Last week two MPs, Heidi Allen and Frank Field came to our Foodbank to meet with over 60 people all of whom are either working to help people experiencing poverty or who have been experiencing tough times and wanted to share their stories.
Here’s her powerful article about that day.
In The Room
My current favourite song on my playlist is ‘In the room’, from the musical Hamilton. One of its many lyrics is: I’ve got to be in the room where it happens.
Last Thursday here at the Foodbank, we played host to two MPs, Heidi Allen and Frank Field, who came to listen to us, here in Morecambe, and to hear our stories.
They were asked to listen with attention and report back accurately and with a responsibility to recognise that our voices are a representation of what is being repeated and what is all too common across our country.
Okay, so it seems that Morecambe and its pesky Foodbank is in the media yet again! However, it’s because members of this community are brave, proud, able and willing to say: “look at us and look at what we represent”. We are not afraid of showing ourselves as vulnerable and that’s because we are secure in one key thing and that is each other and the strength of our community.
Not only do we have incredible support from the agencies who work with us, under ever increasing pressure) such as The Well, Homestart, CAB, West End Impact and The Olive Branch to name but a few, but most importantly we have each other.
The staff and volunteers who work within these organisations. Our families, our neighbours, our school teachers, our children’s services, our local businesses – I can’t name them all, but what stands out is that we all stand together. Between us we demonstrate and we shout ‘We get it, and we are here to catch you’.
Many people were able to be in that room last Thursday and brave enough to stand up and stand out. The meeting was constructive and each person made their points from different aspects of our experiences. This, I hope, gave the MPs a well-balanced report that could be taken back to Westminster and not just kept in Westminster Road.
Heidi Allen cried genuine tears and so did many others, when we collectively heard the men and women with their harrowing stories, especially those from the Poverty Truth Commission who were so brave to stand up and stand out.
Those tears were not just from hearing Karen, Daniel or Emily’s stories, but from hearing the encouragement from everybody in the room telling Daniel to “keep going”, “you can do this” and watch Ally with her arms around him representing everyone’s encouragement to help him make a difference.
Let’s not underestimate the value of the content we all contributed in that room during those three hours.
We made, and will continue to make, a difference and we did it together.
The agencies and professional services present are not strangers but known by name to everyone one of us because we work together. I say names because we don’t like to work by titles or numbers or organisations we volunteer or work in. We are united, doing our best and hoping it’s good enough. You can find any one of us here on the front line.
At the Foodbank, we use our statistics to raise awareness, to try and get others to understand and to act about the injustice too many of us are going through, even as they make headlines and sensational news.
To be clear, our numbers of recipients, numbers of parcels and numbers of meals mean nothing without names. As the numbers rise, each digit is one digit too many, one name too many, one family and one child too many. Does it matter if we or any of us are in the top 10 percent of another national poverty calculation? No. It’s all too many.
That’s what happened in that room last week, a few of us, standing together, saying ‘Enough!’ United with one aim to make a difference, we will tell their stories.
There is much more to us here in Morecambe than poverty. There is talent, potential, economic growth, creativity and love. That’s why we love our community and it’s why we keep doing this work.