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Volunteering for a local community centre leading a national food revolution, has helped me to find focus, connection, humility and hope during the chaos of the pandemic.

After being furloughed in April and unable to return to my family, I went from having a busy work and social life, spending 12+ hours a day out of the house, to suddenly being at home with seemingly infinite free time. While I’m counting all my blessings and have enjoyed painting, exploring Sheffield and reconnecting with friends and family; several months away from work and loved ones inevitably has hard and lonely moments. I wanted to volunteer, not only to support those hit hardest by lockdown but also for my own sense of purpose and community in this period.

I volunteer for the phone-line of an emergency food parcel service arranged by FoodHall, Sheffield and contributing 6-12 hours a week since mid-April, I am a small cog in the machine. However, the hours build up and with only a handful of paid staff and less than 100 volunteers putting in a few hours each week, we have provided a lifeline to 3000+ (as of 17 May) during the lockdown.

Two years into spearheading the National Food Service movement FoodHall quickly developed an emergency food parcel scheme in response to the crisis in late March. FoodHall’s system is not means-tested and does not limit the number of requests per person; important factors to those who might otherwise slip through the net.

Technology, innovation and efficiency have been essential for the project’s success. Working remotely on the helpline, I have never physically been to FoodHall or met any volunteers, staff or service users. Since discovering the organisation through a WhatsApp group, everything from my training to internal communications has taken place across a mixture of Zoom, Slack, Trello and Google Documents.

With tech reliance and physical distance, human connection happens over the phone. Despite never asking and being known only as “No Caller ID”, people of all ages and backgrounds in various situations have shared with me their stories about what lead them to ask for help. Many live within 30 minutes from me but situations behind closed doors are more hidden than ever in the “Stay Home” period. Without ever meeting we have connected through bittersweet moments of laughing, crying and making small talk around hard conversations, making me stumble my words to be on the receiving end of gratitude directed towards FoodHall.

I am glad to help my neighbours at this time, and to play a small part in a national movement to prevent food insecurity and food waste.

My experience of the lockdown period has taught me the importance of reaching out to friends and family. While we’re at home in our bubbles it’s easy to forget other people might not be as fine as they seem but even a text or call can really help.

Stay safe, be kind to yourself and others and see you at Déda soon!

Grace Osbourne,
Marketing and Audience Development Coordinator

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