Armstrong asked for help from the Women's Resource Centre. In the nick of time her family was given food and grocery vouchers.

Once they were back on their feet, Mrs Armstrong decided to create a Facebook page: Free Food Bermuda.

The page helps to connect those in need of food with people and agencies that have extra to give away.

She's now hoping people will donate food gift baskets for families in need over the Christmas holiday.

“I started the group and everyone immediately responded,” she said. “The page has over 560 members and it's been just about a year.”

Some people will post publicly on the group's wall; others send private messages. Mrs Armstrong will also scour sites like Emoo for anyone giving away food or non-perishable items.

“Sometimes people don't want to make their need public,” she said. “So I am just trying to be that source for help because I know what it's like to look at your child and know they are hungry and you have nothing to give them.

“That's a feeling you don't want to tell anyone about, but what do you do? Where do you go?

“I couldn't afford to wait for things to get better. I had to create the opportunity.”

She said the page was never about her. She simply wanted to start a movement and put people directly in touch with help.

Local families have been extremely grateful for the support.

“Some people thank me. They say things like ‘Is this real? I can't begin to thank you',” Mrs Armstrong said.

“I just want more people to post to give because there are so many people in need. People here work so hard but can barely make ends meet. They even work two or three jobs to maintain their home and utilities.

“A lot of people have medical expenses, children away in university or house mortgages and repairs. Even just parking in town can be expensive and the price of groceries are consistently climbing.

“You can make $5,000 a month but you are literally spending most of that on rent and bills.”

Mrs Armstrong now works cleaning people's homes; her husband also found employment as a corrections officer.

She said it feels as if a weight has been lifted.

“What I'm trying to do is bring Bermudians together,” Mrs Armstrong said. “It doesn't matter where you come from or where you work, we all have basic things in common. We need love and we need nutrition — and we can show that love when we give to our brothers and sisters.”

Her Christian faith is another thing that inspired her to give. “I give because I know when my hands are open I am open to receive kindness from someone else. I don't want to see anyone hurting, suffering or in need. I have been there and it's very stressful.

“You are so worried about where your next meal is coming from it makes you physically sick or your hair starts falling out.

“You start to count down the days to when the food will run out. In my case I would cut back on eating so my daughter could eat. My husband would cut back so I could eat.”

But she said she wouldn't trade that trying experience for anything, because it taught her a lot about life.

“It lit a passion in me that I don't ever want to go out,” she said. “I know what it's like to struggle and I would never forget that or where I came from.”

Mrs Armstrong is encouraging people to look through their cupboards and fridge regularly — and donate what they can.

“Don't wait until the food goes off,” she said. “As long as it isn't spoiled someone will take it. And you never know who it will reach, whose plate that food will end up on and how it will change their life.”

Once someone is properly fed, they have energy to get up and go to school or get a job, she said. The young mom said she never thought she'd do something that would impact so many lives. “All I have is a high school diploma. I could have thought ‘What do I have to offer Bermuda?' But I have determination and a good attitude and I want to reach people and create change.”

For more information, visit Facebook page: Free Food Bermuda

Nesi Armstrong runs a Facebook page called Free Food Bermuda, which helps connect needy people with agencies who have extra food to give away. (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)
Nesi Armstrong runs a Facebook page called Free Food Bermuda, which helps connect needy people with agencies who have extra food to give away. (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

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Published December 11, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 11, 2014 at 12:19 am)

So many people in need

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