I don’t think 2020 is a year that any of us will forget anytime soon, so as we start a new year, it seems like a good time to reflect on both the challenges and positives (there were some!) of the last 12 months.
I started working at EVOC on the first day of lockdown, which was an unusual way to get to grips with a new job (although 9 months later probably not so unusual!) Grappling with new technologies, hearing “you’re on mute” 20 times a day and meeting colleagues via Zoom and Teams chats became the norm very quickly.
A few weeks after I started, EVOC was asked to manage the COVID-19 Food Fund project in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council and third sector organisations. EVOC’s role was to bring together the statutory and third sectors to co-ordinate provision of food across the city. The project, which was funded by money from the Scottish Government Food Fund, was designed to support the most vulnerable people in the city who would otherwise struggle to access food due to the pandemic; to ensure that all of the money allocated to this critical project was used to supply and transport food to those who needed it most.
Because our roles were all changing we didn’t need to use any of the funding for staff etc, I was re-deployed from my original role at EVOC to support the project. My job was a very practical one – ensuring that the referrals EVOC received from the Council were sent to the right hubs and providers across the city to ensure that people got food quickly. I was liaising with local organisations and the Council on a daily basis and sorting any queries that might arise. I was also able to refer people for additional support that they might need such as dog walking, shopping or befriending.
I would also call people who needed help urgently, just to check how they were doing and find out exactly what they needed. In some cases, I was the only person who had spoken with them in the last few days and they were really appreciative of a friendly voice on the other end of the phone. For me personally, it felt really rewarding to be doing something useful and practical to help people.
I also enjoyed getting to know everyone working at the fantastic organisations that were supporting the project. We were all learning as we went along and we didn’t always get it right, however what we all had in common was our desire to ensure that no-one went hungry because of COVID. As a result, new partnerships have been formed which will stand us in good stead for the future!
The first phase of the food fund project finished in September, however we’ve recently stepped up the project again on a much smaller scale to mitigate the impact of the increase in COVID cases and the approach of winter. For now, the level of demand is much lower, partly because the Council are operating a cash first principle for those in crisis as advocated by Scottish Government. Hopefully this helps people to have more choice and dignity in terms of self-determining the support they need, and food deliveries help those who really need them.
So, while I will be glad to see the back of 2020 for lots of reasons, on a personal level, I feel very grateful that I was able to work with wonderful partners to do a job that has hopefully made a positive difference to peoples’ lives.
Roisin Hurst, Development Worker (Community Investment)
If you are currently aware of people in crisis please encourage them to call 0131 200 2388 or apply online for support. Find out how we are working with City of Edinburgh Council, Caring in Craigmillar, Cyrenians, Pilton Equalities Project and Space to those who need it during the current lockdown and restrictions.