From Seeds April 2021
Augustine supports Open Doors Meals at the Grassmarket Community Project (GCP) financially and through volunteers. Kathleen Ziffo has been a volunteer with them for 26 years. Katrina Tweedie asked Kathleen to tell her more.
HOW DID OPEN DOORS MEALS START?
Over 25 years ago, a small project for feeding homeless people one evening a week was started by ladies of Greyfriars Kirk Guild in their Kirk House in Candlemaker Row. Divinity Students living in the Grassmarket, and some veterinary students, also assisted. Twenty to thirty people would come and we brought in (and eventually made on the premises) soup, sausage rolls/sandwiches and home-baking.
Around that time, people in Augustine, Greyfriars and St Columba’s by-the-Castle looked at what the local churches could do together to help in the area. We carried out a joint parish visitation, knocking on peoples’ doors and asking what the community needed. We discovered that there were far more people living around the area in flats than we had imagined and that there were homeless people going hungry, and others in need of support.
Since then, it has developed hugely, first with the appointment of a field worker, and then with the establishment of the more ambitious Grassmarket Community Project, which also offers services such as skills development including weaving and woodworking.
GCP now serves a much wider group of people, addressing lack of opportunities, mental health issues and poverty, as well as homelessness. It is the Open Doors Meals part of GCP that our congregations supports.
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?
I used to head up a cooking team but in the last three or so years GCP has employed a chef for their café (and cooking classes) and he now prepares two course meals for our members. Volunteers set up, heat the food, serve it, chat to members and then clean up.
WHAT OTHER ROLES ARE THERE?
While the meals are eaten, others advise on benefits and other financial matters, hairdressers cut members’ hair, and vets help with pets. Folk might like to get more involved with other aspects of the volunteering work of GCP and can contact GCP direct.
There are people from our three local churches, from other churches, some with no church affiliation, students and people of all ages. Everyone mucks in together. We are all of us, volunteers and people being served, called “members”.
Della, Francis, Robert and I have been more recent helpers, as were the late Brian Teyhan and Zandra Russell; and among the earlier volunteers was the late Agnes Nisbet.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU VOLUNTEER?
Once a month nowadays (prior to the pandemic).
WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT IT?
I enjoy producing a meal for people, seeing people enjoying the food and socializing with the folk attending. Most people are very appreciative – so I like that – and I like being able to chat to people when we have time.
Most of the people who come in are pretty nice people. There’s such a variety of people too. . . foreigners with low incomes, occasionally a few asylum seekers, people with mental health issues or dependency problems, people who are socially excluded. Anyone is welcome to come for a free meal.
ANYTHING YOU DON’T ENJOY?.
Team leaders are meant to be in first to set up tables, crockery and cutlery in the main hall, but if prior events are running late it can mean a real rush. And it can be quite strenuous moving furniture quickly from different parts of
HOW DOES AUC DECIDE HOW MUCH TO CONTRIBUTE FINANCIALLY?
Up to fifty meals produced one day a week over about 50/52 weeks cost around £2,400 in 2019; and so each of our three local church agreed to donate approximately £800 each.
WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU THINK OPEN DOORS MEALS BRING?
Many people consider it a safe place to come. It provides opportunity for socialising, friendship and companionship to people who have difficulty accessing that.
AND DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Work has continued in whichever form is possible at the time, whether it’s delivering food to members of the community project and others, or giving out ‘take away’ meals. The day and time of the meal has changed; and the members helping and leading have changed quite a lot, too.
CONTACT DETAILS FOR THE GRASSMARKET COMMUNITY PROJECT:
- Online: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 0131 225 3626
- Text 07860 021 262