It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is kindness. All week we’ll be sharing stories of acts of kindness within the RAF family during the coronavirus lockdown.
A group of personnel from RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall are volunteering at their local foodbank which has been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.
Flight Sergeant Steph Carlyon began volunteering with Newquay Foodbank three years ago and co-ordinates operations as Secretary. She has ‘recruited’ five of her RAF colleagues along the way, including some of the emergency volunteers needed during the pandemic.
“We support anyone who finds themselves in a food crisis - about 65 families a week. We sort them out with a food parcel and during the lockdown we’re delivering food out to them to avoid them having to leave their home.”
Flight Sergeant Steph Carlyon
The effects of lockdown have seen their weekly food spends triple from £300 to £900. Alongside that, Steph had to stand down 75% of her volunteers as they were either over 70 or in the vulnerable category. Luckily, emergency volunteers arrived from the RAF and a plea on Facebook.
“Yes, the workload has increased, the amount of food parcels has increased, but so have the donations and volunteers. So as long as we coordinate it all, it’s going really well.”
The food parcels go further than just providing food; Steph has seen first-hand how the social contact that a food delivery brings can benefit recipients’ mental health.
“These acts of kindness are so important. This pandemic has left so many people feeling lonely and just that one form of contact from someone coming to their door and saying hi - that can brighten their day.
“Even before coronavirus, when people come to us they’re at their lowest point because, wrongly, they’re ashamed that they need the foodbank. But when they realise they’re not going to be judged and they’ll be treated with respect and given the help they need, you can see the relief on their face and that it’s helped them out.
“It’s important to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week because the more that people open up, the more that other people realise that it’s okay to open up and accept the fact that they need help.”