Our Birmingham office has been taking the 40,000 at 40 volunteering initiative by the horns and have already racked up 816 hours, but we are always looking for more opportunities to help our local community.

Last week, 9 members of staff volunteered a morning at ‘SIFA Fireside’, a charity set up to improve the health and inclusion of homeless people in Birmingham. In quarter 4 of 2015, homeless applications rose from 1,218 in 2014 to 1,493 in Birmingham alone*. But as the team learnt at the centre, these figures do not capture the true extent of homelessness. The hidden homeless do not show on official figures; these can include people who are sofa-surfing, living in squats or insecure accommodation. SIFA Fireside does not discriminate, their doors are open to all those who need a shower, food and advice from any of their drop-in clinics.

This charity drew the attention of our keen volunteers who gave up their mornings to make a difference. Here are their thoughts;

“Picking a local charity was important to us, and the reality that homelessness can happen to any of us at any time is a scary thought. It is easy to walk from the train station to work with headphones in ignoring others around you, but in reality Birmingham is a big city with a large number of people who need help. SIFA Fireside let us roll our sleeves up and get stuck in. I helped in the kitchen and served breakfast and lunch. It was interesting to see the variety of people that use the facilities, and it was a humbling feeling that we were making such a positive impact locally.” Helen Freed, Marketing Executive.

“It is amazing to see first-hand how much work goes into the organisation. I manned the reception desk with Dan, we signed everyone in and helped out where we could. It isn’t until you are face to face with the people in need that you get a true appreciation to the work this charity are doing.” Mark Hopkinson, Lift Consultant.

“I really enjoyed spending the morning with the team and the people that use the services provided by SIFA Fireside. I helped with the kitchen, and was chief toaster, we had lots of people that came and thanked us for serving them. It made the whole experience really fulfilling.” Angela Barnett, Office Manager.

“SIFA Fireside is vital to Birmingham, so it was a pleasure to be given the opportunity to volunteer for the morning. Like Mark, I was signing people into the centre and helping with post and any government forms they needed printing. I have raised money for this charity before, but it was great to see the work they do for myself.” Daniel Tierney, Trainee Engineer.

“It was a real eye-opener seeing how many people-in-need use the facilities during the day. I assisted with breakfast and lunch preparation and had the chance to talk to a few of the people who use the services provided. The charity is well organised and we were made to feel really welcome.” Lewis Morgan, Engineer.

“Assisting with breakfast and lunch preparation was great. Meeting the people that volunteer every week was a true inspiration. We served over 90 people lunch in the space of 20 minutes, it was very rewarding knowing we had made a difference to their day” Liz Haywood, Receptionist.

“I worked in the clothes store room for the morning. The charity doesn’t just offer food and shelter from the weather, but through donations they can also offer clothing and food parcels. I paired socks, sorted jumpers and tidied up the area-things that will help the volunteers speed up the process of handing out the right clothing to the people that need them. The volunteering morning offered a variety of jobs that needed to be completed, it was nice to be able to choose what area we volunteered in.” Chloe Agg, Senior Engineer.

“Working in the food store with one of the regular volunteers provided an insight to how the charity is run. It was interesting to learn about how the food donations come into the charity and how they use them. It was explained to me how local schools donate at harvest festival and how corporate company’s donate at Christmas, but the rest of the year they find challenging.” Chris Worton, Engineer.

“I offered my services in the kitchen, chopped mozzarella for lunch and ran around the morning tidying up. Small charities like SIFA Fireside need help from people like us, and it was great to be able to offer our time.” Mark Evans, Acoustic Consultant.

Visit our website to find out what other offices are contributing to the 40,000 at 40 campaign.

*www.homeless.org.uk/facts

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Charitable Work, Volunteering

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