This is an invite to a Christmas event – but not one from which you’ll walk away with a neatly wrapped present. Instead, I want you to join me for just a few hours to act as one of the essential community volunteers giving a gift to those most in need. This Christmas, friends from across politics and civic society will once again be packing food parcels to help feed rough sleepers and other vulnerable people in London. The Helping Hands day, on Friday December 17th, is the culmination of months of hard work to source healthy, good quality ingredients and recruit volunteers. It is designed to provide a nourishing meal for people without a roof over their head this winter, and I want you to join me.
We will be meeting at Park Plaza Westminster Hotel by Westminster Bridge. If you can spare just an hour or two, it would offer invaluable support after the continued pain and disruption of the pandemic. We will need volunteers to help with packing between 10.30am and 3pm. This will follow last year’s event when we had great success in providing more than 2,000 hot meals to homeless people and some of the most vulnerable members of our communities in Lambeth and Southwark. You can watch a short video here to get a taste of how it works.
Of course, this is just one day. We never forget there are thousands of people sleeping rough around the UK day in, day out – and a huge number of charities in London and beyond that rely on staff, volunteers, directors and donors to provide them with food and other support and advice. All of this work is vital, and all the organisers and supporters of Helping Hands would be the first to recognise the long-term impact of charities, social enterprise and corporate backers for people who are homeless. I have seen their work in Lambeth, where I am a councillor, as well as across London and the UK.
As we all know, rather than act as a leveller, the pandemic has underlined many of the social problems faced by our society. Like me, you may have felt spurred on by this unprecedented health crisis to do more and become involved in food banks, soup runs or homeless cafes the rest of the year.
I have also tried to do more, opening the With Love Cafe in Waterloo, south London, in 2019. It was a pay-it-forward coffee and sandwich shop in which customers were invited to contribute a bit more with the excess going towards the local homeless community as well as children from low income families. We opened our doors in a rather different era and now, more than 18 months into he pandemic, we are planning on how we can ensure that similar initiatives will still be around when our daily lives have regained a greater sense of normality.
I am equally proud to be taking part in the Helping Hands food packing day this Christmas. Please join me on Friday December 17th. One day cannot fix the nation’s problems but I hope for you, my fellow volunteers and I, it can be an opportunity to begin or deepen our work to support anyone who is hungry, homeless or lonely this Christmas.
If you want to volunteer, make a financial or food donation, or arrange for some of your staff to take part, please contact me via WhatsApp on 07525185288 or email me at [email protected].