By Maddy Diment, President of Project SOUP
Thank you to everyone who attended our Project SOUP event this term; it was a really informative and enjoyable evening and so great to have a full house! We held our event at Crisis Cafe, a suitable setting given the theme of the night: Homelessness.
The day before our event we were so fortunate to receive some warm words of wisdom and encouragement from none other than the FOUNDER of the E N T I R E Soup movement - AMY KAHERL! We met her at Crisis for coffee to talk about our event and some exciting projects in the future..more on this later..!
Anyway, back to the event...! From 4pm our volunteers (the lovely people in the orange tees) were busy picking up fresh goods from the Oxford Food Bank and Paul's, chopping veggies, blending soups, making menus, and organising the venue. 3 hours later, the doors opened.
Roughly 65 guests walked through the door, welcomed immediately by our smiley team and live music from Megan Griffiths, a student at University College, Oxford, who sang and played the guitar. And once the finishing touches had been done, everyone was invited to get their fill of festive soups and fresh bread.
We were so grateful to host Shaista Aziz who set the tone for the evening with an opening talk on homelessness and the specific problems women face in rough-sleeping. Shaista brought with her members from the rough-sleeping community (both present and past) and it was amazing to hear from Rachel (a fictitious name to protect her identity) who got up and spoke about her experience living on the streets. Rachel also spoke about how her life has been turned around with the help of community leaders like Shaista and charities such as those who pitched on the night.
Following Shaista and Rachel, we listened to a brief talk given by Jim from OxPAT. OxPAT collects money through donations, fundraising events and boxes in Oxford businesses and colleges to alleviate the needs of the homeless and vulnerably housed. As Jim said, OxPAT is run solely by volunteers and all income is distributed between Oxford homeless agencies chosen annually.
NB: Jim, who represented OxPAT, was a guest rather than a participant for our event, and it was great to have his input to provide further context of the work done with homeless communities.
After more ladles of soup and handfuls of bread, we all settled down to listen to the three charities who were pitching for the £100 'grande prize'. We collectively decided, as volunteers and as a committee, that it would be great for each charity to go home with something. So, we concluded that a £100 cash prize would go the 'winner' (the charity with the most votes) and the remaining money that had been raised would be split evenly between the three charities.
Mackenzie from Homeless Oxfordshire was the first to take centre stage. Dee from The Oxford Gatehouse came next, and then Jonathan from Greater Change Oxford followed. It was nice to have an eclectic mix of charities, all showcasing the various ways the homelessness problem can be tackled. Once questions had rounded up, it was time for the Oxford Belles to give their stellar two-piece acapella set, during which the infamous yellow Project SOUP box circulated the room. After everybody had pledged who they would like the £100 cash prize to go to, the votes were counted in.
In total we raised £231 for the evening's charities - a smashing result indeed. It was so rewarding also to write a cheque of £43 (from our Bake Sale funds) to Crisis, who so kindly gave us their venue for free.
The winner of the £100 cash prize went to The Oxford Gatehouse. £43 was then given to The Gatehouse, Homeless Oxfordshire, and Greater Change Oxford.
Here’s what our participants thought:
Oxford Gatehouse (‘winning’ participant):
‘Thank you so much for allowing the Gatehouse to take part and for the donation of £143 which will buy the project nearly two weeks’ worth of shopping (we are averaging 375 visits a week so a lot of people will be directly impacted by this). We have also had some volunteer enquiries from people that were there on the night, which is wonderful too as we are volunteer led.”
(Katrina Horne, Project Director – The Gatehouse).
"It's always great to see students taking an interest in the city they're studying in. Being invited to talk at events like Project SOUP means a lot to all of us here at Homeless Oxfordshire. A big part of the work we do is raising awareness of homelessness and the wide range of services we provide, events like Project SOUP gives us a chance to get out and spread the word that Homeless does not mean Hopeless."
(Mackenzie Aspell – Homeless Oxfordshire).
“Homelessness can often seem an intractable problem, but knowing that there are so many warm and generous people facing it with you is incredibly heartening, so thanks for putting the event together and inviting all these organisations doing really good work. It’s often also a useful reminder as well that we can all help in our own way. You can donate, volunteer or even just stop and talk to homeless individuals you meet on the streets, because that makes a huge difference in an otherwise dehumanising experience.”
(Jonathan Tan, Greater Change).
So voila! Here ends Project SOUP: Homelessness ! Thank you so much to all those who came - to the participating charities, to Michelle who was our photographer for the evening, to all the volunteers, to Crisis Cafe, and to the Oxford Hub.
Keep an eye out for our next event, supporting local food waste projects!
And last but not least, we hope you all have a magical Christmas. With love,
Maddy Diment + the team
President of Project SOUP