As part of the “Beyond Food” campaign we had to carry out at least one food collection event, from a pub quiz to a music concert. Basically anything to raise awareness about food poverty. My main idea was doing food drives in supermarkets in my local area. I thought it would be simple and effective. However, every supermarket I called turned me down, because they already had other charity campaigns going on. I spent three weeks calling more supermarkets and other places such as libraries, but nothing came out of it. It was very frustrating. Not only for me, but also for my volunteers. The time was going by and we had nothing set up. As a leader, I felt like a failure. I never thought arranging events would be so difficult.
At the end, I had to choose the easiest and least original option: calling the council and asking if I could do a street collection. This option was never in my list of ideas, but four weeks of campaign had already gone by and I had to think of something else. Fortunately, the council accepted my request and they even gave a permit with just two weeks of notice, instead of the common one month! Moreover, I had a permit for two days: the 30h of November and the 7th of December. After all the effort, I had 2 food collection events set up! Amazing!
The next part was organising and planning the collections with my volunteers. At the beginning of the campaign I had a team of four volunteers. But by the time I sorted out my first campaign, I only had two volunteers left, which happened to be two of my best friends. However, having a small team didn’t make me feel less motivated or positive: I consider passion more important than quantity. I don’t care about having just one or two volunteers, as long as both of them are passionate and positive. And my two friends are both of those things.
We first had a meeting in the library to plan what we were going to do in each collection. In that meeting, we also decided to try and collect food in our schools/colleges, to maximise our donations. Our next step was buying everything we needed for the street collections, something we did just the day before of the first collection. And finally we were sorted out. I think that after setting up the event, the rest was so easy to plan and organise, because I was no longer stressed about being a total failure in my first Team v campaign.
Both street collections went pretty well, better than I expected. In the first collection we received a total of 5 items (3 of them food) and £30.45. In the second collection we received 10 items (all of them food) and £38.44. A total of 15 items and £68.89! I was so happy when I finished writing down the final count, I felt so proud, taking into account both days were extremely challenging. The first collection was brilliant because I managed to take various surveys to citizens about food poverty and foodbanks. However, we had competition: a sand sculpture was just in one of our sides, and most people gave coins to the artists, instead of us. The second was very hard due to the bad weather conditions: it rained and it was very windy, which nearly ruined our gazebo and took away part of our posters. Nevertheless, we had more donations and no competition, so I can’t complain much. I can’t choose a favourite collection from these two, but I can confirm that despite of the cold, the days were fairly entertaining. My volunteers and I stayed motivated and happy thanks Beyonce’s music and the kind words of citizens admiring our efforts. And what’s more: in the second collection day, my mentor and my coordinator came a long to see how we were doing, and they really helped.
Apart from the donations of both street collections, we also got a total a lot of food items from our schools and colleges. I put a collection box in my college and 15 items were donated. One of my volunteers did the same, and she received another 15. And the other one just talked to people about the campaign and asked them to donate, and she received more than 40 food donations! Incredible! In total we raised £78 and around 90 items of food! You may think this isn’t a lot, but it is for me, because now I look back at the first week of the campaign, and I remember when I thought we wouldn’t get any donations. Moreover, we also raised a lot of awareness about food poverty and food banks through school assemblies and through surveys. Double win!
I wish I could have done more things for this campaign, such as meeting a politician or getting my story in the newspaper or radio, but it wasn’t possible: although, I’m still happy about my team’s achievements. And much more after giving the food items and money we raised to our selected charity, Southend YMCA (you can read about my previous visit to them here). They were so grateful. The security guard who opened us the door seemed amazed of our work. And the lady to whom we gave the money donations said that it would be put towards the Christmas dinner of the residents in their housing units (Southend YMCA is a charity that works with vulnerable/homeless teens and young people between 16 and 25 years old). When I heard that, my heart melted. Helping others feels so good. It honestly does. And much more when comes to this campaign, because food poverty is not a foreign issue for me. At all. Neither is being away from family in Christmas. So I hope that the teens and young adults in that residence can have at least a nice meal and enjoy themselves.
With this, the first campaign of the Team v program 2014/2015, “Beyond Food”, ended. And I’m so glad I took part in it as a leader. I must admit I didn’t do as much as I wanted or as I could. But taking into account it was my first ever social campaign, I would say it went pretty good. And at the end of the day, I helped to tackle a social issue affecting thousands in UK and millions around the globe. So nothing I regret really. Nothing.
Sharing my experiences,
Emilie H. Featherington