Celebrating Volunteers Week 2023

Yesterday (7th), marked the end of Volunteer’s Week. As the name suggests, an annual celebration and recognition of the contribution that millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

To say that volunteers and the volunteering sector, in general underpin our local communities in this country would be an understatement. Volunteers provide a vital role and support a whole host of different activities: from community outreach to those most vulnerable, sport, all the way through to the arts and culture. And how could we get forget food!

In a society that, unfortunately, feels increasingly isolating and obsessed on the individual, the continued existence of volunteers are a source of inspiration, encouraging us to think beyond ourselves and instead, into wider communities that we’re a part of.

Simply put, we would not have got to where we are without the countless hours of work our volunteers have committed to Plateful Café. From our event staff helping at in-person events, the fundraising team seeking funding to help our charity grow and of course not forgetting the tireless work of our founder, Iolanda Chirico, does in making sure all areas of Plateful Café are moving in the right direction and towards our goal of having a café staffed and run by refugees.

For Volunteers’ Week this year, we thought we would share two testimonies from our volunteers who’ve been volunteering with Plateful Café sharing how they got started at the charity and their thoughts on their respective journey and things to come!

Albert, Market Stall Volunteer

I started volunteering with Iolanda at what was then the Refugee Café in December 2020. Initially, I was part of the fundraising team, researching for grant applications, but soon switched to helping out on market stalls. This is where I discovered just how good to cause, and the products truly were. 

All the food was of such high quality, and clearly made with love. As I learned more about the chefs and how the organisation functioned, I knew it was something I wanted to keep on being a part of. Helping refugees find work and put down roots by sharing their cuisine and culture – what’s not to love?

I became a regular face at Woolwich Market, and also helped out with other markets and events. I then took on responsibility for the web shop, but talking to people about our food and the people we worked with was still by far my favourite part of volunteering.

Since the transition from Refugee Café to Plateful, I have helped with a couple of events – most notably our launch at Goldsmiths. I can’t wait for us to start trading at markets again, and more importantly, for us to finally achieve what we’ve all been working towards: opening a café staffed and run by refugees, where the community can come together around a table laden with delicious food!

Tejan, Marketing Lead

I started volunteering, like Albert, at the Refugee Café towards the end of 2021. was working in a job that didn’t feel very fulfilling and when I saw the advert for the Refugee Café and the premise of empowering local refugees through food it immediately felt like something that I believed in and thought was worth caring for.

What, therefore, began as helping the charity with their internal communications, grew to helping to lead the marketing effort in what we now know as Plateful Café. I think what I’ve found most inspiring about the journey volunteering within our space is the number of people on the team all united by the belief to want to make our communities better places to be for refugees.

To be completely honest, our journey so far has been a lot harder than I expected and, naturally, hasn’t been without its challenges. From issues surrounding cancellations of launches to of course the budgetary constraints that a charity in its infancy are bound to expect! Having said that, however, I’ve relished every minute volunteering at Plateful Café, I’m grateful for Iolanda for giving me the initial opportunity and am incredibly excited about what we achieve and finally sitting down in our café later this summer!

We’re always looking for more volunteers to help with Plateful Café and if you think this sort of thing is for you, why not have a look at our current vacancies!

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