What’s it Like?

Naomi Stewart Hale – Hall Lead Coordinator

I first came across OMA at the beginning of lock down, in March 2020. In amongst the turbulence of the pandemic, I was dealing with my own personal crisis – my marriage had just ended, I’d left my job and moved 300 miles back to my home town of Oxford. Life as I’d known it for the past 10 years had upended. Fair to say, I was feeling pretty lost. I started volunteering with OMA primarily to regain a sense of purpose and structure. Most volunteers don’t talk about their work because they think it comes across as boastful or self indulgent but the truth is: volunteering serves the volunteer as much as the people they do it for. Fast forward a year and my weekly shifts at the hall have become a staple part of my routine. Joining OMA helped me find myself again and there is nothing more soul-satisfying than caring for yourself by caring for others. The joy when you can pack every item requested, when coffee’s back in stock and bread’s on the shelf, when you can send a bunch of flowers to someone who just lost a loved one. OMA’s work does nothing short of saving people, and not just the people who receive parcels.

Asif Aman – Volunteer Driver

My wife and I were inspired by an iftar (breaking of the fast) event with the homeless a few years ago during the holy month of Ramadhan. We were reminded that in our constant pursuit of excellence in our lives we often forget the small things we all take for granted – basic sustenance.  

During the holy month of Ramadhan, fasting for up to nineteen hours really gave us the powerful insight into the struggles of people and families within our own towns that have for whatever reason struggled to eat one daily meal. My wife and I really did want to give something back but how? The moment arrived last year when our daughter arrived from school informing us about a charity called Oxford Mutual Aid (OMA) and how it supported the community within Oxford. We were desperate to help and joined immediately- my wife and daughter help out at the centre whilst I deliver the emergency food parcels on the weekend.  

My first experience of delivering the emergency parcels had a profound affect on me. I delivered a food parcel with lots of things chocolates, cakes and basic food rations. The address I delivered to had two children aged no more than 5 waiting patiently at the door with their mother, their eyes lit up with happiness. I cannot describe how they must have felt from deep inside but I know I felt deeply saddened for them as they politely waited at the door. After sharing my experience with my wife we were both inspired to continue doing ‘our bit’. 

I have been a doctor in the NHS for twenty two years working on the front line, my wife is an academic who teaches students from many different backgrounds. We have both had the opportunity of observing the weak and vulnerable in society, those who have for whatever circumstance become in need of help- OMA allows us to do something together in supporting the community. The hard work that goes on behind the scenes makes the job we do much easier and enjoyable. 

As a family I can honestly say working with OMA has been an absolute honour and privilege.

Will Bailey – Volunteer Driver

I’m Will, a volunteer driver with Oxford Mutual Aid. I did my first route delivering Kitchen Collective meals around Cowley, Blackbird Leys and Littlemore on Halloween in 2020, just as we entered the second lockdown in the UK.

I’d spent the previous six months trying to find a way I could help to support people for whom the pandemic has had the greatest impact; OMA immediately felt like a community within which I could play a useful part.

Since then, I’ve delivered food parcels, baby supplies, Ramadan hampers and Christmas presents to neighbourhoods all over Oxford about once a week. Some of my fondest memories over the past eighteen months have been while driving routes around Kidlington on crisp winter weekends and Headington or Wood Farm on hazy summer evenings.

I’ve lived and worked in Oxford for almost eight years but I’ve never felt a stronger connection to the city than I do now. It’s frightening to see the number of people whose reality is so disconnected from the place that the rest of the world sees and who rely on such a fragile safety net.

It’s shameful that people living in one of the wealthiest areas in the UK can struggle to find the most basic necessities and support their families. As long as that situation is allowed to persist, OMA and its vision of a mutually supportive community will continue to be a vital part of the fabric of the city.

I haven’t come to OMA from any sort of mutual aid or organising background but I’ve been struck by the values of fairness, solidarity and dignity that underpin its activities. I’m proud to be a small part of it and it has inspired me to become a more active citizen of the place I call home.

Rob Edinburgh – Hall Coordinator and Parcel Packer

Volunteering with Oxford Mutual Aid has been amazing. In my role I pack emergency food parcels and help to restock and organise the incoming deliveries. Since joining the team I have been made to feel so welcome and it is such a wonderful  community of volunteers and a great team to be part of.

Having delivered food parcels myself I have also seen first hand the impact of the work done by Oxford Mutual Aid in the community and I can honestly say it has been the most worthwhile volunteering I have ever done.

The central team of coordinators are brilliant to work with and it has been wonderful to be part of this community project. In such tough times for so many people, it has been great to meet and work with a team that is full of energy, enthusiasm and dedication to helping others.

Peter – Volunteer Parcel Driver

I can honestly say that delivering food parcels for Oxford Mutual Aid is the most rewarding part of my week.  Firstly what an amazing organisation, doing incredible things and run by the kindest people you could meet. Secondly, I’ve got to spend some brilliant time with my sons (who help greatly) and thirdly, we have started to build a little rapport with the people that we deliver to and support.

I have very humble ambitions in life.  One of the biggest, is to share a little love and positivity when I can.  So in return, delivering for OMA helps me personally to achieve these goals. After reading about OMA on Twitter, I knew that we (as a family) couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.

It’s a great honour to be a little part of this family, a big family who help others when they most need us.