Every quarter we’ll be talking to our network of volunteers up and down the country, turning the spotlight on their local projects and finding out what they do and why.
This month, we’ve caught up Elisha who co-ordinates the THB project in Luton.
How did you become a volunteer with the Hygiene Bank?
I work as a Social Prescriber within the NHS and was approached by a lady locally whose family volunteered with THB. She explained how her Mother collected toiletries and distributed them to various local charities and organisations. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of it and I knew straight away, it was something that Luton desperately needed.
Luton is one of the most deprived areas in England, with high numbers of children living in poverty. I’ve experienced this first hand, from being in the foster care system to later being homeless. I lacked quality toiletries to wash with. Shopping was difficult because I’d always have the decision between eating and hygiene products. At this point the price between a good shower gel and noodles was crucial for me, and there was nowhere to turn to for these essentials.
In time, I was provided with temporary accommodation and went to college. I worked really hard and went onto University whilst working in a nursing home to develop my professional skillset. I drew on my difficult beginning and used my negative experiences to drive me to do positive work.
I started the project in October last year and now have a team of 7 volunteers, including myself. I have set up collection points in the GP surgeries that I work in, Leavale Practice and Larkside Practice. We have partnered with local charities such as Stepping Stones, Marie Seacole and Womens Aid. These foundations largely support women, young people and children in our area.
What have been your greatest challenges?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is storage and space. I often have a flat full of products and one of our volunteers has kindly allocated space in their shed!
However, we really need to find somewhere permanent and big enough. I have approached local supermarkets and storage companies but had no luck as yet. If anyone knows anyone in Luton who might be able to help please let me know or if fellow Project Coordinator’s have some advice on this, it would be great to hear from you.
What have you been focusing on recently?
We have a great team set up but are still in need of more volunteers, particularly anyone with a vehicle who could help with collecting and distributing. Currently, I’m the only one with a car so that’s limiting us a bit! We have been using social media and letting friends and family know about the project. Hopefully we will find some more volunteers soon.
What are your plans for the future of the Luton project?
In the long-term I’d like to see us working with some local schools. Luton Council has stated that nearly half of Luton children are living in poverty. It’s a heart-breaking situation and if we could get regular products to children and their families via their schools it would be a huge achievement.
If this is your local area and you would like to get involved by donating or volunteering, please visit the Facebook and Instagram pages set up by Elisha to find out how. https://www.facebook.com/Thehygienebankluton/ https://www.instagram.com/thbluton_/