Supporting those in need has been a lifeline during the pandemic

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Church Related Community Work students Felicity (Fliss) Tunnard and Alice Gilbert reflect on what they have been able to achieve despite lockdown restrictions and remind us that showing love, kindness and compassion is what we need at this time.

Alice says she feels lucky because so many of her fellow students’ placements just stopped. Alice was still able to continue withLove and Kindness ditto bowo on Unsplash hers, although it was a little different to what she was used to.

The community centre where I’m based went from having a number of groups in the building to none overnight, but this did not stop us, we are there to serve the community and this is what we continued to do. The purpose of all staff and the centre switched overnight to become a crisis centre, distributing essential items like food, toiletries, nappies, IT equipment, books, clothes, furniture and bicycles across Caversham. As many of the other service providers in Caversham were unable to open due to the nature of their staff team/volunteers, the centre expanded its reach to cover other areas north of Lower Caversham.

Between March to December 2020 we made 2,274 deliveries of food and essential items to residents across Caversham and supported circa 230 households containing over 700 individuals.

Since the last lockdown, we have been able to expand what we offer and now have a community bakery operating twice a week, where residents can come and help themselves to things that have been donated from local supermarkets.

The centre has not just been a lifeline for the local area, it has been a kind of lifeline for me as well, giving me a purpose during these times and a place where I can go and interact with others. 

Being in a secular placement has meant that there are a number of different views on faith and the Bible, but this does not matter for there is a glimpsing of God in our actions, the care and love and effort that has gone into what is being done, the passion and care for the community, and the thankfulness expressed from people and the joy in both parents and children’s faces when even if they couldn’t come to the Centre to visit Santa, we were able to take Santa out on the streets to visit them.

Reaching those families who are so in need at this difficult time, by showing love and kindness. 

Fliss was taken aback when her placement stopped abruptly in March 2020 after two years. It was a shock and something she struggled with, as not having the opportunity to finish the work properly and the chance to say goodbye to all the people she had worked with and gotten to know so well was hard.

However, in October last year, Fliss started her new placement with Ann Honey, Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) at St Columba’s, in Billingham. While they’ve also been affected by lockdown, which has limited what they can do, Fliss has been working with Ann predominantly at the local foodbank.

The foodbank is well used and appreciated in Billingham, helping people break free from poverty by providing additional support, to help people resolve the crises they’re facing so that they don’t need to use a foodbank again in the future. This includes debt advice, mental health support, and benefits guidance.

At Christmas, we provided Christmas presents for children and Christmas hampers to ensure that families would be able to have as normal a Christmas as they could possibly have.

We were also able to do this at St Columba’s, providing extra food parcels and presents to over 20 different families in the localChristmas hampers area. I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of this project, showing love and kindness to families who are so in need at this difficult time.

I’ve also been working with Ann on some funding applications so that the kitchen in the church can be refurbished. So far, we are nearly halfway towards our goal and we hope to start work on the kitchen when we have our target in the next few months. I’ll be back with an update on the progress of our Kitchen so watch this space!

If you would like to find out more about becoming a CRCW, contact us or read more about training and criteria here. 

Photo of hands artwork by Ditto Bowo on Unsplash


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