‘Watching students work together to serve their local community gave me hope’

There is a lot of doom and gloom out there at the moment. The soaring cost of living, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the very uncertain future… it’s enough to make us all want to head to the jungle to eat bugs.

No matter how many times someone says “we’ve got through worse”, it doesn’t seem to cut through the anxiety of coping with everything right now.

But it is during such difficult times that magic can happen – when communities come together and work towards making other people’s lives better.

A lot of fantastic initiatives were set up during the pandemic, showing a small contribution can make a big difference.

People volunteered their time and skills to help those struggling to make ends meet.

Restaurants fed the hungry, people on local Facebook groups answered the call to deliver care packages or pick up litter, religious groups rallied to help their flocks, food chains donated their unsold goods and individuals gave what they could to food banks.

And many of those volunteer-led charities and groups are still supporting their local communities today.

As a school governor, I visited the Rose Hill Community Larder, which serves one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Oxfordshire.

The Larder is run by the Magdalen College School in partnership with SOFEA, an organisation which works with vulnerable youngsters to provide education and training by tackling food insecurity and reducing food waste.

It is led by amazing school receptionist Carmel Engin and serves scores of people in the area who pay just £7 a week to fill a basket with goodies that would otherwise go to waste.

Most of the volunteers who pick and pack the food are schoolkids.

Around 12 sixth-formers give up an afternoon a week to help set up, organise, serve and pack up the food.

Michael, 17, volunteered over the summer holidays and told me that he enjoys helping out where he can.

And Lisa B said: “We are reducing food waste and helping Oxford residents save money.”

Watching these bright, young students work together to serve their local community gave me hope for the future.

We can’t control the cost of living, but we can control how we choose to feel through these difficult times. And actively getting involved with your community will not only help others, but it will boost your wellbeing, too.