A Christmas message to our community

A Christmas message from our Executive Director Mike Wilson to all of our volunteers, donors, supporters and neighbours in Walworth:

It’s difficult to overstate the challenges this year has brought, but the response in Walworth has been nothing short of incredible.

Neighbours have stepped forward to help one another. New activities have emerged at breathtaking speed. Together, we’re getting through this.

At Pembroke House, we transformed into an emergency food hub to respond to the need in our neighbourhood. Since March we’ve delivered 200 tonnes of food, in over 20,000 individual journeys to more than 2,000 local residents. This is the combined effort of hundreds of people and local organisations.

Whether you’ve been cycling parcels across the neighbourhood, packing food, donating, or participating in our activities online – a huge thank you for all that you have done.

And if you’ve connected with us for the first time this year, we’re so glad to have met you.

We’ve accomplished so much together. But there’s still so much more we can and must do to make our neighbourhood stronger.

So, where do we go from here in 2021?

What we know

Two things are clear.

First, Covid has revealed inequalities in Walworth – it didn’t cause them.

The truth is we live in a community where multi-million pound developments sit next to homes where 25% of families were regularly skipping meals, even before the crisis.

The inequality in Walworth is historic, it’s growing and it harms us all.

Second, if we are going to make a long-term difference, we have to be bolder.

Our food parcels are vital, but on their own they’re not enough. If we want to build a society where no one struggles for food and everyone can fulfill their potential, we are going to have to think bigger.

How we move forward

We’re drawing on our history and values to forge the way forward.

Pembroke House was founded 135 years ago by students who demanded new answers to growing inequalities in the country.

They took up residence in Walworth to live and work alongside their neighbours to build a better neighbourhood.

Together, they broke down traditional divides, made Walworth a better place to live for everyone, and inspired the architects of the modern welfare state.

We need that same spirit today.

No single organisation, council or service can get us out of this mess. It will take the whole neighbourhood bringing its collective tools, know-how and spirit to the fight.

That’s why this summer we said We Need to Talk and brought together 100 people from our community who wouldn’t normally meet, to ask:

How can we build a neighbourhood where no-one struggles for food and everyone works together to tackle the root causes of food insecurity?

We listened and learned from each other’s experiences during the pandemic – as residents, volunteers, food bag recipients, students and partners.

Then we started planning together where we go next as a neighbourhood.

Our plan for 2021

Connect more and confront food insecurity

We will continue to deliver our food parcels at least until March 2021.

These parcels alone won’t solve food insecurity but the ingredients are here for a long-term impact.

With each parcel that’s been packed and delivered over this year, new connections have been made: on the doorsteps during deliveries; at the food hub between neighbours and volunteers; between businesses and charities working together for the first time.

If we build on these connections then we’ll have the relationships and resources to make a lasting difference in this community – one where everyone has something to contribute.

Build a neighbourhood-wide response

We will channel our energies in 2021 to build a neighbourhood-wide response beyond the food bank.

We will work with partners across Walworth to develop a range of affordable food options: low-cost pantries, community kitchens, local delivery networks and neighbourhood cooking projects.

And we will also expand on our work before Covid to confront the root causes of food insecurity – from unemployment and precarious work, to debt and insecure housing.

That means supporting people to create their own businesses, advocating for affordable homes, and ensuring services work with communities and not just for them.

This pandemic has inspired the most radical collaboration we’ve seen in our lifetime, across local businesses, the council, local organisations, schools and public services.

To meet the challenges to come we have to maintain this momentum.

Reopen the Walworth Living Room

Our second site, the Walworth Living Room, will be at the centre of these plans.

We opened this new space for our community a year and a half ago.

It’s a place where:

  • Food is a reason to connect: where a cup of tea sparks a conversation and a shared meal breaks down old barriers.
  • The neighbourhood can test new activities and ideas: on Tuesdays, English classes spilled into housing workshops and community cooking clubs. On Wednesdays, it was debt-advice in the community cafe.

It was local people who, through their imagination and energy, made the space their own – Walworth’s Living Room.

Over 12 months we glimpsed what this home away from home could be, what we could achieve there together.

We all miss it, but it’s clear that spirit lives on through the food hub that’s operating there for now.

In early 2021 we will complete capital works on the Walworth Living Room, ready to reopen as soon as the pandemic allows.

Be part of it

Give: Running our distribution hub isn’t easy. We need your support to keep going. We also need longer-term support to realise the ambitions for a lasting neighbourhood change.

Volunteer: Thanks to all of you who are already riding, packing and delivering food packages across Walworth. When it’s safe to open the Walworth Living Room more widely, there’ll be even more ways to participate: from serving teas and coffees, to running local campaigns and hosting community activities.

Connect: If you want to partner with us over the longer-term and help build a better neighbourhood we want to hear from you.

Thank you!

Thank you, again, for all that you have contributed over this year.

The spirit that has been shown in Walworth in 2020 means that, together, we will face 2021 more connected and more determined than ever.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy new year.

All my best,

Mike Wilson

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