Food and the listening ear

Anonymous note left at Rainbow Bookshop: ‘This (food) donation is from a young lady who you have previously helped. She said she wanted to give something back. She didn’t want to leave her name, but I thought you would want to know you made a real difference!’

Email received from ‘Charlie’: ‘First of all I would like to express my gratitude for the food that the food bank gave me today, I was even more humbled when chatting with one of your staff I found out that the food bank is a charity and everything you have is donated and staffed by volunteers. I didn't know what if any help social services would be able to give me and I’ve never had contact or knowledge of Food bank before today. I would like to offer my services as a volunteer so that I can give something back and help others in similar situations to myself.Could I ask that you add me to your mailing list for any future volunteer opportunities.Once again thank you so much for today.’

Joe worked as an agency worker for a local organisation here in Swindon – he enjoyed his job and had been working for them for about 5 or 6 months, but had to go into hospital for a minor operation. He spoke to his employer and the agency beforehand and let them know he was going to be off for a few days. He was assured that as he was only going to be off-work for less than a week, and that his job would be ‘held open’ for him to come back to. He went back to his employers after his hospital visit, and was told that as he was an agency worker, the position had ‘gone’. We were able to listen to Joe’s ‘story’ over a cuppa and help him with a food parcel to feed himself and his 6 year old son.

Emma (19 years old) was ‘thrown out’ of her parents’ home when she became pregnant. Her little girl is now 4 months old, but Emma suffers from a medical condition that has meant her younger sister has had to move into Emma’s flat too, to help look after the baby. When we met Emma she was deeply embarrassed about coming to Swindon Foodbank for help – we did our best to re-assure her that there is no shame in asking for help, particularly as she’s doing her best to look after her younger sister and baby. We were glad to be able to feed her and encourage her, even though our conversation with her was quite brief.

Andy lost his job and company car in the last month. Due to domestic circumstances he also lost his home and access to his family, leaving him to sofa surf. When he first came to Foodbank he was extremely emotional and embarrassed to find himself in this situation. Whilst we were unable to solve many of his problems, we were able to give him food, a Christmas hamper and a listening ear.

Mary, a reformed drug addict was claiming benefits. Whilst talking to her during a visit to Foodbank, it came to light that her partner had a terminal illness. Again we were able to offer her food, Christmas hamper and a listening ear. She asked if she could return again even without a voucher, just to talk. She only has a few friends and is afraid she will be drawn back into a previous lifestyle she has left behind. It is very special that we are able to offer ourselves in this way.

The Smith Family came in with a voucher and whilst we were serving them the Jones family came in also with a voucher. It transpired that the two families were related but due to a family dispute had not seen each other for three years. Meeting at the Foodbank distribution centre enabled them to be reunited as a family.

As the benefit reassessments, delays and cuts continue to leave people in desperate situations where they need to turn to other agencies like us for help we are seeing a further increase in the numbers coming to our Distribution Centres.

There is also an increase in referrals from the Citizens Advice Bureau with more people finding themselves in financial difficulties pre Christmas.

It is a priviledge to support these people in a small way during their crisis by providing food and a listening ear.

Angie found herself with the custody of her five grandchildren aged between 5 and 17 years due to a difficult domestic situation.  She resisted coming to Foodbank as long as she could believing she should be able to cope on her own, but now we are able to stand alongside her and provide food as long as she needs it

Charlie, in his mid fifties and recently released from prison was housed in Gloucestershire where he managed to get a job. Unfortunately the authorities decided to move him back to Wiltshire where he was originally based, so he has arrived in Swindon with no income, owning no more than the clothes on his back and currently outside the benefits system.

Several students at local colleges have found the need to call on the help of Foodbank due to the delay in receiving their grants