Stories from the crisis

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Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m Alex, aged 26. I used to live in Brixton, and I was one of the first volunteers when CHIPS began its Brixton project back in 2014. I left in 2018 to pursue a career in disaster response overseas. But in February I moved back to London as I was between jobs, and suddenly disaster response was needed in the UK!

Why did you decide to volunteer for CHIPS this time?

Good question! One of our new volunteers asked me ‘What made you come back to the organisation? Why do you want to be involved again?’ It wasn’t something I’d thought about because to me it was obvious that while being back in London, I’d want to help CHIPS again!

So what do you like most about working with CHIPS?

For me, it’s about the team – CHIPS has a team of amazing people who have cared for me over the years. And it’s about the community here – the young people we work with in Brixton are incredible! They don’t always get the best press, but they have huge potential and I am desperate for the world to see that!

What I love most about the CHIPS approach is that they stick with a community through the good and the bad. Right now, life is harder than usual for many in the communities we work with across the local estates and it’s a joy to be involved with an organisation that cares so much.

What have you been doing for CHIPS this time around?

I’ve been doing some temporary work to help the charity roll out its Coronavirus relief response for vulnerable families and young people in Brixton.

In the last two months CHIPS has had to change everything it does. Our youth workers have taken our youth mentoring sessions online and started new programmes. We’ve engaged with schools to help vulnerable young people and offer support to their families. We’ve come up with a new system of support for local families and brought together a whole new project team to work together for the first time. Together, we’ve managed to pull off in less than two months what would normally take at least six!

I’ve been a small part of this but I’m so proud of what we’ve created together. I’ve been able to put to use some of the years of experience I have in disaster response and community development. In particular, I’ve been helping the team to shape and roll out the best systems to support families remotely, and I’ve taken a lead on recruiting, interviewing and training a team of new volunteers.

It’s been really inspiring to see so many people, from all experiences and backgrounds, wanting to help in our local community. They are such a fantastic bunch and its great to have them on board!

Any moments that will stick in your mind?

One day I was helping our volunteer team out by going shopping for a vulnerable local family. It’s a family with three children who are struggling with finances because of the crisis. We’re connecting them to other local services for the longer-term, but we stepped in to buy and deliver food and essentials for them when nobody else was helping.

One of the items they needed was nappies. But when I got to Tesco, I realised I had never bought them before. I had absolutely no idea what I was looking for and stood in this foreign land (the baby aisle!) not knowing where to start.

Fortunately, there were friendly faces around, so I asked a local mum to educate me. We had a laugh about it, she sorted me out very thoroughly and helpfully, and now thanks to the coronavirus and CHIPS I am an expert on the major nappy brands and their performance!

We’re so grateful for Alex’s hard work and fellowship over the past few months and wish her every blessing as she prepares to start a new role working supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Thank you so much Alex and good luck!