Oxford Mutual Aid is looking for new directors to join the board!
About the role
There are up to 7 directors of Oxford Mutual Aid (OMA), with a minimum of 3, who are appointed by OMA’s members. These are voluntary roles. OMA is a company limited by guarantee, with an asset lock in its articles, making it a non-profit. Its directors are legally responsible for employing staff, for finances and overall management, as well as for policy and strategic development of the organisation. There will be monthly board meetings where staff can bring issues for support, guidance, and collective decision making. Additional work consists of supporting staff with issues that arise between meetings.
To support the organisation we are looking for experienced members of our community and the wider public to join our board of directors. We are particularly keen to recruit members of the local community in Oxfordshire who have one or more of the following skills:
Above all, we welcome the involvement of volunteers, recipients and supporters as Directors.
We want to wish you all a wonderful festive season and thank you for all your continued support throughout the year. The hall has been busy with volunteers, donations and offers of help and we continue to be heartened by the strength and support of our community during a time which is challenging for everyone financially.
We are happy to announce that our emergency parcel service is back open and running and we have delivered over 660 regular parcels in November and around 200 emergency packages also this month. We also have a number of new staff editions, adding to our dedicated coordinator and management team.
Whilst understanding that everyone is facing their own challenges, we want to thank everyone who has donated time, funds, food and gifts. Your support really is the backbone of O.M.A and we are so thankful for the amazing community we have here in Oxford.
CHANGE HOW YOU DONATE
HELP O.M.A. SAVE MONEY by changing how you donate. Shift your donation away from Open Collective, which charges extra fees. Instead, donate directly via the website so that every penny goes to vital support. O.M.A is facing unprecedented financial hardship so we have to save money wherever we can. See below for an urgent appeal to help O.M.A. raise funds to continue our operations.
With Christmas around the corner, we know that many families are really struggling with the cost of living. Throughout Oxford, food insecurity is at an all-time high and Christmas can often put extra pressure on people to provide for both themselves and their families. As the weather gets colder, this is compounded by increases to heating and energy bills, which can really effect peoples physical and mental health in conjunction with economic difficulty. For our 2023 Christmas Appeal, we are asking everyone to help by donating food, gifts or funds to help us reach as many people as possible. Ideally, we would like to reach over 700 people with food and gifts this festive season, but none of this is possible without the support of kind individuals and businesses.
Are you a local parish council, school/college or local business setting up a winter fundraiser this year? If so, please consider fundraising for us at OMA, in the knowledge it will help us strengthen and maintain our operations to support vulnerable families across the festive season. We are here to offer support to anyone wanting to fundraise for us and can provide leaflets and help with communications for your event.
Facing the holiday season without access to food can be hard enough, but providing for your family during this time can add extra pressure on families to source gifts. It is also a time of year that really highlights personal hardship, which in itself can worsen both physical and mental health. O.M.A aims to support as many people as we can this year, offering personalised packages and gifts to alleviate the burden on those struggling, as well as provide the little luxuries which we all need at times. This year we have really struggled to source donations for gifts. Be it a winter hat, soaps and body-care, chocolates or sweets, anything you or your community can provide will go directly to individuals in need. If you can, set up a collection box in your local area and bring directly to our hall on Cowley Road.
As the temperatures are dropping we’ve seen great dedication from the OMA community as everyone has come together to keep the deliveries coming in and parcels going out. Assisted by some new fingerless gloves, new faces and lots of cups of tea we’re managing to keep going! We’ve managed to host lots of great events in the hall, including a visit from Reading University and a student takeover evening. Our stocks have been up and down over the past couple of months, and we have unfortunately been low on dairy fridge food and fruit and veg for a while. At the moment we are low on pasta and potatoes, some household essentials we would love to be promising, so if you have any leads on donated food please get in touch.The hall remains open 9am-7pm Mon-Fri, and 9am-5pm on Sundays – do pop in with any donations, to volunteer your time and help, or just to say hi and get to know more about us.
If you’re on the lookout for more ways to help in the hall, we’re keen for more amazing volunteers to step up as hall leads, and we urgently need more drivers to deliver emergency parcels now we are delivering emergency parcels again.
O.M.A are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to support in general operations, fundraising and communications. We offer unique and tailored volunteering opportunities, which meet your wants and needs in terms of professional experience. As a community driven and volunteer led organisation, we aim to continuously support and encourage volunteers into positions of leadership, taking whatever experience you are looking for and translating this into opportunities for you to maximise your professional CVs and personal achievement goals.
Oxford Mutual Aid is facing an unprecedented time of financial difficulty, as our reserves are dipping dangerously low and we are at risk of having to drastically change our operations. This may mean we have to revise our costs, people we support and ability to respond to increasing demand for food support in Oxford. Whilst recognising that everyone is struggling with the cost of living, we are asking our community for support, especially across the holiday season. Ultimately we need to secure funds to meet our core costs and which will enable us to maintain our current level of operations. This Christmas we want to raise £15,000 and any contribution, small or large, will support us to reach this goal. Pledges of £10-£20 a month will also support us more long-term. We completely understand that not everyone is in a position to support us in this way and even spreading the word is an amazing contribution in itself. Whatever your capacity, we appreciate help in all forms during this time and offer thanks for all your amazing work over the last year.
OMA are proud to be a part of the OX4 Food Crew and are currently supporting with the 2023/2024 Winter Appeal. The OX4 Food Crew is a partnership of 9 grassroots organisations in Oxford’s OX4 postcode area, responding to the growing crisis of food insecurity in our neighbourhoods. This appeal will raise funds for all partners within the OX4 Food Crew; supporting a wider network of food distribution organisations to reach as many communities as possible across the OX4 area. The aim of this appeal is to raise funds which can be distributed across the partner organisations and which will distribute donations fairly across the catchment. With winter affecting many charities and non-profits, as well as the communities they serve, this is a great opportunity to get involved with local fundraising and contribute to a joint collective of food distribution organisations in your area. For more information and to donate see https://www.ox4foodcrew.co.uk/winterappeal
In response to the government’s Autumn Statement, O.M.A are concerned about the language and tone of policies related to benefit claimants and people with mental health challenges and disabilities. Whilst we support helping people find and secure employment if they are able, we are concerned that the language used throughout the statement is likely to result in the demonization of people with disabilities. We are also concerned about the proposed change in assessment for people who have been previously deemed unfit for work, which may restrict access to benefits for seriously ill claimants. In particular, this will enforce a culture of hostility to those living with serious illness and disability, as well as potentially cutting off funds for anyone who does not comply with the revised legislation around benefits. At O.M.A we consistently witness the effects of food insecurity and poverty in our local area and which is the result of multiple and complex factors. As such, we staunchly resist this change in approach, in the belief that it will further drive the demonization, economic challenges and food insecurity of people with complex and diverse health related issues, who may now find it more difficult to access support.
As you may know, OMA has continued to wear face masks when working in person at the Hall. As an organisation whose fundamental infrastructure was built up during the height of the pandemic, the protection of our community’s health and the accessibility of our working space has always been and remains a priority.
Over the past year or so, the question of whether to continue to wear masks at the Hall has been the subject of a lot of discussion, with strong feelings on both sides! Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to voice their opinion, whether at the Hall, at a Hall meeting or via the two surveys that have taken place.
Unfortunately, it has been impossible to approach this issue via consensus-based decision making or a majority-vote system. The most recent survey that took place had a near 50-50 split between those who would like to continue wearing masks while working at the Hall, and those who would not. We would also like to acknowledge that there are structural inequalities that undermine and dismiss the wishes of those with hidden disabilities or long-term health conditions, and that these may prevent people from voicing their opinion, particularly publicly. We believe that OMA should be the kind of organisation where the power dynamics caused by structural inequalities in the wider world, and which also affect us internally, should be recognised openly and honestly. We propose that masks continue to be worn at the Hall on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays will be days when masks are not required, but can be worn if desired. We hope that this system will enable those for whom the current mask policy is a fundamental aspect of their experience at OMA to continue to contribute, while also making space for those for whom the current mask policy is not working.
We aim to trial this new system for three months, starting from the week beginning the 8th of May. At the end of these three months, there will be an opportunity for us all to meet to discuss how the new system is working, whether any unforeseen issues have arisen and whether we would like to make any changes.
OMA stands in solidarity with all those who have been marginalised by public institutions and healthcare systems, by workplaces and by social spaces due to an unjust lack of accessibility. It is important to acknowledge all the ways in which OMA unhappily contributes to dynamics that privilege those who are able-bodied, and reaffirm our commitment to making sure not only that OMA remains accessible, but radically improves in this area.
Thank you again to everyone who has contributed to this process. It has been difficult at times but together we can make community-centered decisions that reflect what we want the world to look like!
We hope you all either enjoyed the snow or are now enjoying the absence of it! Throughout the week OMA has continued to support 199 households with regular food parcels, and also provided over 72 emergency parcels.
Solidarity with Migrants
The UK government is yet again attempting to create more boundaries that aim to discriminate and separate. The hostility of the government towards migrants is at odds with our principles of inclusion, solidarity, love and community. As a Mutual Aid group, we would like to take a stance of solidarity against any policy that inhibits our capacity for inclusion, and stand with those who give voices to the suppressed.
Please check out ways to support and get involved:
We have been supported by the Blue Cross in Burford in fortnightly donations of pet food for several months now. This kindness has transformed the support we can give to those with pets and has spread much practical help and joy to those in acute crisis. We have recently been featured through them in the Oxford Mail. Do check it out!
Sourcing for Ramadan
The wonderful Ramadan team are in full-flow and sourcing across the city and beyond for food and funds so we can give beautiful gift parcels both at the start of Ramadan and at Eid. If you have any ideas or want to see how you can help, get in touch by emailing email@example.com
Here’s a donation station poster to go in any house, workplace, or street. Get collecting!
Cleaning our new storage space
OMA has wonderfully been granted access to a large storage space near the station. It needs a good cleanup so we’re looking for as much help as possible. We will be there from 3-6pm on Wednesday 15th March with Oxford Community Action who will also be helping. It will be lovely and jovial so please come down for some OMA/OCA bonding!
The place also has no electricity or water, and so if you can help out with either donation of portable floodlights or head-torches or access to water in the area, then please let us know.
If you might be around to help out, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
County Vision for Volunteering
OCVA and Community First Oxfordshire are gathering community experience of volunteering in Oxford. On Tuesday 21st of March at 11.30am there is a 45-minute informal zoom chat to discuss volunteer needs. It’s a chance to hear and share experiences and ideas with volunteers from across Oxfordshire, and is open to all volunteers and people involved in unpaid community action, activism or support.
They would like to hear how volunteers and would-be volunteers can be supported by decision-makers like councils, funding bodies, and the voluntary sector itself. How can we ensure that everyone has access to voluntary opportunities? What’s needed to empower existing volunteers to continue in community action? These discussions often focus on the needs of the organisations (and I’m sure that it’ll be a part of the zoom discussion) but the needs of volunteers as individuals are often overlooked. Lets change that!
If you have any ideas, or just think that it’s an interesting topic, then please come along.
We, along with many others, are trying to cope with the enormous shortage of fresh produce at the moment. We are looking to diversify our food sources and so if you know of any businesses, shops, allotments, or farms that may be able to help us, then please let us know or reach out yourselves to them. It’s always good to remember one of OMA’s oldest sayings: ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get!’.
This week we continued to provide regular and emergency food and essential item support to households across the city.
Thank you – Union and Community Group Solidarity
Thanks to the Young Communist League for ongoing collections and donations.
Thanks also to CWU (Communication Workers Union) for donations last week.
OMA sends solidarity to all striking workers, especially NEU members who went on strike this week and to the UCU who voted for additional strike days this week! We donated items that could not be distributed in our parcels to Our Unions Our Power’s Strike Solidarity party for their raffle on Saturday evening.
Number of children in food poverty doubles in one year
A recent article from The Guardian outlines the striking increase in food poverty in the UK. 4 million children are now considered to be in food poverty, up 100% from last year’s figures. “According to the Food Foundation thinktank, one in five (22%) of households reported skipping meals, going hungry or not eating for a whole day in January”. With 800,000 children in poverty not eligible for free school meals, support falls on groups and organisations like OMA to help fill the gaps in families’ weekly food provision.
This increase in food poverty is a result of food price inflation, rising energy costs and stagnated wages along with negligence on the part of the current government to address these issues faced by households most at risk in the UK.
Thanks to funding from the Pye Charitable trust we have started a partnership with Donnington Doorstep. We are supporting 8 families with food parcels every 2 weeks, using Donnington Doorstep as a collection point. By partnering with Donnington Doorstep we have been able to facilitate these families in accessing our services by collecting the parcel from a safe space they are familiar with. The deliveries also enable them to access the wonderful family services Donnington Doorstep offer! If you would like to help by delivering 4 parcels weekly to Donnington Doorstep on Wednesday mornings get in touch at email@example.com.
Today marks another amazing week of support and solidarity at O.M.A, with a huge team effort including lots of amazing new driver and hall volunteers on board – we’re so grateful for the ongoing care, and thank you very much for your efforts!
Looking at our work since the start of the year, we have delivered over 550 emergency parcels on top over 200 weekly deliveries. The extent of the need and ongoing demand for support is staggering, but as is our collective and growing effort. As ever, O.M.A is all of us so if you do need support, or know anyone who does, please do reach out.
Part time van driver needed
We’re on the hunt again for some lovely part-time contracted van drivers to join our fantastic team. This will involve:
Delivering parcels (collection from Richard Benson Hall, 276 Cowley Road). Routes will be mapped, and 15 – 20 stops.
Collection of Food Supplies from various locations
We are looking for people with availability on Thursday during the day, but there are always ad hoc jobs that pop up throughout the week too!
You need: – A clean licence – Experience driving / delivering in vans – References for the above
If you are interested in hearing more, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title ‘Van driving at O.M.A.’. If you’re interested in volunteering but also have experience driving a van, please fill out the form here: www.oxfordmutualaid.org/volunteering
As you may know, we’re gearing up for our efforts to support those celebrating the holy month of Ramadan – ensuring we’re providing effective support through the provision of culturally appropriate foods as well as sweets and treats. At O.M.A, we believe that it’s not just “the essentials” that we need to distribute, but items to ensure that we are respecting the dignity and autonomy and choices of all those we’re supporting.
If you are keen to help with sourcing or know anyone who can donate items (including shops, stores, schools and more!!!) then please email us at email@example.com. Let the celebrations begin!
Baby items, toiletries and tins needed
As ever, our stocks are reducing as a result of increasing food prices as well as changes in supply chains – many of which hit food support providers like O.M.A the hardest. In addition to food we provide nappies and formula milk as well as toiletries and hygiene products as these are essential and costly items. Everyone has a right to good health and care and we hope to ensure we can continue to provide these items but we need your help!
At the moment, we are particularly in need of nappies size 2 and 6, sanitary pads, black tea and tinned soup.
Feel free to order or drop off to us anytime – we’re The Richard Benson Hall, 276 Cowley Road, OX4 1UR. Thank you!
Supporting food justice in OX4
As part of our work with the OX4 Food Crew we have been working on a project to fundraise for the bulk purchase of key food items many of which are in extremely short supply. We are now 56% of the way towards our target so please continue to share and donate!
Please continue to let friends, family and networks know about food injustice – we know that food poverty is not an isolated problem but a structural one and increasing support for grassroots organisations and partnerships like the OX4 Food Crew will help communities support each other. A shout out this week also to the amazing Film Oxford who filmed a short video for us on Tuesday! We’re very excited to see the results.
We’ve been grateful to receive thoughtful feedback and are always reminded of how needed this community is.
We’ve had another busy week at OMA. We are experiencing high levels of emergency parcel requests that are increasing week to week.
Thank you so much to everyone who continues to support and participate with OMA.
Solidarity with striking workers
We stand in solidarity with striking workers this week – continuing to fight for better pay and working conditions including teachers, rail workers, university staff, civil service workers, health care workers and more. We continue to support efforts to affirm job security and pay rises in line with inflation, as the continued cost of living crisis puts increased pressures on millions across the country.
You can read more about the campaigns for working rights happening across the country here
Trialing a 6-day week
Thank you so much for supporting us for another brilliant week at O.M.A. We are beginning with a new trial of a 6-day week. This means that we will now be closed on Saturdays. This means that we will not be open for regular parcel deliveries, receipt of donations, emergency parcel requests, or collections at the Hall, and that our staff and volunteer teams will not be available to respond to queries or concerns until the following day. All our parcels have been brilliantly reorganised to ensure that all regular deliveries can continue as normal – thank you to everyone who has helped to make this possible.
As always, if you or anyone you know is in need of support, please reach out to us on any day except Tuesday and Saturday and read through our signposting leaflet with more support options across the City here.
Rainbow families at Flo’s
Join Flo’s for a friendly drop in celebrating and welcoming all families in the LGBTQ+ community.
Weekly on Mondays from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm at the Meeting Room at Flo’s – The Place in the Park Rymers Lane OX4 3JZ
No need to book, just drop in on the day!
There will be toys, crafts and games for little ones, in a relaxed setting where you can meet other families and chat over a cup of tea.
No charge. Suggested donation of £2/£3 for room hire costs
As we’re moving to a new 6 day programme this means that we are delivering more parcels than previously each day to accommodate both emergency and regular deliveries. If you have any time during the day then please let us know – anything from 20 minutes to three hours is brilliant. We are struggling with increased numbers of requests and are concerned we will not be able to deliver emergency parcels on certain days should we not increase our driver/biker capacity.
Routes are available flexibly in terms of location, time and regularity. You can either sign up on an ad-hoc basis or for a regular shift – whatever works for you! We have routes in locations from OX1 to OX5 for both bikes and cars. If you’re interested in helping out please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fresh veg and fruit needed
One of our main suppliers weren’t able to help us out last week, which means we are very short on fresh fruit and veg.
Without more supplies we will not have enough food for our parcels
If you have any capacity to donate, please bring or send donations of fruit and veg to 276 Cowley Road, OX4 1UR
Everything is welcome no matter how small, and all helps to ensure our parcels are nutritionally balanced and healthy!
It would also be great if you could support us with any of the following (click to order):
Mutual Aid and Grassroots Community Action on Film
As part of Future Co-ops conference, there will be a public screening of ‘From Below’, which will be followed by a Q&A and discussion session with the producer and lead researcher on the project, Dr Oli Mould.
The event is Friday 10th Feb 15.00-17.00 at the Leonardo Royal Hotel (Godstow Road, Oxford, OX2 8AL).
From Below is a documentary film showcasing mutual aid and grassroots community action that helped feed and comfort the vulnerable during the covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. The film focuses on specific towns and cities across the North and South of England and speaks to how community action can be supported in order to help people in future crises, both of the climate and of the economy. From Below is part of a broader research project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
It has been a busy week, as always! This week we continued to support nearly 200 households with regular parcel deliveries. We also packed and delivered over 80 emergency parcels to households across the city, as well as continuing to both receive and share surplus with all our partner organisations and friends! We are now regularly receiving between 20 and 30 requests for emergency support every day that our phone lines are open.
If you find yourself struggling to meet your food needs and preferences, please do not hesitate to get in touch via call or text on 07310160595, any day except Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10am to 4pm. We will never ask you to prove your level of need, or to explain why you need support.
Here is our updated signposting information for the new year!
Social Action Fair
This week, a group of OMA members went to the Social Action Fair, a partnership event between the Oxford Hub and the Oxford SU which gathered together many Oxford-based organisations working for social and political justice. We spoke to students about OMA’s work and how to get involved, as well as linking up with other organisations working on related projects. If you are a regular volunteer and interested in representing OMA at similar events in the future, get in touch with one of the coordinators!
Check out our gorgeous new banner, at its first outing!
Upcoming webinars from the Independent Food Aid Network UK
IFAN is planning two joint webinars with Feeding Britain and the University of York as part of their joint Structural Inequalities webinar series. Their focus will be on structural inequalities, food insecurity and benefit sanctions and deductions and increasing in-work poverty. You can book your free place below:
The Campaign to Keep Campsfield Closed is a campaign against the reopening of Campsfield Immigration Detention Centre in Kidlington. We stand in solidarity with the campaign and are sharing their new change.org petition!
Feel free to sign and share! https://linktr.ee/keepcampsfieldclosed
Citizen’s Advice is looking for your feedback
Have you ever received support from OMA or a food bank? Are you a member of a larder or have been to a community Fridge?
If so, Citizen’s Advice Oxford would like you to fill out a survey to discuss you experiences. They are trying to raise funds to provide a new advice service in the various food support services around Oxford, including Oxford Mutual Aid*
It’s anonymous and none of your personal details will be stored.
Every week, we share some feedback that we have received from people we support. As always, we would like to underscore that we do not expect gratitude – unfortunately, OMA is working to provide a form of food support that is necessary both to everyday survival and everyday enjoyment.