An experience of volunteering with 'Bristol Meets the World'
A case study featuring Anita Smith, a volunteer working on the BAB food and nutrition project, ‘Bristol Meets the World’ tells us of what she has learnt from her experience.

Tell us about yourself: How did you get involved in this project? What is your role?

I worked with Avon and Somerset Police for over 20 years and in 2017 I was lucky enough to be able to take early retirement. Still maintaining that public sector ethos, I wanted to be involved in a couple of different volunteering activities. I personally believe it is important to put back into society and whilst working full-time precluded me from doing that to any large extent, the fact that I was now ‘retired’ allowed me to pursue this aim.

The opportunity to volunteer with Food and Nutrition: Bristol Meets the World came about through my working association and personal friendship with Bristol and Avon Chinese Women’s Group (the lead partner) and when I mentioned to them I would be interested in volunteering, they suggested I meet with Anne Su, who is the co-ordinator for the project.

My role has been in supporting the project by publicising and engaging with different people and different organisations by networking and through the power of social media. Setting up the Facebook page was the key to getting the work of the project out into the public domain, I also appeared on the Babbers radio programme.

I have been assisting with the ‘Let’s Eat Green Event’ taking place on Wednesday 6th March. This event is being held to celebrate the anniversary of the project. The aim will be for participants, volunteers and partner agencies to come together to enjoy each other’s company, enjoy the food on offer and showcase the progress of the project and the benefits to the participants.

 

How many people benefitted from the project and how do you think it has impacted on their lives?

So far we have been able to engage with 227 participants over 24 sessions. It has been amazing to see how the sessions have brought people out of their shells, being able to talk to one another and engaging with the volunteer tutors. They have been able to share their own stories and learn about the cultures of other countries using the food that is being prepared as a bridge for that engagement.

 

What have you learned by delivering this project? What obstacles or difficulties have you encountered?

The role of the co-ordinator has been a key with Anne Su acting as the lead for the partner agencies and the volunteers have meant that the project has kept momentum and is achieving its aims and ambitions. You definitely need someone who is as organised and enthusiastic to ensure the success of the project.

 

Is there anything you would like to share since you have been engaged with the Project?

It is not just about learning about how to prepare nutritious food; it’s about introducing different cultures and using food as a bridge. We have engaged with lots of different cultures already: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Indonesia, Polish, Mexican, Colombian and Italian!

The participants see how the food is prepared and get to taste it afterwards which is always fun; I really like the way it gets people talking. I think it is a great way to combat isolation that some people feel as they get older. I have personally got so much out of being involved. I have met so many new people along the way - participants, volunteers, partner agencies, networking opportunities - it has given me a sense of worth in being able to put back into society but also I have learned so much myself about different cultures… and of course I have been able to try some pretty amazing food!

 

What will be your future expectation for this project?

The project has been funded by BAB for two years. Going forward it would be great if the project could be expanded to include businesses who might want to get involved. Wouldn’t it be amazing if as a society we could work together - individuals, public sector agencies and private enterprise – to engage with the older generation in an innovative way to alleviate isolation felt by many of them, but also provide a learning environment? Getting to hear about different food and cultures and engaging with one another.


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