Well, sadly Pevensey Volunteers didn’t win the Sussex Life Award last week for services to the community.
I must say though, to be amongst the finalists when our project isn’t even a year old was amazing and three volunteers from Pevensey certainly had a great night out. A Champagne reception at the Brighton Metropole Hotel followed by a three-course meal, now that’s the way to treat volunteers! We were greeted at our table with a goodie bag and a personalised copy of Sussex Life too. The winners for our category were Emmaus, an international charity running a centre in Brighton to help the homeless. At the centre they house 48 people who would otherwise be homeless, employ them and run a huge second-hand shop and a café. They run an amazing project and were worthy winners.
I was reminded this week just how necessary projects like theirs are. On my way to an appointment with my optician in town I had to pass by someone who was clearly homeless sitting at the side of the pavement.
He said something as I passed by but I was in a rush so just shook my head and carried on to my appointment. When I came out he was still there, but by now I was grumpy because my eyes were sore and in a rush to get home, so startedto pass by him again.
I got a few metres when I had to stop and go back.
Ashamed that I nearly ignored him, I asked him if he would like some food.
He replied that he would and asked if he could have a milkshake, so I duly bought him a meal and took it back to him.
It took me five minutes and cost less than a fiver.
I asked if he knew that he could get blankets and clothes from the Foodbank and hot food from Mathew 25 and the Salvation Army.
He did, so I said goodbye and left him to eat.
I didn’t ask his name or his story, I didn’t feel that he should have to pay for his meal with an explanation, and I know that homelessness in our country can stem from complicated personal histories.
For me, the most important part of the interaction was for him to know that people do care.
It was a brief encounter, but whilst it left me sad for him, it was an encounter that left me proud to live in a town that is so well organised in terms of caring for the homeless.
Anyone street homeless in our town can have a hot meal every day as different projects co-ordinate to make sure there is always something available.
I have a meeting at Mathew 25 next week to find out more about their project and I’m really looking forward to having a better understanding of the local issues.
Hopefully the Eastbourne Volunteers project can help to support their work too. If you want to get in touch you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org