Jon Horden, Volunteer Van Driver

As a part of each volunteer newsletter, we speak to different individuals whose hard work and generosity is making a positive difference to the Cambridge community. This month we spoke to Jon Horden, who is currently in his fifth year volunteering as a Foodbank van driver. Read on to learn about Jon’s story, why he chose to volunteer and what makes volunteering at the Foodbank so rewarding for him.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’ve not always lived in Cambridge – I moved here around 25 years ago, and in that time I’ve left the city about four or five times, but I keep coming back! I was born in Northamptonshire and grew up in Yorkshire, before moving to Cambridge to work at what you could call my first proper job. Through work I’ve moved around a bit and have lived in places like Washington DC, Boston, Dublin and Prague.

I work in IT, more specifically in computer software. Currently I’m working for an AI company called iKVA, where I’m the CEO and founder. When I have some free time, I like to help out at the Foodbank.

When, why, and how did you first start volunteering with the Foodbank?

I started volunteering around five years ago. I was working for a company and it was sold, so I found I had some time on my hands and wanted to do something useful with it. I was in The Haymakers in Chesterton where I saw an ad from the Foodbank asking for drivers and I started volunteering soon after.

What are your current roles and responsibilities at the Foodbank?

I started out volunteering on the Friday morning shift, where I was responsible for completing pick-ups from the supermarkets and unloading at our various delivery points. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, as you know, the Foodbank got even busier. Previously, I was volunteering every other week, but because a number of our volunteers were more vulnerable to COVID-19, I ended up volunteering quite a lot more.

I did that for while, but once I formed iKVA, I was unable to spend as much time as I would have liked at the Foodbank. However, as I’m now part-time, I have more time to volunteer. I currently volunteer on Tuesdays and every other Friday, where I drive the van on delivery runs and occasionally act as the ‘muscle’ to carry heavier loads.

Do you have a particular moment that stands out from your time with the Foodbank?

Volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic was particularly rewarding. There was a smaller core team of volunteers, so we were really busy trying to achieve everything we needed to. The Foodbank became a real resource for people who were suddenly unable to work. Even though it was busy, it was pleasing to know that the work that we did helped people who would’ve gone without food otherwise.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from the Foodbank?

I’m involved with the Cambridge Community Choir, where I sing and work with the band. We just had a big concert at Netherhall School a few weeks ago that was fantastic.

I’m also a trustee for Cambridge Online, which is a charity that helps disadvantaged people to gain online access. In today’s world, you can’t do most things unless you can do it digitally, so we’ve given out lots of equipment to people who need it. More recently, we have been providing Ukrainian refugees with SIM cards to ensure they have data available on their phones in order to stay in contact with their family and friends.

Away from work, I play badminton and football once a week.

If there is someone who is considering volunteering for the first time, what would you message be to them?

Simply, just do it. You get the chance to work with some lovely people, but most importantly you get to give back to the community that you’re a part of. There are various roles that you can do: from driving vans like myself and supporting the packing in the warehouse, to distributing food to our visitors in our distribution centres and Fairbite shops – there really is something enjoyable and rewarding for everyone to do.

It’s worthwhile, it isn’t too arduous, you volunteer with some great people, and you give back to the community. So, why wouldn’t you?