Sufra’s 10th Anniversary – Interview and Video
On the 7th May 2013, Sufra was formally established as a charity. Since then, we have done some incredible work – not least of which was our response to the Covid-19 Pandemic and the many thousands of people we supported with emergency food parcels over the years.
But is our 10th anniversary really cause for celebration? Isn’t our very existence a testament to growing inequalities and the scaling back of a welfare system that used to prevent people falling into poverty and despair?
Sabina Lichacz recently asked Sufra ‘s Executive Director, Rajesh Makwana BEM, about his views on whether we should be celebrating our anniversary. You can read the short interview below.
It’s Sufra’s 10th Anniversary – Should we be celebrating?
That’s a tough question. It’s hard not to celebrate the success we’d had supporting tens of thousands of people when they are in desperate need. Sufra is a vibrant, exciting charity delivering innovative projects that we are all proud of. From our stunning community garden to our community kitchens and our refugee programme – the diversity of what we have achieved together is commendable.
Equally, it is scandalous that we even exist. Much of our work is in response to levels of poverty and deprivation that are incomprehensible in one of the world’s wealthiest cities. Charitable food aid is no solution to poverty and deprivation. Arguably, when food aid organisations like ours grow and develop, they reinforce the failures of our welfare system, which does not provide an adequate safety net for growing numbers of ordinary people.
It should be the responsibility of government to safeguard everyone’s right to food, not charities and community groups like Sufra.
What inspires you most at Sufra?
The thing that most inspires me about Sufra is our amazing volunteers. Day in, day out, I see them slogging away, with so much joy in the work they do and so much compassion for those we support. I first started as a volunteer in 2016 before becoming a staff member, but some of our volunteers have been with us for even longer. We literally couldn’t do what we do without them – I am so grateful for their sacrifice and the smiles on their faces.
I feel the same about my team of staff, who are just so dedicated and often work under extremely challenging circumstances. It’s a wonder that they all manage to have such fun working at Sufra, when we are all surrounded by such poverty and reminded every day about how unequal and unjust life in the UK can be for so many people.
I am eternally grateful for all their hard work but also for the laughter and the sense of community they bring to Sufra.
What’s your happiest memory?
Many of my strongest memories of Sufra relate to people we’ve helped. One of my happiest memories is linked to one of my most disturbing! It was Christmas Eve many years ago, and an elderly homeless man came to Sufra desperate for support. He couldn’t speak English and had no ID. We spent the whole day trying to secure a roof over his head. Despite all our efforts, we failed. I went home very distressed and couldn’t shake my anger and disappointment for weeks.
He became a regular volunteer at Sufra. He would eat here everyday and help out with maintenance jobs. Meanwhile, we got him new ID documents and, after many months of frustration, finally got him housed and on the right benefits. My happy memory was when he walked in a changed man one morning and told us how happy he was in his new home and how utterly grateful he is for all our help. It still makes me smile.
What does the future hold for Sufra?
I’m really excited about the future! We are just finalising our 2030 Strategy and it is set to be a very busy period with lots of innovation and change. Our Community Wellbeing Project is a great example of what we will be doing more of in the future – with its community shop, café and restaurant, it’s wrap-around advice services, and the health and wellbeing support we provide.
Sharing food will always be at heart of what we do, but in the years ahead we will focus on more effective ways to help people in crisis, whilst doing more to empower those we support, build community, and campaign to change the root causes of poverty.
It’s an ambitious programme and we will need everyone’s support to make it a reality. If you want to find out more, you will just have to watch this space!
Rajesh Makwana BEM
Executive Director, Sufra NW London