We hope the New Year has been treating you well. With vaccination underway, there does seem to be cause for hope. As we’ve said before, we are hoping to transition from an emergency response to a more stable, ongoing operation – though naturally, we are going to remain focused on gaps in the aid infrastructure.
Despite the roll-out of the vaccination, there is still a lot of suffering in Oxford, and the combination of Covid-19 with economic shocks is producing a difficult and long-term set of problems.
What Have We Been Doing?
Christmas was a very busy period for us, for obvious reasons. In addition to coping with extra demand due to the Winter, we undertook projects targeted at making Christmas a little more joyful for those we support. Having secured a grant specifically for this purpose we delivered over 1,000 presents to over 200 households.
As you will be aware, the mental health impact of Covid has been severe. While such projects are not our main focus, we feel that our Christmas projects, like our Ramadan and Eid projects, are important in combating the emotional and psychological effects of social isolation and food precarity.
At the time of writing our numbers are:
- Regular food parcel and supply support to 223 households, comprising of 672 people (378 adults, 258 children, and 36 babies)
- Supporting 65 households with new and expectant mothers, supplying them with formula milk, nappies, etc
- Over 216 emergency food parcels a month, going to an average household of at least 2 people
- Ongoing support to 25 households who require support collecting prescriptions, doing shopping, etc
- The Kitchen Collective is providing reheatable meals to a minimum of 145 households each week
How Did We Spend Donations?
Spending was up in December. We budgeted for £6,000 and spent £6,794.05. It should be noted, though, that we received a £2,000 grant from SOFEA and Fareshare aimed at Christmas projects and therefore felt comfortable overspending our original budget.
Budgeting for Sustainability
Recently, the Members of Oxford Mutual Aid Limited met to discuss making the operation sustainable for the long-term. It was agreed that we will need to pay for 1-2 full-time coordinators and also make some capital purchases.
The workload of coordinating the day-to-day activities of the organisation has become immense. It is neither fair nor sustainable to expect that coordination to be undertaken solely by volunteers. More importantly, it creates bottlenecks in the organisation. Our partner organisations and grant awarding bodies have also stated they see a lack of full-time staff as an organisational risk for us.
Likewise, it is necessary for us to lease – if not purchase – our own van. Sourcing vans on an ad hoc basis creates a lot of work and is another bottleneck in our operation. We now move over 3 tonnes of food and supplies through our warehouse each week, and it is important for everything to flow as smoothly as possible.
We will report back to you in more detail over the next few months. We have always been a very cost-effective – perhaps abstemious – organisation, and we will remain cautious. We will retain our policy of keeping a few months’ worth of operating costs as cash-on-hand, in case of emergencies.
Crucially, we already receive an average income from donations and grants to fund a bigger budget and are confident of increasing that figure if necessary. Our long-term plan is to drive pledged monthly donations, as they make it easier to plan our budgets.
As usual, all details will be made available to you.
Looking Past Covid
Like you, we are in a slightly surreal situation – half the country seems to be sighing a breath of relief and the other half is struggling worse than ever. We don’t know the outcome of the vaccination roll out, or when lockdown will really end, and especially not at what point life will return to something approaching normality.
This is going to be a hard year. There is unlikely to be a clear end point to the current situation, and the problems of food precarity will not go away even if all goes according to plan. However, through your donations and volunteering, OMA is in a position to keep focusing on those who need help and to adapt to what the future holds.
On a lighter note, if you are in need of a pick-me-up, we strongly recommend you follow us on Twitter and Instagram, where we share feedback from volunteers and those we support.