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Soup Kitchen Stories: How Sunderland supporters’ donations are saving lives on Wearside

“If Christmas Angels do walk among us, I guess they must look like Andrea Bell and her team of volunteers at Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen.”

Someone guided me into this work leading up to this.

We’ve had pandemic and now worst economy possible. If we stretch our hands out, wherever we are in the world, link hands, look at one another and smile!

We can do this, raising the money is incredible but the awareness is as vital.

Most people are cutting back or literally doing without and albeit a small little takeaway to people is a lifeline to so many. We give a really high end service to poor people, treating them exactly how we would want treating ourselves - not like cattle as some agencies and authorities we know treat them.

Now, I’m not a religious man. I believe we all get one shot on this planet and it is our duty to make things as good as possible for those around us while we’re here and leave the world a better place for when we’re gone.

But if Christmas Angels do walk among us, I guess they must look like Andrea Bell and her team of volunteers at Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen. Andrea’s words, quoted above from a message she sent to the Roker Report team last week, hit me very deeply.

These last few years have been hard for everyone on many levels, but hardest for those with the very least. Despite the promises of those powerful men and women who created this mess, the poor have got poorer, the rich have got richer, thousands died unnecessarily, and the hammering that everyone’s living standards have taken will be felt for generations to come.

Something has to give, something has to change.

But it’s only people who can make that change, and that’s why we here at Roker Report got involved in raising money for the Soup Kitchen. Since we started in 2020 it’s become an obsession, a driving mission, the thing that motivates us on long nights of writing and editing and makes us open our laptops when the results on the pitch make us want to avoid football altogether.

It keeps us going because adequate nutritious food is a human right. A warm, dry home is an essential element of human dignity. That work should pay enough for people to thrive and that welfare should ensure nobody is destitute is a hallmark of a civilised society. This fanzine is simply a collection of people brought together by the shared love of our football club, most of whom were born and raised in our beautiful city by the sea.

These are the things that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents fought wars and went out on strike to acquire and preserve, but these are the things that are now illusive to a growing number of people in our city, our region, our country, and in our world at large.

And it’s all stuff that in the early part of the 21st century in England we thought was basically a given. There were very few food banks before 2010. Now, well over a tenth of the population of this country has used one in the last year.

Something has gone badly, badly wrong in our society. It should make us angry, it should make us desperate to change things for the better.

But there are people like Andrea who are there, night after night, week after week, providing those basics of human dignity and those marks of civilisation to anyone and everyone who walks through the door at Albert’s Place or at their independent footbank in Hendon.

She recently helped a desperate young woman, a mother on the edge, who simply had no food in the house for her children - there was too much month left at the end of her money. She wasn’t claiming the benefits she was entitled to and wasn’t getting the help she needed for her mental health problems. Life was too just much to cope with. But she reached out to the right people.

The Soup Kitchen filled her cupboards with good, healthy food, made sure she got the support she is entitled to, and the load was lifted from her shoulders. Her children were overjoyed to see their mam smile again. Without that intervention, she may not have made it to Christmas but now the family are looking forward to the festive period with hope.

Food is such a simple thing, but without it, we cannot survive. We wither, we fade. We are not human without it. We also cannot survive without love and dignity. That’s what your donations to the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen are and what they provide to a growing number of people.

No conditions. No qualifications. No shame. Just pure love and the vitamins, protein, fibre, and fats we all need to keep going.

This isn’t the love of pink hearts and soppy films, but the unconditional love of your fellow human being and of this world we share together for such a short and fleeting time.

So thank you for your support. It means more than we can ever put into words on this website or on our podcasts, as hard as we may try.

Please donate what you can, please share our message, please give up some time to help people in your community if you’re able, and if you need help yourself, please don’t be shy in coming forward.

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