(Photo shows Paisley WFI at anti-austerity demo.)
Vivienne Bon, of Edinburgh WFI writes of her experience in getting involved in WFI and setting up the Edinburgh Back to School Bank.
Whether it’s food banks, back to school clothes banks or helping refugees, I just want to share our experience in starting out, not knowing, with no experience, but with plenty of determination. We can do and we will do. I hope this inspires you too, to believe in yourselves, and the wonderful capabilities we all have.
I have been a member of WFI for a while and attended a national meeting and the Edinburgh conference down in Leith but the EdinWfi monthly meetings were never a good time for me until I managed along in July.
I immediately felt at ease, was warmly greeted and made to feel part of the group. Part of regular discussions is around new initiatives. And so, Back to School/ B2SB was raised as an area of need that EWFI should be considering. What could we do? What was happening elsewhere? I said that I wanted to ‘help out’ and was so happy to be see the enthusiasm and trust that enabled me to speak to other interested members there and for us, the genesis of a new team, to leave that afternoon ‘all ready to go’.
I have always loved nothing better than starting a new project – getting things up and running is my forte. I knew about the excellent work already out there due to Sandra who so generously took time to speak to me and email me lots of details and art work. But, there is always time to research for yourself, too: like how start a FB page! Surprise! I got it up and running and ‘shared’ it, thinking…’I suppose this will take weeks to get any response and action’.
I’m glad to say that in this instance, I was so wrong. To my surprise by day three, I was inundated with offers of clothing. It was overwhelming and somewhat humbling to note the generosity of the general public and their acknowledgement that such an initiative was needed in the 21st century. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so then, it was....’start a crowd funding site’ to raise money – to date (late August) we have £1315 and growing!
The next step was to get organised! And quick! I was drowning in FB messages. So, my two colleagues from EWFI (Arlene and Louise), two of my personal friends (Linda and Penny) and one woman who volunteered through FB (Donna), met to discuss how we would manage and grow the project to meet need and demand.
Things began to fall into place with thought, imagination, hard work and pragmatism. We all live in different parts of the city so each one of us became a ‘hub’ for her own ‘area’. We set up an Amazon shopping list where we provided details of items needed, a central drop off/delivery point (so generously offered by one of the team).
Referrals are done through 3rd parties such as social workers, teachers, charity workers etc. Due to data protection and Disclosure Scotland we do not want any personal details about the children or young people. We ask for age, sex and items required. We source the items from stock then put packs together to be delivered by team members to the referral agents. but like any ‘system’, we know it can be made better, so with order forms ,stock sheets regularly updated, and tracking of items/uniforms/delivered we know we are becoming more effective.
So far (August) we have provided 77 kits to children and young people in Edinburgh and plan to keep going as unfortunately we all know the need will be there for the foreseeable future. We are planning to run for a year to find where the peaks and troughs are with a view to be better informed and ready if required for the future.
B2SB became EB2SB (E for Edinburgh) and found its way onto the Edinburgh Spotlight page, which was repeated on Common Space. There, we caught the attention of an STV web reporter and an interview with BBC Reporting Scotland. A little bit of publicity goes along way!
And the future? Ongoing we plan to continue to fundraise and attend events to keep us in the public eye. We also decided to have a theme month on FB – September is knickers month (I kid you not!) But with extras, like socks and vests. And next month will be woolly hat month, but with extras, to highlight the coming winter. Gloves and scarves, perhaps?
So why did I call this…We can, you can….simply because, that’s the truth of it.
In June if you had said, Hey Viv, you’ll be running a B2SB with friends, old and new; you’ll have learnt how to set up a f/b page, open a crowd funding site; none of us would have believed you.
So it is possible to do what we need to do, to help fight imposed austerity and to support your community, no matter where that ‘community’ happens to be.
We can, we do.
V. Bon, EdinWFI