SIX MONTHS! ALREADY!?

SIX MONTHS! ALREADY!?

Well, this certainly hasn’t been the six months that I thought it was going to be.  On 27th April 2020 I sat down in my home office, at the same desk I have sat at for the past 12 years but this wasn’t a usual work day, this was the first day in a new job. I had jumped on board the Food Train with the remit to launch their new service, ‘Connects’.      

It was the height of the Covid 19 pandemic and I had just entered the whirlwind of activity that is Food Train. No face to face introductions with new colleagues, no on-site inductions and no in-person meetings with my new manager. All was virtual but it was a very warm and friendly welcome and I felt at home straight away.  I met all my colleagues in zoom meetings and over Microsoft Teams and six months later have still not met anyone face to face.

Food Train has been supporting older people for over 25 years now, our branches across several local authority areas in Scotland are providing a regular weekly food shopping service plus a variety of other services. Within Food Train there is also Mealmakers and Eat Well Age Well, Mealmakers is a local neighbourhood food-sharing project that connects people who love cooking and an older neighbour who would appreciate a freshly cooked meal and some company. Eat Well Age Well is a national project tackling malnutrition in older people living at home.    

Food Train had plans to develop another new service, ‘Connects’, which would aim to cover all parts of Scotland where we don’t have branches. The plan was to match volunteer shoppers on a one to one basis with an older person in their neighbourhood to do their regular grocery shopping for them.

Then the pandemic struck.

The ‘Connects’ plans were accelerated as the offer of a volunteer Shopping Friend for older people unable to get their own shopping become more important than ever. I joined Food Train at this moment and was tasked with getting this service off the ground.

At the same time a huge operation was happening across Food Train, not only to maintain our vital services but to regularly call all members to check in on them and ensure they were OK.  A massive task involving both staff and volunteers.  Over the months it became clear that these regular calls were highly valued and provided an essential support line for isolated, older people.  It was decided that we would provide a regular phone call service under the ‘Connects’ umbrella and ‘Phone Friends’ was launched.

Six months down the line and although I still feel like the ‘newbie’ I also feel like I’ve been here forever thanks to the welcoming atmosphere at Food Train. The Food Train Connects service is flourishing with both Shopping Friends and Phone Friends attracting a great deal of interest from both volunteers and older people.

The Connects staff team is growing and we are a small but perfectly formed group with great plans for the future of the service – a service which is a vital lifeline for so many older people. Connects not only offers grocery shopping and regular telephone calls but provides a real connection to the community, a friendly face and a blether.

It’s been a quick six months in unusual circumstances but I’m delighted that I have spent it developing and launching such a fantastic service that will benefit so many older people across Scotland.

I’m looking forward to the next six months and more at Food Train Connects.

Morna O’May

Service Manager

Food Train Connects

0800 304 7924

connects@foodtrainconnects.org.uk

www.foodtrainconnects.org.uk

@FTConnectsScot     

   

IT ISN’T REALLY LIKE THIS

Home working isn’t really like this.

As the world went in to lockdown and workplaces closed their doors, there was a sudden rush for employees to set up as homeworkers if they could. Spare rooms were commandeered, kitchen tables cleared, a corner of the bedroom tidied up. Tech was needed to be set up, laptops, mobile phones, printers, logging in to the organisation’s system, what about webcams, GDPR, IT support, office stationery? As all this was going on around me amongst my colleagues, friends, family and the wider world the one thought in my head was ‘welcome to my world’.

I have been a home-based worker for over 20 years with several different organisations. I’ve worked in the spare room, a corner of the bedroom and at the kitchen table. I find it an ideal working environment, I’m at my most productive and creative when working like this and leading remote teams has been a pleasure and has proven to be a highly effective route to innovation and productivity.

However, during the lockdown period home-based working has had to go to the extreme. Zoom meetings, webinars, online training, conference calls, virtual networking, WhatsApp groups, screen sharing, phone catch ups, Facebook live, Slack chats, Yammer messaging – the list goes on and on….

I compare my current home- based work to my previous home- based work and I miss all the face to face interaction, the team meetings, the networking events, the staff one to ones, the conferences, the training sessions, meetings with sector peers, funders, supporters, volunteers and charity beneficiaries.

To everyone who has been forced in to a home working situation and is struggling with the isolation and the necessary tech based communication I just want to say it’s not really like this, it’s really not! Home- based working, although based at home also needs to include all that human interaction that feeds the soul and sparks creativity.

I look forward to the day when we can get back to some form of that essential human contact as it has become crystal clear to me that a key part of being a home-based worker is that you don’t spend all your time at home and the times away from home are essential.

If you plan to continue being a home-based worker after lockdown and are concerned about maintaining this current working model, don’t worry, it isn’t really like this.

#HomeWorking

#Lockdown

#Connections

ANTI-AGEING

Anti-ageing! It’s everywhere.

There’s lotions, potions, creams and make-up. Shampoo, moisturisers, face masks and toothpaste. There’s anti-ageing diets promoting superfoods, revitalisng drinks, vitamins, herbal mixes, homeopathic remedies and juicing whilst at the same time we read the latest story about the oldest person on the planet reaching that age on wine, chocolate and a maverick attitude!

We’re told about anti-ageing exercises, treatments, laser surgery, sun lamps and cosmetic procedures. We’re advised on clothes, underwear, hairstyle, hair colour and even eyebrow shape!

There are books, magazines, dvds, radio programmes, tv programmes, you tube channels, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Snaps, Insta influencers, podcasts and blogs all dedicated to anti-ageing.

We can even go on retreats, workshops and seminars to learn, discuss and discover the best ways to beat ageing.

Why?

Ageing is a sign of survival- what’s the alternative? Not surviving? Not a great option. We need to celebrate having survived and realise that the wrinkles, the lines, the grey hairs are a mark of success, of having reached a point in life that is your new record and you beat that record every day by getting older day by day. A ‘personal best’ you might say.

Whilst there appears to be a huge industry in ‘ anti-ageing’ and there is a myriad of ways that are promoted to be able to ‘stay young’, it can’t be denied that we are, all of us, not staying young! And that surely is the point.

We are all getting older and that is a good thing, we should stop trying to defy ageing and, instead, live positively. Shake off the dreadful, negative, old age stereotypes and ask yourself what is so bad about ageing that it has created such an ‘anti’ industry?

Let’s all be pro-age and let’s call out and challenge all the age discrimination that exists out there which has led to this huge ‘anti-ageing’ phenomenon.

Let’s do it today.

#UnthinkingAgeism

twitter: @mornaomay

GOOD STUFF ADVENT

GOOD STUFF ADVENT

GOOD STUFF ADVENT CALENDAR

It’s that time of year when the advent calendars make an appearance. Do you have one that gives you a chocolate every day, have you purchased 24 surprises for your children’s calendar?

How about trying something a bit different this year? Here is the GoodStuffGreatIdeas advent calender which features a great Third Sector organisation each day throughout December. Each day there is a different charity to learn about and if you like their work, give them a follow, like their page, share their links, find out more, volunteer with them, fundraise for them or make a donation…..

….and share this blog so everyone has the chance to do this too.

Merry Christmas

good-stuff-advent-pdf

Chief Encounters

A recent interview I did with Third Force News

What makes a good day at work?

Hearing about the comments made by the older guests in our groups. This week a new guest said “I thought this was going to be really stuffy but I’ve never laughed so much in a long time.”

What makes you most proud of Contact the Elderly?

In 50 years our basic ethos hasn’t changed. Sunday afternoon tea parties for groups of isolated, older people. It’s a simple, effective idea and it works so we keep doing it. I am most proud of the wonderful army of volunteers who enable us to keep doing this, they’re a brilliant bunch.

Do you socialise with colleagues outside the Christmas party?

Yes, absolutely. In Scotland we have a fantastic team and it makes for a supportive working environment when you know you can also call your colleagues your friends.

What’s the best thing that’s happened this month?

Two best things actually – we launched our campaign ‘Be Our Guest’ to encourage more isolated older people to join our groups. It’s creating interest which is great because isolated, older people exist in every community, the challenging part is reaching them and letting them know about our groups.

Secondly, we have been shortlisted for The Herald Society Award for best Older People’s Project in Scotland.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t be concerned about feeling grown-up – you never do. And neither does anyone else!

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

Whilst in a corporate role I liaised with the various Charities of the Year. I met with the representatives of several charities and used to think “I’d quite like to have your job”. So part calling, part accident.

Is getting older in our society getting harder?

I believe it is. Families are more dispersed, we have many older guests in our groups with family all over the world. Social media and digital technology has its place and the use of video chat certainly helps but nothing beats face to face contact which is where our tea parties play such an important role.

If you were your boss would you like you?

I think so, I’ve had some great bosses and I’m still friends and in touch with them so hopefully this means they have liked being my boss. One of them is actually now one of our volunteers.

Do you volunteer, and if so what do you do?

Yes, with Mealmakers, The Worldwide Tribe, Mary’s Meals, a local refugee support group and Stirling Soup. Mostly befriending and fundraising.

You’re home, fully fed with your feet up – which comes first Eastenders or emails?

Emails – but not work ones, personal ones.

What’s the best book ever written?

A Garden of Eden in Hell by Alice Hertz-Sommer.  At 110 Alice was the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. A concert pianist, she used her music to survive the concentration camps with her young son.

A very close second is Sally Magnusson’s Where Memories Go, the story of her mother’s life with dementia and how music kept her connected to her family. Ultimately this experience led to Sally founding the charity, Playlist for Life.

Two books that highlight the amazing power of music.

What cake would you take to a tea party?

Someone else’s. I’m definitely not a baker but there are so many fabulous bakers amongst our tea party hosts. I’ll leave the baking to those who do it really well.

What advice would you give to someone who’s worried about an elderly neighbour?

Speak to them, ask if you can help. Suggest organisations that may be able to help. Most importantly keep the communication going, maybe all that is needed is a cup of tea and a chat.

Which Brian Cox?

Actor – because he’s William Wallace’s Uncle Argyle.

Morna O’May is Head of Service at Contact the Elderly.
Read more at http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/features/chief-encounters-morna-omay?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=Oktopost-twitter-profile&utm_campaign=Oktopost-2016-10+General+Campaign#ykiQIOdqyj4QDUxs.99

Are you a volunteer?

Volunteering quote 2

Are you a volunteer?

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and volunteering roles also come in all shapes and sizes, indeed you may not even immediately think of yourself or others as volunteers.

Volunteers’ Week is the perfect time to reflect on what exactly we think of volunteering. During Volunteer Week organisations including Volunteer Scotland, SCVO and the Third Sector Interfaces have been thanking, showcasing and celebrating volunteers all over the country. Voluntary organisations have shown their appreciation for their volunteers by taking part in online awards ceremonies, presenting digital certificates and highlighting the fantastic work done by their amazing volunteers.

Volunteering takes many forms and some are very obvious like working a shift in a charity shop, donating your time as a befriender to a refugee arriving in this country or sharing your skills as a trustee on a board. All clearly identifiable volunteering roles. Other types of volunteering may not be so obvious and we may not immediately define it as volunteering. There’s the parent who helps sell raffle tickets at the playgroup fundraiser or helps out on the school trip or the young man who cuts his older neighbours grass or collects their newspaper for them. Is this volunteering, is this being neighbourly or is it ‘just what you do’?

All these small acts and larger acts add up to a lot of volunteering in our society. The Charity sector is largely held up by volunteers and the public sector is supported to a greater or lesser degree by the volunteering that exists across these services.

There are staggering figures available detailing the amount of hours given in volunteering, the equivalent in monetary terms and the benefits this brings to our society. I’m not going to go into figures and percentages here. Suffice it to say that it is eye-watering!

Without this level of volunteering activity many services simply would not exist and the value goes way beyond the task, expertise or time donated.

This huge amount of volunteering may appear in various guises, it may not even be called volunteering. You may be a ‘charity champion’, an ‘ambassador’, a ‘helper’, an ‘active citizen’, ‘engaged with a charity’, ‘knowledge or skills sharer’, an ‘unpaid professional’ or ‘just being neighbourly’. You may volunteer as an individual, as a family, as a group or with workplace colleagues.

All of the above is essential and irreplaceable and needs to be acknowledged for what it is. For all the recognisable volunteering being applauded and celebrated by the many organisations during Volunteer’s Week, let’s also acknowledge and thank all those who are contributing to this huge and valueable resource.

Now, let me ask my question again.

Are you a volunteer?

If you are – then thank you.

Morna O’May Volunteer quote

Featured

Soup, soup, soup…

Who knew a simple bowl of soup could be the catalyst for amazing community development and support?  Well the people of Detroit Soup knew, that’s who.

In 2012 Amy Kaherl of  Detroit Soup held the first soup event. A $5 donation at the door, you listen to 5 community initiatives pitch for your vote, you enjoy your bowl of soup and bread, you vote for your favourite and the winner gets the takings from the door.  That’s it! Simple! Brilliant!

Fast forward to 2016 in Stirling, Scotland and Kathryn Welch is leading her team of volunteers to launch the first ever Stirling Soup. On the evening of Friday 27th May 2016 the Albert Halls in Stirling was packed to standing room only. I was lucky enough to be the first of the five pitchers that evening making the case for  Contact the Elderly tea parties combatting social isolation among older people. I was followed by Nikki from Couthie Cantie telling us about her Community Cook School aiming to inspire and teach ‘scratch cooking’ skills. Third up on stage was Rosie from The Conservation Volunteers explaining the notion of a Green Gym where volunteers help with tree and meadow planting and wildlife conservation. Next we heard from Sandra from Bridge of Allan Community Council who have plans to raise awareness of their newly refurbished play park by holding a celebration fun day.  Finally it was the turn of Savi and Lesley from Stirling Citizens for Sanctuary. This group are doing marvellous work with refugees coming into the Forth Valley area by providing befriending, interpretation services and practical and material support.

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The crowd then enjoyed the delicious bowls of soup and bread on offer from Sprinkle Happiness and Riverside Bakery. Music was provided by the University of Stirling Live Music Society and, as an added treat, Lush were also ‘on hand’ to do hand massages. This gave everyone time to chat to the pitchers further and make up their minds about their vote.  At the end of the day Savi and Lesley from Stirling Citizens for Sanctuary were the very worthy winners and went away with the pot of money from the door containing £630!

It’s a wonderful, simple initiative and for all the pitchers it was an excellent opportunity to get our projects out there in the public arena and to be able to chat to the very receptive audience about the work that we are doing.  Soup is indeed the catalyst for community initiatives, development and support, there was so much good will and desire to help improve the local community amongst those gathered in the hall.

BBC reporter Richard Fenton-Smith, when reporting on Detroit Soup, once asked “Can soup change the world?”  I think the answer to that is “indeed it can!”

hands

The 6th Stirling Soup is now being planned for March 2019 and is now run by Laura Brown and Liam Miller. If you would like to apply to pitch at it then contact stirlingsoup@outlook.com .  Edinburgh Soup were the first soup in Scotland when they launched a few  years ago, to date they have raised over 5K! There are also plans in place for more Soups across Scotland, the latest one being Dundee Soup which took place in April 2017. 

Good Stuff

Tommie Hansen_Violet Flowers_YkVjQ2QIt seems like Third Sector organisations are getting a bad press at the moment. There are so many negative media stories about unethical fundraising practices, overpaid CEOs and mismanagement of funds raised.

However there is such a huge amount of fabulous charity work going on as well as the recent growth in inspiring and innovative social enterprises that it is time to focus on the ‘good stuff’!

This blog will be dedicated to ‘Good Stuff & Great Ideas’