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  • Writer's pictureMona Neilson

Food Banks and Business Coaching with Felicia

In this episode of Community Bridges Podcasts, Geoff interviews organization founder and local SE5 resident, Felicia. She was one of the first few black family-owned businesses to open on Peckham Rye Lane an odd 35 years ago and later on became a property manager in southeast London. Felicia lost everything, following the crash, 8 years ago. She began volunteering in the hopes of finding meaning and direction after having lost her career. This led her to lead the Southwark Food Bank. Finding meaning in helping those more unfortunate by procuring them with basic needs such as food. Felicia marks CSCH’s impact on the dignity it brings to its clients. As she describes a past client who at first came in miserable, a week later had a smile on her face. When a volunteer asked what had brought on this sudden good humor she said “a full tummy is a happy mind.” Felicia understands that happy lives, good mental health, healthy bodies, and stable life starts with stabilizing basic needs, such as food. A healthy brain is only healthy if it’s been fed properly. Once that need is met, the individual is able to move forwards, worrying about anything other than when their next meal will be. CSCH has been helping people find dignity through nourishment and empowerment. Starting off with specializing the food delivered. CSCH offers options to its clients, so families are not forced to cook with unfamiliar foods that clash with their culture. Interestingly enough, during the Lockdown of March 2020, the demographic of clients drastically switched towards a group of predominantly Hispanic members. With the generous help of the Southwark community’s donations and participation. They were able to purchase and distribute appropriate food to those families. A reminder that monetary donations are happily welcomed as they can make the difference between an empty plate and a well-fed family.

Though despite that success, Felicia quickly noticed that just procuring people with food was not enough. As she described; because the tickets would only allow three visits every 6 months, those same people would not be sorted out by them. They would come back six months later, having been seeking other help from organizations in between, still hungry.

With the help of her daughter, they began Business development coaching as well as holiday groups and social groups that allowed people of the community to educate themselves, empower their businesses, and find tranquility and support. The business development courses in particular helped these people secure their financial situations as well as finding a network of fellow local business owners. These courses extend to people suffering from long-term unemployment and helping anyone in sorts of financial instability. It is necessary to address the shift that occurred over lockdown. CSCH was faced with new challenges, not only a mass amount of people losing their jobs but also hours being cut while the bills remain the same. Pushing more people under the poverty belt, affecting mental health, making feeding families harder than ever.

That’s why if you’ve been lucky enough to remain with a job and a stable household over the pandemic, I implore you to donate or get yourself involved with CSCH. To help those that have lost everything, rebuild their lives, and go beyond.

Geoff and Felicia’s conversation is followed by a heartwarming telling of Shakira’s story, a client, and a volunteer of CSCH. She found this organization through a referral from another organization, pregnant at the time she found community, faith, and support at CSCH. From little things to do your hair for free rather than going to the hairdressers to finding friends in social groups. Shakira particularly appreciated this organization because of the acceptance and lack of judgment offered by all its members. She felt this mostly when bringing her nine-year-old son who is on the autistic spectrum. And instead of being faced with judgment and rejection, Shakira and her son felt accepted and understood. Not only acceptance came but genuine help. On a group outing, Shakira was procured with a carer that helped her and her son have a comfortable and happy time. She feels incredibly grateful to CSCH for the support and empowerment she has found through their services. CSCH

thrives to break stigmas regarding mental and physical health by trying to address every individual's particular needs.

In Felicia’s words, CSCH will continue “to pursue an agenda of change”. But this cannot be done without the help of the public through donations and volunteering. If you would like to help visit the CSCH website today to see how you can get involved.



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