“I fell into this almost by accident really”.
This is how Tina starts to tell her story of volunteering at the London Irish Centre. “I’d been going through a tough time and I was having some counselling. The counsellor kept encouraging me to take up a hobby, take some time for myself. I told her that I used to write children’s stories and she said she knew someone who ran a creative writing course, mainly for Irish women.”
“This was Mind Yourself, which was in Holloway at the time. I went along and thoroughly enjoyed myself. And I met some people that used the London Irish Centre. When the group ran out of funding, the LIC stepped in and we transferred over to using the library at the Centre. So, then I saw the Lunch Club in action and started coming along to that.”
“I asked if they needed any help and registered my details, then I got a phone call to ask me to come in for an interview. Not long after I started coming into the Community Café to help out, originally on Monday and Fridays doing general tasks in the kitchen. This was before the pandemic.”
The pandemic had a devastating effect on the local community and we needed to react quickly to continue to be able to support those in need locally. Tina was one of the volunteers who continued to help. “There was actually a lovely atmosphere in the Centre at the time as so many people pitched in to help. Not just staff and volunteers from the Centre but staff from Camden Council too. Even Dermot O’Leary would come down and deliver food parcels. We were delivering about 35 parcels per day plus we had meals coming in too.”
The Community Café is up and running again, albeit on reduced numbers to comply with social distancing. Tine helps out both in the Café and the Community Fridge. “I like seeing the smiles on people’s faces. I love helping people, the look on people’s faces when you remember their name or that they take two sugars in their cup of tea.”
When asked what she enjoyed about volunteering with the LIC, Tina said: “The whole atmosphere is great, it’s a lovely team. Maria (Wellbeing Officer) is totally amazing and a joy to be with. I’ve had some problems at home and it really is a joy to come to the Centre and get away from all that. The volunteers are lovely. Everyone has their own story to tell and that adds to the atmosphere. I’ve been really happy here. I’d recommend it to anyone.”