The Bread Winner
Former Gisborne man Mustafa Sheikh aka ‘Mussie’ is the founder of The Bread Charity, a foundation that was set up to help protect the dreams of some of the country’s most vulnerable. He breaks bread with reporter Shaan Te Kani . . .
A McLaren super car and child poverty are poles apart on the socio-economic spectrum.
But Gisborne-raised Mustafa Sheikh, better known as ‘Mussie’, has found a way to connect the two, and all for a good cause.
Mussie, who is based in Auckland, is the founder of the Bread Charity, a cause which has been running for the past two years and aims to support the dreams of children living in poverty.
In fact, Mussie wants to wipe out child poverty altogether, which he boldly states on the Bread Charity’s YouTube channel.
One step towards this goal is the charity’s annual fundraiser, the Super Car Rally.
It is an event that closes Auckland’s Queen Street, with a police car escorting around 30 super cars, which have Bread Charity stickers attached to the bonnets.
All of this was the brainchild of the 24-year-old “Gizzy boy”, who is an entrepreneur and honours graduate of the University of Auckland.
The funds from the rally go towards a mentoring programme for Year 7/8 students from low-decile areas.
Mentors work with students over a six-month period, and during that time they learn about the students, help them to set goals and give encouraging support at this early, yet crucial stage of their journey.
Inspired by his upbringing in Gisborne, Mussie says he just wanted to give back.
“I may live in Auckland but I’m still an East Coast kid.
“I was born in England and moved to Gisborne when I was four. I went to school at St Mary’s, then Central School, Illminster Intermediate and Gisborne Boys’ High.
“Growing up in Gizzy was amazing. But I did grow up seeing kids go to school with no shoes, or they had little lunch.
“And I guess back then I thought that was normal.
“When I moved up to Auckland for uni, I saw this whole other world.
“I thought, ‘man, I really need to do something.’
“I thought about the people who I grew up with, the people who helped me.
“Gizzy is a really humble place — I just felt like I needed to give back in some way.
“So I started volunteering at Starship Hospital. But there was still more that I wanted to do to make a positive impact.
“In my class at Boys’ High I was the only one to go to Auckland University.
“There were others in my class who were way smarter than me, well-rounded in all aspects — sporting and academic — but they didn’t really take it further.
'It’s important for kids to have dreams'“They had great potential but didn’t know how amazing they were.
“And that is the main goal of the Bread Charity, to make these kids realise and believe that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can have dreams and achieve them. There’s a whole world out there.
“That’s the main message, and is a massive motivator for me.”
The programme is currently carried out at Wesley Intermediate in Auckland but there is a plan to bring it home.
“The East Coast is a big focus for me. But I want to make sure my mentoring programmes are bullet-proof before I come home.”
When Mussie first started the charity, he soon realised that raising donations was a difficult task.
“Charities are difficult because not everyone has a reason to donate.
“I didn’t have a lot of money to start the charity, and at first I had to work part time.
“But now it’s the largest event of its kind in the country.
“We have never taken a grant. We have always gone out and earned our money, and the rally is our big fundraiser.
“It’s funny because I didn’t even know what a Lamborghini was before this started. A Subaru Forrester was the dream car at Boys’ High.
“But we have had some really cool cars involved including the first Lamborghini Aventador SVJ in the Southern Hemisphere.
“And I’ve done celebrity interviews around the race track with the likes of former All Black Keven Mealamu.
“It’s just another cool way to raise awareness.”
Why super cars? And how did the rally eventuate?
“I just thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to have 30 super cars going down Queen Street’.
“People said to me, ‘that’s crazy. There’s a 0.01 percent chance to have 30 super cars in one place’.
“They said it couldn’t be done. But it’s all about believing in yourself.
“I saw a cool car up the street one day and I pretty much did a sales pitch to the owner on the side of the road.
“And it worked really well. It’s all about the hustle. If you have a vision, make sure it happens.
“It’s that entrepreneur mindset. It’s not a career, it’s a way of thinking. I am someone who is open to opportunity and just pursues it.”
The charity takes its name from the aspect of bread being a staple food.
“If you look back at most ancient civilisations, one of their main staple foods originate from wheat or bread. We want this to be a ‘staple programme’ within the community.
“I’ve always wanted to make sure that we spend every dollar to the best of our ability. We allocate $300 to each student, but we won’t spend any of it until we get some strong background work happening.
“We ask them to name three things that they would really like to do. It may be science or rugby.
“Rather than give them the money first, we put time into them, find out about what they really want to do and then spend money on getting resources for them to help them on that pathway. If they want to be a rugby player, we will buy them a rugby kit.
“I also focused on bringing university students in as mentors to inspire them, to teach them about setting goals and hard work.
“Because even though my honours degree was in chemistry, and I now am involved in several business start-ups, university taught me about work ethic.
“In the first session, the kids are really reserved. But by the end they are way more active and close as a group.
“They’ll say, ‘I want to stay a bit longer’. Or, ‘now I really want to be a doctor’.
“That’s really fulfilling to hear that.”
Mussie is also aiming to be the youngest Prime Minister, and eradicating child poverty is at the top of his agenda.
“When I look at the Government, it’s easy for someone to sign a cheque.
“But I think we need to flip it. First, we need to understand the people and then we spend the money.
“It’s the same model as what we use with our students.
“It’s important for kids to have dreams, and they need that support to show them that they have so much potential if they put their mind to it.”
• You can find the Bread Charity online at http://www.bread.org.nz or on Facebook.