Every month, Octopus Giving recognises the team or individual that has done great things by volunteering for charity. October’s award went to Niki Graham, Marketing Executive at Octopus Investments. Niki gets to donate £500 to the charity of her choice.
Why did you decide to start volunteering?
“When Octopus Giving announced it was going to select four new charities to partner with for the next three years, FoodCycle was my preferred charity. When I heard about the opportunity to become the charity co-ordinator to FoodCycle, I got really excited, and had to volunteer.”
Why did you choose to volunteer for FoodCycle?
“They are an incredible charity. They take surplus food that would otherwise get binned, turn it into a nutritious three-course meal (Ready-Steady-Cook-style) for people who are hungry and lonely, and they bring communities together. I love what they do and everything they stand for. I tell so many people about the amazing things they do inside and outside of work.
What event did you volunteer for that earned the VOM award?
“We hold regular ‘giving days’ within Octopus, and for September’s day we invited Mary McGrath, who is the FoodCycle CEO to come in to do a breakfast speaking session. Mary was joined on the day by Ben Cullen, who is the Content and Community Marketing Manager of OLIO, a company that also works to make sure that food isn’t wasted, and instead is redistributed to local communities.
Together, Mary and Ben, they spoke about the current issue of food waste, how to combat it, and how people can get involved and volunteer for FoodCycle.
For many people, weekly visits to FoodCycle are their only chance to get a hot meal. That’s because one in five of FoodCycle guests do not have a cooker, or any other way of heating food. Also, high fuel costs mean that many of the guests who do have cookers can’t afford to turn them on. These statistics really bring to life the issues that so many people around the UK currently face.
The breakfast session was so eye-opening, and we had around 60 people from Octopus attend. After the event, I used the OLIO app to donate the leftover breakfast baguettes. It’s a great app.”
What’s been your most memorable volunteering experience so far?
“Volunteering at the FoodCycle Hackney project. I signed up to be part of the cooking team. I got there and felt slightly nervous about what was ahead! The team there, including some old-timers and some first-timers, were all completely amazing.
The food arrived by car – thanks to a couple who collect food every week – and we carried it all into the kitchen. It was then a case of assessing what we had, what we could cook, and who was on what duty. I did a lot of chopping, a lot of washing up, I made a banana bread and butter pudding (which looked and tasted pretty good).
The end result was excellent: a mixed vegetable soup, roasted veg pasta with a green herb salad and pan-fried okra, topped off with banana bread and butter pudding. The hosts serve the FoodCycle guests and there was such a great buzz in the hall. All the leftovers were boxed up for guests to take-away. It was a great day, I left shattered and with an admiration for all of the regular volunteers who go weekly to ensure guests have a delicious and nutritious meal.”
Have you got a message for anyone who hasn’t volunteered before?
“Volunteering is not only great fun, but you can learn new skills and meet new people and do something really valuable for a great organisation.”