Spotlight on St Paul’s
As part of an ongoing volunteer spotlight series, this month, we have been talking with the team working out of the St Paul’s Church in central Cambridge. St Paul’s is one our busiest centres and served, on average, 25 people per week in 2019.
We spoke to a couple of volunteers – Rob and Jenny – to find out about their highs, lows and experiences with the Foodbank.
Rob Lake has been volunteering at the Foodbank since January 2016, and he spoke about his favourite parts of volunteering with his team: “When I volunteer at the Foodbank, the best thing for me is being able to connect with people; with our visitors and with my fellow volunteers. While our primary role is to distribute food, it’s also about being a friend and listening to our visitors’ stories. Pre-pandemic, I would often take the opportunity to sit down with people to have a cup of tea and a biscuit and chat about their lives. An important part of my role, I feel, is just to make people laugh and feel a sense of community. It’s silly, but since the new coronavirus rules and people not being allowed into the building, I often just pretend we have tea and biscuits available on our table at the door to make people laugh! We don’t want people to feel anxious or ashamed when they visit us. Our aim is to treat everyone as equals.”
We also chatted with Jenny Jenkins, a newer volunteer who joined in March 2020 as lockdown began. She said: “I started volunteering in March this year. My mum helps run a foodbank distribution centre in Cardiff and had been telling me how worried she was of not having enough volunteers as the coronavirus situation worsened since many older volunteers were having to shield. I figured the same problem was probably happening nationwide, so decided to start volunteering at my local food bank here in Cambridge. As well as getting to help people who need it most, volunteering was also a real life-saver for me during lockdown. If nothing else, volunteering was a great opportunity to get out of the house once a week! I am a very sociable person and was really struggling being stuck inside my small flat all the time with few people to interact with. For some time the conversations I had at St Paul’s – with the volunteers and our visitors – were the only real conversations I had outside of my house. I love being here and chatting to people.
“I really enjoy volunteering – it’s amazing how much impact you can have on people’s lives by doing something as simple as giving up a few hours of your time once a week. The thing I enjoy most is when you get to see people’s lives gradually improving over the course of a few visits. One week you might speak to someone in a really bad place and the only thing you can do is try really hard to help them understand how they can get access to a voucher, and as they leave you wonder if you really helped at all. To see that person returning the following week voucher in hand already beginning to make progress is an incredibly positive feeling. But while I love building relationships with some of our regular visitors it’s good to remember that not seeing them anymore is even better, because hopefully it means they’re in a place where they no longer need us.”
If you know anyone who might be interested in joining our wonderful team of volunteers, please ask them to email [email protected].