Christmas is just around the corner and many of us are feeling the squeeze right now. Our FOOD clubs are here to support when times are tough. Vicky, a volunteer at one of our London clubs, was inspired to get involved by their spirit of community.
Do you know what being T-Boned means? It means when another car hits yours from the side around the passenger door, and that happened to me… when I was getting out of it. I was at university at the time, working as a barmaid, and I suffered lasting damage to my back and knee that would affect my balance and coordination for the rest of my life.
I had to repeat the year at university, but it took me 10 years to fully get back on my feet, and the unsteadiness (and bad luck) has resulted in other injuries – from minor brain damage from someone dropping a piece of cladding on my head, to further knee and nerve damage.
There used to be so many barriers
I’m essentially housebound without a car, and as a single parent I’ve got to get the children to school. I’ve had three mobility cars over the years, but they keep getting taken away as the rules change. Twice I’ve been to court to challenge it and the last time I actually wrote to the health minister. All of a sudden, they sent me a letter saying they’re giving me the car back… the letter arrived the day after they came and took the old one away from the garage!
My condition makes working hard, and I’ve been in so much debt before because I had two kids at different schools and had to do things like take them to school in a taxi. I’d actually used food banks before I came to Family Action’s FOOD clubs, but some were very unwelcoming and they judge you so much – for example, all of my kids have allergies and, when I told them, they said “well then just don’t take what he’s allergic to”.
FOOD clubs are a welcome change
I’ve not bought any presents yet, but with the money I’m saving here I’m hoping I’ll be able to get them something.
FOOD clubs couldn’t be more different. It costs £3.50 for a box of fresh, nutritious food, which is manageable… I mean, some weeks it’s tight, but that’s when you look behind the sofa! When my two kids were younger, there was nothing like this, but that’s probably because things weren’t as hard as they are now.
I’ve got four mouths to feed, and meat’s gone up to six pounds or so; a block of cheese is a fiver. Today at the FOOD club I got a huge block of cheese in my box… I must have gotten about £30 worth of shopping, and that helps me plan for things like Christmas.
I’ve not bought any presents yet, but with the money I’m saving here I’m hoping I’ll be able to get them something. It’s hard, and at times I’ve felt really beaten, but my kids are everything to me, and the support of the people at FOOD club helps. We have a community of around 50 people here and, because people are so friendly, they’ll swap food with you if there’s an allergy.
That sense of community is what inspired me to volunteer at the club… Everyone’s in the same boat, so it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s struggling, and we’ve got that in common.
An inspiring sense of community
That sense of community is what inspired me to volunteer at the club. People here will give me help getting things to the car and last week two of the ladies had appointments, so I dropped off their boxes. It’s all about helping each other so nobody misses out.
Coming to the club also gets me out the house and allows me to share time with other people. I think when members first come, they feel a bit ashamed at first, so I try to make them feel at home.
Everyone’s in the same boat, so it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s struggling, and we’ve got that in common.
This Christmas, over half of parents won’t be able to buy their child a present. 1 in 5 parents won’t be able to afford to heat their home and 1 in 9 families will go without a Christmas meal. You can help families like Vicky’s access food and essentials, and make Christmas more magic this year.