A rant is long overdue. As I have written about before, I volunteer on the soup kitchen in the city centre. I have been doing it for the best part of 14 years and have seen it go through many changes, different systems and lots of volunteers.
Some people are curious and come and do a shift then don’t come back, some people come at Christmas as it makes them feel better and some stay. Motivations vary…curiosity, loneliness, kindness, empathy or just a want to do their bit.
We used to be centrally coordinated and provided with training in health and safety, suicide awareness, mental health issues and addiction recognition. When funding was pulled for this position, it looked like the collapse of this vital service. However,each and every shift decided that they still wanted to volunteer, provide, and be there for some of the most vulnerable members of society.
So we are still doing it. The food providers turn up every week for their shift with me with sandwiches, hot meals and soup. A rolling rota of tea and coffee providers turn up with the drinks, biscuits and fruit. We have food bags that are made up from donations and given out every week and most weeks we take out clothes, toiletries and anything else we can get our hands on.
Every single thing we give out is donated. We have get together since my house and in exchange for our patter, singing and “coffee” our friends bring clothes, toiletries, books, bedding, towels etc. When people are clearing out their cupboards I get first call on the goodies – it’s a way of people giving something back. Like a teacher I used to work with who would give me money every so often and tell me not to tell a soul,or when we stand in with the food- the pals that offer to pay for it,or the pals who have moved away but every time they are home they always come down and do a shift.
Last year there were attempts to get the soup kitchen out of the city centre and city wide exclusion orders were given to service users. We were being pushed further away from the people who needed us. We came together and we are still on our pitch.
We now comply with health and safety regulations of pinning up posters about ingredients and allergy information, (despite the fact many of our service users don’t have English as their mother tongue or have poor levels of literacy we are told we need to do it) We calm service users down who get agitated when this police do the slow drive by and we continue to engage with the late night services to provide some kind of safety and security for people who need it
helping the homeless is not a spectator sport. Ever.
People may suggest that sometimes it is better to stay quiet as the more attention you draw to something, the more hoops you would be forced to jump through.
So isn’t it just wonderful that we are able to provide for between 60-80 service users every Sunday night out of the goodness of our heart and that of our friends? I am glad that we are, because that is just exactly what all the unsung volunteers are doing every night, rain, hail or shine, 365 nights a year.
I’m drawn to people who are genuine about positive change, who inspire me to do more and who want to make a difference. Even a wee tiny one.
Surely given this current state of society we should be making a noise where we can?
Imagine if I stayed quiet about concerns I had about the children I teach. Imagine if I relied on goodwill to educate my daughter. Imagine if I didn’t give a rats.
I make a noise about my weans.I make a noise about teaching. People may roll their eyes and smile as I start on my Dorothy-esque enthusiasm for supporting teachers to make a difference. I don’t consider myself as a spectator and I would be selling the vocation of teaching short if I sat back and refused to question, wonder and aspire to be better.
Looking after the most vulnerable in society is not a spectator sport and deserves more than a cursory box tick.
Oh aye, if anyone has toiletries, sleeping bags etc, ……….