Adapting to Meet a Need
Posted on May 22nd, 2020 at 1:12PM
The team at the Noah's Ark Centre, based in Halifax, are constantly inspiring us at Acts 435, and no less at this time of national crisis. We've been talking to Andrew Sykes, who heads up the team there, about how they've not only had to change how they work, but also the kind of work they are doing to meet the needs in their local community.
The Noah's Ark Centre is well known for it's debt counselling, which is very busy - having helped 269 individuals to become debt free through a Debt relief Order in 2019 (nearly 100 of which were funded by Acts 435). As well as debt counselling the centre helps people holistically with other needs, such as counselling; many are referred from local schools and children's centres, for example. Where there is a need Acts 435 plays a big part in helping to meet these requests, such as a recent request for a single mum (referred by the local children's centre) who had terminal cancer. She had been told that she couldn't return home as her house was unsuitable because it lacked carpets. An Acts 435 request was met very quickly and her carpets fitted. She sadly passed away just days after, but her children (one of which is 18) are now living in a suitable home thanks to Acts 435 donors.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the team in Halifax faced a decision. Their direct face-to-face services couldn't continue, but they still wanted to serve those in need in the local community, just like the mum above. There are four members of staff, all of which wanted to stay and work through the time of crisis but they all knew that they had to adapt to meet the ever-changing need of their community.
As well as heading up the team at the centre, Andrew, runs a small business making curries - so they started there! They made curries in tubs which could be delivered, or picked up, for those self-isolating and vulnerable. Then the next step was to find more funding for this much-needed hot meals service.
They secured a grant from Martin Lewis's Money Saving expert fund, as well as many donations from FareShare, B&M, Morrisons, and members of the local community. Alongside this a local pub offered to cook meals, giving up to 600 frozen meals a week for the centre to distribute. Overall, during the first 10 weeks of lockdown, the centre has given out over 3,500 hot or frozen meals to people in need in their community.
But this is not all they're doing. While distributing these meals they've also been distributing other food items (250 food parcels), toiletries and household items. They were also able to purchase some cheap footballs, to spread some joy to children who are needing outside activity during this time and cannot go to play park equipment.
Andrew told a story of how he had been able to give a football away to a girl, and at the same time talk to her parents about how they were struggling financially and personally through this time and was able to offer help where it is most needed. He went on to say that it is these "random acts of kindness that mean when we get through this we will hopefully be a bit tighter as a society".
They've also had much offer of help from the local community. Those who have been furloughed have volunteered their time to the centre. One such person is Dawn, who has said that she feels valued and loves seeing the joy in helping those in need.
Through all that is going on at the Noah's Ark Centre they have been able to continue to post Acts 435 requests for those who are struggling; not only for those affected by the current crisis, but also everyday needs that continue to exist. One such individual was Debbie, and her partner, who are still in isolation. Debbie had broken her knee cap early this year and unfortunately lost her job. Lesley, who works at Noah's Ark continues;
"They were so grateful for the meals being provided but mentioned in passing that their fridge/freezer was leaking and it was only a matter of time before it was kaput. So Acts 435 donors quickly stepped in to provide them with this much needed item. It has meant Debbie is managing her food shop so much better and doesn't need a parcel anymore. She is so happy to get some independence after losing so much. The anxiety and "darkness" she was feeling has turned round and she's cooking and baking to fill the void (and the freezer!)."
Lesley also wrote about a family that they supported with an Acts 435 request during the current crisis;
"A local school who had been in touch with the centre regarding counselling for one of their students discussed difficulties mum was having with provision of a laptop for her children. Mum, Hayat, is an asylum seeker from Iraq who's lived in the UK for three years. Mum is studying at college to improve her English and Maths after being a nurse/midwife previously in Iraq. She also volunteers at a local organisation to support other asylum seekers.
She has three children a girl aged 14, a boy aged 13 (both at different secondary schools) and a younger boy at primary school. All the children are keen to be able to access their schoolwork and continue their education at home but all the work is sent out and also expected to be achieved on a computer.
When I went around to the family to give them the laptop the joy in mum's face was evident, there were tears in her eyes and in broken English she thanked us for helping her and her children. Her daughter, whose English was good said this would make such a difference in her and her siblings lives and was excited that they could now do work and make their mum proud."
Through stories such as these, Acts 435 is helping The Noah's Ark Centre to impact on the community of Halifax. Andrew finished the conversation by saying that the Noah's Ark Centre is "much stronger with Acts 435 in our toolbox. The real value of Acts 435 is not in the requests, it’s a part of a valuable service to those in need in the local Halifax community."