WORLD BOXING champion Amir Khan put aside his gloves to lend a helping hand to the flood-affected community in Carlisle.
Khan, 29, led volunteers from his foundation and the international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal to provide moral and practical support as he toured the Warwick Road area of the city which was badly hit by Storm Desmond last weekend.
The welterweight champion and former Olympic silver medallist first met volunteers from Greystone Community Centre which acted as a reception centre in the wake of the floods to provide hot meals and accommodation for those forced to flee their homes.
Khan and his team of helpers then answered a desperate call of help from Muriel Boyd, 68, who needed some manpower to shift a washing machine and fridge back downstairs into the kitchen of her granddaughter’s home.
Like many in the surrounding area they frantically moved electrical items to the second floor of the house as the waters swiftly rose.
Stephanie Boyd, 20, said: “It was very very big surprise definitely but I’m so grateful for the help. It’s massive.”
As the rain lashed down, Khan then walked along Warwick Road and its masses of ruined furniture stacked outside homes.
He met troops of the 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who are assisting with the ongoing clean-up which overnight will see the soldiers together with staff from Carlisle City Council remove the flood-damaged items.
Next stop was the Kinder Park Nursery in Warwick Road, which was similarly flooded in 2005, where Christmas presents were handed out to children.
Owner and manager Joanne Routledge told the Bolton-born fighter that lessons had been learned from the last deluge and she was “very optimistic” that it could re-open in the New Year.
She told Khan: “I really appreciate your support. We have about 147 children who access this nursery and a lot of them have been affected in their homes as well which is really really sad. It’s devastating.
“It’s good that you are bringing recognition to the area and we are not forgotten about.”
Khan replied: “That’s why we wanted to come to build that awareness so people know what it’s really like and that people still need help.”
He later added: “It’s very sad to see that people have had to leave their homes and all the furniture has been taken out of their houses and the floods have destroyed all the homes, the kids’ toys and everything else.
“I just want to come here and give kids some new toys and bring moral support really.
“Its right on my doorstep, I live in England, that is one of the reasons why I wanted to come and show my support. I do a lot of help around the world helping the needy and I thought why not England where I live.”
Lunch of curry was later served by the two charities at the Greystone Community Centre, where toys were also distributed.
Khan was also hoping to spar with youngsters from the Border City Amateur Boxing Club in Carlisle which was flooded last week.
Penny Appeal, through its Love Thy Neighbour campaign, has been providing hot meals in the UK to those in need for more than a year.
Khan has worked with the charity previously in supplying hot meals to homeless people in Manchester.
Aamer Naeem, Penny Appeal chief executive, added: “The UK community has always given generously to disasters overseas, but we recognise that we need to help at home too.
“That’s why Penny Appeal also carries out projects in the UK and, at times like these, we deploy our network of volunteers to safely do what they can.”