In the words of our Volunteers!
When the Coronavirus struck in Newham, we knew that demand for our foodbank, which has been running weekly since 2013, would rise. We also realised that the most vulnerable in our community were going to need extra help. So we quickly set up a hub to enable us to get emergency relief packs of food and essentials to people stuck at home through illness or shielding.
Over the first nine weeks of lockdown, we estimate that we provided more than 10,000 days’ worth of supplies to over 2,000 people through our hub and our foodbank. And from the very start, our amazing team of volunteers have been right at the heart of everything we’ve achieved!
At Bonny Downs, we’re very fortunate to have a large and loyal team of volunteers who have once again stepped up to the plate during this crisis.
We also put out an appeal for new volunteers to help us pack and distribute relief packs during the Coronavirus crisis and have been overwhelmed by the generosity of time given by local people.
We’ve always known what a fantastically supportive community we have in Newham, but this crisis has really proven it again. So, to mark Volunteers’ Week, we asked some of our volunteer team to help us tell the story of our work in their own words.
Paddy is a longstanding foodbank volunteer, who has given a huge amount of time and energy to the project. “I like to help others, it’s my way of saying thank you to the community that helped me when I needed it”, he says.
Jon describes his reason for volunteering as follows: “We should pull together as a community… it’s satisfying knowing you’re helping others… It’s all about the Great British spirit!”
And Md Mizanoor has been volunteering at our hub. “I found it hard to see people dying during the covid-19 outbreak and funerals taking place under many restrictions”, he explains. “I had experienced isolation myself pre-Covid. Counselling helped me get better and taught me to seek rewards in being the best person I can be.”
Meeting real needs
Liam is one of our volunteers in charge of making sure deliveries run smoothly and mapping the delivery routes. “You get a sense of doing something when everything else is out of control”, he says. “I’ve been disappointed that the level of need is so high, and our government hasn’t met that need.”
Pat is one of our packers and he says his role really brings the need home to him. “You can picture the people you’re packing for… for the families, the over 70s that can’t get out, you think of what they’d like.”
Vic, a volunteer driver, told us about one of her highlights: “During my second shift as a volunteer driver, I delivered a food parcel to an elderly couple. They were so delighted at receiving it. Seeing the relief and gratitude on their faces was humbling. There’s huge job satisfaction to be had in contributing your own time and effort to help the local community, even in a small way.”
Joss has been volunteering as a befriender, making weekly phone calls to elders to help them cope with the isolation and loneliness they are facing in lockdown. She says, “I really enjoy hearing the client’s mood lift throughout the befriending call.”
And Lisa has been helping out with the children and families team as part of her role. “I was particularly moved and inspired by the children’s support team who, pre-Easter were packing hundreds of craft packs to be delivered to children stuck in isolation”, she explains. “I was part of the delivery team and it was inspiring seeing the children’s faces light up at all that glitter – or it may have been the Easter eggs!”
A great team spirit
One of the things that we often our volunteers talk about is the great team spirit that has developed as different people from across the community come together to work for the common good.
Joss captures the atmosphere at our hub well: “The team keeps so cheerful and works so hard to get stuff together on time”, she says. “It’s been wonderful seeing them pulling together supporting the community. It’s very heartwarming. It’s very special indeed!”
Peter agrees, “I’m grateful to come here and work with a nice bunch of people, I feel comfortable here”, and during a time of such challenge, it’s encouraging to hear the sound of laughter sometimes and see new friendships being struck.
Sheila, one of our volunteer packers, says “We’ve had a laugh and a joke and it’s a really nice atmosphere there…I enjoy meeting new people, they are all so friendly make you feel welcome. I’ve made a lot of new friends and really enjoy it”.
Tara is one of our delivery drivers and she says “Volunteering here creates a real structure in the week for me. It good to still be able to meet new people.”
Pat, another of our regular packers, agrees: “It gives me something to look forward to each week and means I can see people (safe distancing of course…) whose company I enjoy. We have a right old laugh too and I’ve made new friends I never would have known!”
And Lisa says she’s been really inspired by how everyone works together so effectively. “The way the team co-ordinates and delivers so many food orders, and how the kitchen team delivers hot cooked meals alongside the groceries, is incredibly organised. It is a well-run machine and so vital for the Newham community!”
Happy Volunteers’ Week!
When will the need for our emergency crisis support end? At the moment, we simply don’t know. Demand has been higher than we ever imagined, is continuing longer than we expected when we first set up our hub, and has actually risen again significantly in recent weeks.
But with such a generous, committed and hardworking team of volunteers, we know that we can keep going and continue to make a real difference to the lives of our neighbours in need.
Indeed, with with such a lovely bunch of volunteers and fantastic team spirit, even the dark and difficult days seem brighter than they otherwise would. As Md Mizanoor puts it, “Fear fades away while volunteering.”