“Coming from a very dark place and on the brink of homelessness, Sufra gave me the confidence and support I needed to start my journey back to the ‘real’ world. Believe me, a bowl of soup and a shoulder to cry on in the right place goes a long way. And Sufra NW London is that place.”– Rui (former Food Bank guest)
From the moment our guests access the Food Book and speak with our volunteers, our aim is to provide them with all the support they need to transition from crisis and desperation to independence, wellbeing and re-integration in the community.
Below are some real-life stories of the transformative journey that many of our guests experience:
Patrick had been living in hostel before he came to Sufra. He had been unable to continue paying to stay there so he got in touch with the council who then referred him to us.
It was his first time using a food bank. He has previously thought about using one but felt embarrassed as didn’t want to appear to be begging.
After using Sufra Food Bank, was able to confirm that it was a really positive service during his time of need and he would continue to use them again if needed. He liked that there were a good variety of meals and thatit helped to bring some routine to his day.
Rodney and his wife were living in an overcrowded home with a backyard in which they wanted to grow things in. They were not using the food bank, but wanted to take part in the ‘Guerilla’ gardening project. They were offered materials to make a raised bed in the community garden and then moved the structure to their back yard. Soil was donated by Sufra NW London and they also used around 350 litres (five large bags) of compost and topsoil to fill the beds. They also received donations of seeds and plants.
Rodney and his wife are growing onions, thyme, beans, lettuce, chives, tomato, basil and other produce which they are using every week in their meals.
“Both of us have the gardening bug and we spend lots more time outside working in the garden and relaxing afterwards. This has changed our lives! We never thought we would enjoy gardening and everyone we know wants to take part too.”
Agata is a single Eastern European migrant who had only been living in the UK for 11 years. When she approached Sufra, she had a plethora of challenges that she was up against: her 3 year old daughter was suffering from sleep apnea (a condition which affects breathing when sleeping), so she was especially careful about going out during the COVID-19 pandemic and made the difficult decision to stay at home.
Prior to Covid-19, Agata was a part time office manager within a small company, but she was laid off due to the virus. Later on she was then taken back and furloughed, however her monthly income totaled just under £500, which just about covered her rent.
All these burdens made feeding her daughter near impossible. Sufra was able to support Agata with food parcels and some advice and guidance.
Mr B is a 55-year-old Syrian refugee, whose family have been struggling to make a new life in the UK ; we’ve helped them ever since they arrived. In February, Mr B finally found a job and was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to support his family once again.
Then, last month, Mr B underwent surgery on a war wound and developed a severe infection. He lost his job and this led to a deduction in his Universal Credit payments, forcing him to choose between paying for food and paying the rent.
When he called Sufra he was isolated, depressed and desperate for help. We arranged for food parcels to be delivered to his family and Zena (our Arabic speaking Advice Worker) helped the family apply for additional benefits and get the mental health support they urgently need. Last month, we provided his son with a laptop so he could connect with classmates and complete his GCSE coursework.
Jonathan suffered a knee injury and could no longer work as a fitness instructor. When he applied for benefits, he discovered that he was the victim of identity fraud and another individual was claiming benefits in his name. Without any photographic ID, he found it difficult to provide his identity and he quickly became destitute. He was referred to the Food Bank as a guest, when he became interested in joining Sufra NW London as a volunteer. He was quickly drawn to our food growing project, and became a regular volunteer on St. Raphael’s Edible Garden.
As he became more comfortable working with staff and volunteers, he opened up to us about his difficulties and one of our advice workers supported him through the bureaucratic processes of reporting the crime and proving his identity. Whilst it took several months, including the intervention of his local MP, Jonathan began to receive his benefits and was in a better position to think about his future. He then decided to register for Food Academy Plus, our employability programme, to further his interest in cooking and seek employment in a related industry. He finished the course and achieved accreditation in all modules of the programme.
Through this, Jonathan now works as a private chef and part-time carer for people suffering from dementia.
19-year-old Khalil was brought to Sufra NW London after one of our volunteers found him eating leftovers from customer trays at the local McDonalds restaurant. He had been homeless for 2 weeks, ever since his uncle threw him out of the house.
Khalil is an asylum seeker from Afghanistan. His parents are dead and he has no family to support him. Sufra NW London arranged emergency hostel accommodation, and then transferred him to a shelter. Throughout, we provided a small stipend to pay for his travel costs and mobile phone top-ups, as well as small grants via our charity partners for clothing and other essentials.
Since Khalil had no funding to pay for legal costs relating to his immigration status, we helped him secure a pro-bono solicitor who is currently working on his case. He has now left the shelter and is being housed by a local Afghan family.
Khalil continues to attend Sufra NW London as a volunteer at the Community Kitchen.
After fleeing domestic violence with her 3 children, Tracey was left destitute without a penny to her name. She moved in with her elderly mother, who had recently suffered a heart attack, in her 1-bedroom flat. Unable to survive on her mother’s pension, Tracey was referred to the Food Bank. Over the next few months, Sufra NW London provided her with emergency food parcels and helped her to apply for benefits in her name. When she moved into her own flat, we negotiated with one of our charity partners a small grant to cover the cost of a new fridge-freezer.
Tracey started volunteering for Sufra NW London as an Admin Assistant to gain work experience so that she could look for work. We supported her with preparing a CV and making job applications. Tracey is now employed and able to provide for her family.