BLOG: Volunteer Diary: Commercial Team

To mark International Volunteer Day on 5th December, Sophie Hall from the ECB’s Commercial Team shares their recent experience helping out at local charity Sufra Food Bank and Kitchen.

Ahead of #InternationalVolunteerDay, the Commercial Team, which I am a part of, ditched our laptops for the day and headed out to volunteer at Sufra Food Bank and Kitchen in north west London.  

Sufra NW London is a local charity established in 2013 to address both the causes and consequences of impoverishment in the community. Based on St. Raphael’s Estate, Brent’s most disadvantaged neighbourhood, the Sufra Community Hub provides a lifeline for people in crisis – including families living in extreme poverty and people who are vulnerable, homeless and socially isolated. 

A before and after shot

We kicked off our day in the edible garden. Whilst some of the team got to work weeding the overgrown flower beds and vegetable patches; others, myself included, drew the short straw shovelling the steaming, rather smelly compost heap!  Admittedly, I shrieked a few times as multiple mice scurried out as the first fork went in and a fellow colleague’s fear of mice had to make a complete U-turn as he then took the lead to carefully remove some baby mice from the depths of the compost heap and free from the dangers of the garden fork. (Photos above) 

The edible garden produces a wide range of fruit, vegetables and eggs which are then distributed in the Food Bank or used to prepare meals in the Community Kitchen. The produce is also available to purchase every Saturday at the pay-as-you-feel community garden market which enables those living in extreme poverty to get fresh ingredients for free if they need to. Other activities such as forest schools, little sprouts, herbal healing and community pizza nights also take place in this thriving outdoor space – a fantastic area for the whole community to enjoy and feel safe.  

After a busy morning and quick lunch stop, we headed into the warehouse to package up the food parcels required for that evening’s drop-in session. The Sufra Food Bank provides over 700 food aid parcels per week in the Brent borough, containing a mixture of non-perishable items and toiletries to last five to seven days. They rely highly on community food donations to provide this service and work with local supermarkets who donate un-sellable and fresh items to the Food Bank every week.  

We were tasked with making emergency food parcels for individuals and families of three or four people. Adopting a slick system, the boys packaged up the items and shifted the crates, whilst the girls restocked the shelves with cans of soup, vegetables and lots of baked beans. We were also on hand to help the other volunteers with the bespoke family parcels which included pre-ordered items such as nappies and baby formula.  

The team and I had a really rewarding day helping the team at Sufra, which was made possible thanks to the ECB’s initiative giving employees two volunteering days a year to support vital causes across the country. Sufra really are on the front line with the fight against hunger and poverty and the work they do in the community is incredible, supporting so many people in need week in week out with food aid but also other essential support such as counselling and financial education. We hope to continue supporting their efforts over the year and return to the Food Bank soon.