Volunteering in the food bank exposes you to the dark side of life in London. The circumstances of our clients’ lives are usually very grim. Sometimes what they’re contending with is so ghastly that you wonder how some of our clients can get out of bed in the morning. Usually it’s because they have to function for their children’s sake – in the hope of creating some sort of future for them. Not that many of them are in a situation where they can plan much beyond the next few meals.
When they can’t even do that, they end up here if they’re “lucky”. I’ll be posting some very difficult material over the next few days, but am starting today with something amazing. It shows how much one client who came along to this London food bank really values what happened here today.
Penny (not her real name) is a single mum of 38 with mental health issues. She’s been in an abusive relationship and has had to move house several times. She has five children ranging in age from 14 to four months. She came into us with her eldest girl and her youngest – the baby in the pram. She was given her emergency food voucher by her community psychiatric nurse. I’ll talk more about Penny and her circumstances in the next few days. But she looked so happy when we gave her the emergency groceries for the six of them that I thought I’d linger a bit longer on the upside of what goes on here. Penny said when we gave her the bags, which included nappies and formula milk: “What a brilliant job you do here. If it wasn’t for people like you, people like me would lose their children and they would go into care. If you can’t feed your kids then that’s the next stage.”
Her baby woke up at that moment and smiled. Bringing a ray of sunshine into the room. As she left, with her 15 year old daughter (who wants to be a lawyer – I hope she makes it) helping to carry the bags, it was clear she was touched to experience practical support and a listening ear. Her massive difficulties were eased just a little, for a short while.