Since 2003 volunteer and chair (2004-2006) of the Community Fundraising Committee of The Food Chain whose mission is to improve the health and well being of London’s population living with HIV by alleviating hunger and malnutrition.
The Food Chain is a UK registered charity delivering meals every week to more than 500 users across London, free of charge, since 1988. Every Sunday, Food Chain volunteers prepare and deliver delicious, nutritionally balanced, individually tailored meals and groceries to people who, because of their illness, are housebound and unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves.
The Food Chain has long understood that good nutrition can help prevent, stop or reverse weight loss, manage symptoms, and reduce the side effects of medications. Many HIV medicines are only effective if taken with food. Each meal is prepared according to specific guidelines established by professionals and is specially suited to everyone taste.
The Food Chain is a unique organisation with more volunteers than users and was awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2004 and a Guardian Award in 2005.
I started volunteering for the Food Chain as a Navigator at the Kentish Town Kitchen. I was helping a driver to find his way through London and was delivering meals to service users. It was a challenging task since I never drove through London. I was paired with experienced drivers but also with drivers who knew little of the area we were visiting. We got lost a few times but we always delivered all our meals and we had a lot of fun in the traffic jams or trying to find a road that was not on the map!
Meeting the services users was also a challenge. Sometimes the Food Chain Navigator is the only person a service user will see or talk to during the week. Sometimes he or she is not in very good health and it could be emotionally demanding for the Navigator. We always tried to say a few comforting words and our service users always have good things to say about the meal or the service.
After a few months, I was elected chair of the Community Fundraising Committee to which I was also contributing at the same time as I was navigating. The Community Fundraising Committee, which I chaired for 2 years (2004-6), was committed to raise £60,000 per year i.e. 20% of the budget of the organisation. We reached our target both year and did even better than we expected.
With the help of dedicated volunteers, we organised collections in tube stations, pubs and clubs. We organised special events in the summer in conjunction with St Paul Church (the Actors’ church) in Covent Garden which has always been one of our supporter. We managed a network of more than 60 collecting tins placed in public places and shops. We ran raffles, sang Christmas Carols, and participated to Walk for Life, and several marathons and pride events.
We organised events, big and small, to bring money in and also to promote the work of the Food Chain within the community and attract potential supporters and volunteers. An important part of the work of the Committee was to build and maintain relationships with the donors. We identified sponsors and encouraged and supported individual initiative.
Between 2006-7, I suspended my volunteering activity whilst living abroad. On my return I slowly started volunteering again. In the meantime, the Food Chain had changed a lot. My volunteering activity now focuses on the induction of new members and 4 to 6 events a year.
I have met some great and dedicated people while volunteering. I really enjoyed community events. They bring people together to have fun while at the same time raising valuable funds to help the organisation.