When I visited the fantastic Blogfest this year I spoke to the lovely people from Unilever about Project Sunlight. It shocked me a bit, you see I live in a little bubble, and although I was aware of food banks as a concept, I never really thought about the hardship a person must be in to need to access a food bank. Silly I know but be honest with yourself ? And I mean really honest, have you given it much thought past the concept.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought I would like to help in some way so this week I did something that made me realise there are some wonderful people in the world, the type of people who put others first.
I visited the Open Door Centre in Colne Lancashire. Open Door is a charity that not only provides a warm meal and support for people in need, but helps them to improve their situation be it via emergency food parcels, help filling out forms, life skills training and many, many other services.
I had arranged to meet with the Centre Manager Dawn to chat about the Centre and what it meant to the people who use it. When I arrived I was surprised to enter through the main doors into a cafe. It was absolutely nothing at all like I expected. I imagined a food and furniture warehouse, when in fact I found myself in a community cafe where people were able to pop in for a coffee, chat, cheap meal, soup and a sandwich and access to a P.C and the internet.
Dawn was in the middle of something when I arrived so she offered me a coffee and a seat to wait for her. I must say it was like being in any other cafe or coffee shop, it had a buzzing atmosphere as some people chatted amongst themselves and some just sat a read a newspaper.
What struck me was that as people came and went Dawn referred to each and every one of those people by name It might only be a little thing so some, but in my opinion such a gesture is just huge, and can make a person feel so good about themselves, feel wanted and valued as a person.
So what is the Centre all about?
Well according to Project Sunlight #ClearAPlate statistics; one in five UK families lives below the poverty line? This means in some areas, there are whole neighborhoods’ affected, even if you can’t see it.
Open Door is a solution for these people, families and independent people who sometimes have nowhere to turn. Dawn was very clear that she does not aim to be a sticking plaster, but more a place to resolve situations. And as she said ” the only way to deal with problems is to find a way to resolve it, help people to overcome their problems rather than a quick fix.”
So how does the Open Door Centre do this?
They are a first point of call for most people, as a result of this they firstly listen and always have counsellors on hand to try to resolve problems and set an action plan into place.
The Centre services have been accessed over 3000 times this year and offered over 600 emergency food parcels to keep people going whilst they are referred to a food bank.
They offer Internet access, IT lessons, literacy and numeracy workshops, Confidence building, Health and Safety, Mental Health awareness Courses. Even a place to get a shower and soup and a roll. All these thing are vital to help people be able to take control with their situation and overcome issues.
Open Door has 22 counsellors who liaise with agencies such as benefits agency, mental health services, debt management and housing to name a few, all with the aim of helping to resolve problems which in turn alleviates stress levels for vulnerable people, and that is the key.
What I came away with, from my time spent with Dawn ? The customers that use open door have for whatever reason become vulnerable in our society, as I sat with Dawn I realised that but for the grace of god that could quite easily be me or indeed a loved one.
The importance is to not judge, but listen and realise that we are all the same inside. Yet some, for whatever reason, need support and help in life. So please help, drop a food parcel into the wonderful people at Open Door. Or Donate, every penny helps. and as the Centre cost £120,000 a year to run donations of all kind are greatly appreciated.
And remember this, whilst we are stressing about getting all our Christmas prezzies, ordering expensive food and wine for Christmas day. The customers of open door are worrying about putting food on the table, feeding themselves or their families. Or even worrying about having somewhere to sleep that night. Please support Open Door and Project Sunlight and remember just being able to provide our families with food and warmth for some is a luxury.