VOICES OF LEWISHAM
“… our prayer is that this generosity won’t wane – our need for providing food will not disappear any time soon”.
Caro Swan is volunteer co-ordinator at Lewisham Foodbank, where work increased four-fold “almost overnight” in the first wave. She dreams of being unemployed because we no longer need foodbanks.
“Before COVID, we gave clients time to talk. Sadly this is no longer possible. Our hope is that in this strange world, they will find the support and care they need.
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone’s donations which enable us to fill our food parcels. As times are likely getting harder with a long COVID winter, our prayer is that this generosity won’t wane – our need for providing food will not disappear any time soon.
“We have a ‘pamper box’ for new mums, chocolates for a birthday, make-up for young women … these items make all the difference in the world.
“In the first wave, almost overnight we went from preparing around 120 food parcels per week, to delivering food to around 80 households per day. This entailed creating teams of food parcel packers, delivery drivers, logistics experts, Spanish speaking volunteers, wholesale shoppers, stock-takers, warehouse assistants, volunteers to collect donations from across Lewisham, volunteers to call clients, plus of course volunteers to make sandwiches and gallons of tea.
“But … just when I thought rotas were sussed, lockdown lifted and volunteers took holidays or returned to work, so it’s been a constant recruitment drive. Since March around 500 have applied to volunteer.
“Many are actors, directors, musicians, events professionals and other arts specialists. I fear for their future. Why should they re-train in cyber, they want to do what they love.
“I am also a freelance photographer, and with no gigs this year, I have created a gallery of volunteers, asking why they love Foodbank, and what their day job is.
“Witnessing the rich mixture of people coming together for a common cause is inspiring. All teams are ‘bubbled’ so get to know each other well. One team comprises a theatre director, midwife, food blogger, publisher’s sales director and an employee of Amnesty International. Some work full-time from home, and with the blessing of their employers, take time out to volunteer.
“Copious amounts of laughter, cake and mutual support help enormously. Working alongside colleagues Carol, Sheena, Jackie and Garry, is such a privilege. Big shout-out to Lucy, Sarah and Barry who were deployed by Lewisham Council to provide support in the early days of COVID. We wouldn’t be where we are now without them.
“Finally, my faith has underpinned everything. On days when energy is sapped, when tears flow… knowing that God is close, and cares, forgives and loves unconditionally, has been so important.
“I dream for a cure for COVID; for volunteers to be in employment that makes their hearts sing; and to become unemployed because we no longer need foodbanks.”
Caro spoke to us in November 2020.