Year of Volunteering – Bringing people together to tackle food poverty

The Welcome Network plays a key role tackling food poverty in west Cheshire by linking local communities and partners together to provide friendly and welcome meeting places.

First set up back in 2017, members of the Welcome Network have come together to create meeting places, which act as local hubs for people to feel part of the community, learn, eat, cook, grow, share ideas and, most of all, have fun.

Although the project doesn’t directly provide volunteering opportunities, it brings a number of volunteer-involving orgnaisations together and has helped to give hundreds of people the chance to volunteer and support their local community.

Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA), in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council, is running a Year of Volunteering campaign, aiming to raise the profile of volunteering and increase the number of opportunities available across the borough. CWVA’s volunteer-matching website helps people find the right opportunity for them and each month during the campaign will focus on a different theme.

The Welcome Network’s hard work is particularly impactful during January, which has been labelled Poverty Action Month as part of the campaign.

Stephanie Ellis, Welcome Network Manager, said: “We aim to alleviate food poverty, but this is about so much more than food. It is about supporting the development of community spaces and groups who are working in their local communities.

“Supporting people locally is most effective when relationships are being built and people are in a welcoming environment, with services available in one venue. For example, we work very closely with Citizens Advice, which is offering support in local venues.

“The Welcome Network is also a Feeding Britain pilot area. Being a part of this national charity gives us an opportunity to work closely with decision makers in Westminster who can influence and advocate for a society where everyone has access to affordable and healthy food.”

Community holiday clubs are one of the Welcome Network’s projects – and volunteers are at the core of the valuable provision.

Stephanie added: “We know that there are many people locally who are struggling to make ends meet, and this can be particularly hard in the school holidays. Through the network, we have ensured that children who would normally have free school meals don’t go hungry.

“Everything we do is about partnerships as the issue of food poverty can’t simply be solved by individual people or groups on their own. Bringing people together in partnership means we’re heading in the right direction, making the most of what can sometimes be limited resources and reducing duplication.

“There’s always a range of skills and time commitments needed. Some people involved across the network volunteer a couple of hours a week and some people volunteer over 30 hours a week for 52 weeks of the year.

If you would like to get involved with the Year of Volunteering campaign, email: enquiries@chesterva.org.uk. Take a look at the latest volunteering opportunities at: volunteerwestcheshire.org.uk.

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