Help The Hungry: What it＊s like to volunteer on the frontline during a pandemic
＆Without routine, I can＊t cope. I would not be here if it wasn＊t for this project,＊ one helper says
What has it been like to volunteer during the pandemic? Social enterprise Bread n Butter 每 one of the charities supplied by our Help The Hungry appeal partner, The Felix Project 每 closed its doors at the end of March.
However, its founders saw a growing need among the city＊s most vulnerable for regular home-cooked, nutritious meals, so they joined with community centres Stonegrove Community Trust and the Hive Trust.
Since then, Bread n Butter＊s team, aided by volunteers, have been cooking and delivering more than 1,000 meals a day to Londoners in need in Barnet, Enfield and Brent. Here, we speak to four people who keep this project going.
※I learned the power of working together§
Richard Simon, a furloughed IT worker, joined the Stonegrove Community Trust＊s OneStonegrove project in Edgware at his wife＊s suggestion. The 52-year-old said: ※Working in the kitchens was like being on Ready Steady Cook. You don＊t know what ingredients you＊re going to be working with, so you have to think on your feet.§ The father of two, who dedicates 20 hours a week, added that the biggest thing he had learnt was the power of ※working together§.
※For a group of people who don＊t know each other, we just get on with it, working flat out. No one is being paid, we＊re just working for a great cause. It has been extraordinary.§
※It＊s been transformative§
Joanne Karbritz, 47, works up to five hours a day, four days a week at OneStonegrove community centre. The former Oxfam shop worker, who has high-functioning autism, said that because of her condition, having a ※structured day§ is incredibly important. ※Without routine, I can＊t cope,§ she said. ※I would not be here if it wasn＊t for this project.§
Ms Karbritz, who is also anorexic, said working with food had been transformative. ※Working to create healthy, nutritious food everyday has changed my relationship with it. I have also learned how to cook, whereas before I lived out of tins.§
※I feel I am belonging§
Mariana Bassi Da Silva, a software developer, wanted to volunteer as she was not working due to the pandemic. A keen cook, the 34-year-old volunteered for OneStonegrove and said the project had helped develop her love of cooking. The Brazilian-Italian, who moved to London seven years ago, said the greatest impact the project has had on her was the sense of ※belonging§.
※It is hard to settle in when you move,§ she said. ※Here, I have a community. The people have been really welcoming of me into their community.§
※I felt guilty sitting at home not doing much§
Max Dickson, 27, decided to take up volunteering for the first time after being furloughed. The project manager from Colindale felt ※guilty§ about sitting at home while supported by taxpayer money through the furlough scheme. ※I wanted to help others,§ he said. He and his girlfriend signed up to work one day a week at OneStonegrove.
He said: ※We have spoken about doing this when it＊s all over. It＊s great to help out.§
Readers have just three more days to bid for a piece of Sir Peter＊s Blake＊s pop artwork, Our Fans, to raise money for Help The Hungry. The auction of the giant mural 每 which echoes Sir Peter＊s design of The Beatles＊ Sgt Pepper album and was draped over the London Mandarin Oriental hotel during its 2017 renovation 每 closes at midnight on Friday. There are 100 fragments, each featuring a famous face such as Ringo Starr or Annie Lennox.
The Independent is encouraging readers to help groups that are trying to feed the hungry during the crisis 每 find out how you can help here. Follow this link to donate to our campaign in London, in partnership with the Evening Standard.