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#SoupKitchen23: My first visit to the SCSK was humbling, but it shouldn’t be this way

“A trip to the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen in the winter of 2022 was an eye opening experience, and the work they do is remarkable,” writes Paddy Hollis.

Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Christmas is almost here, and as most of us start to wind down for the festive period, the volunteers at the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen and similar organisations across the country are just getting started.

The festive season can be the hardest time of year for many, and groups like the SCSK try their best to give those most in need something to smile about.

Their work provides a vital lifeline and in January 2022, I was fortunate enough to make my first visit to see exactly what goes into supporting their clients throughout the year.

Through my work in the media, I went along for a visit to chat, document, and then write up an article about their work. I was welcomed with open arms and given plenty of opportunities to talk to those who make the organisation what it is.

As I arrived, Andrea sat with me, offered me a cup of coffee, and opened up, and during a powerful and honest conversation, I was given the chance to see the organisation in full flow.

You don’t get a chance to spend your time with genuinely heartwarming people very often, but on that cold January afternoon, I did.

I was shown around the Hendon warehouse and got the chance to meet the volunteers and find out exactly what they do.

I heard accounts of the clients who use the soup kitchen and how it had been there for them when all other avenues had produced nothing, and I sat for hours talking to Andrea, who spoke with such passion and emotion about the work and the people they help.

The warehouse is filled with donations that have either been bought with funding or that members of the public have donated, and there’s thorough organisation and a genuine commitment to creating hampers filled with food and ingredients to provide good, balanced meals.

Every penny they receive is used to help people who need it, and I saw with my own eyes exactly what it consists of.

Homelessness on rise in London Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Andrea also showed me the kitchen at Albert’s Place, where meals are prepared, cooked, and served.

The setup they’ve created is brilliant, with a big emphasis on giving clients a dignified experience. The tens of thousands of pounds contributed over the years have gone a long way to improve this setup which helps people on a daily basis, and even on Christmas Day.

The winter weather is taking a grip, and too many people are being forced to suffer through these conditions.

Some are forced to choose between eating and heating, while others endure the dangers of sleeping rough. However, the SCSK is a beacon of hope all year around and knowing how their work is carried out gave me a new appreciation of their fantastic efforts.

Of course, why facilities such as the SCSK are even needed in 2023 is a question society should be asking. Its very existence is a failure of this country but the volunteers and their work shine a light on the best of humanity.

The people who keep the SCSK going do so out of the goodness of their hearts, and at a time when warmth and compassion sometimes seem to have seeped out of our society, the work they do is a gentle reminder that there’s still some good left in this world.

The money you give, no matter how small, goes directly towards making sure they can continue to fight the good fight for those struggling most in Sunderland.


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