City churches helping to alleviate hygiene poverty
We’re familiar with food banks, but Revd Nick Mottershead tells us about the Hygiene Bank he coordinates in the Square Mile.
Motivated to action
In 2018, I was involved in a Winter Assessment hub for the City’s homeless, working with the Corporation of London, their agencies, some employers and a few generous donors.
Here I learned of the challenges and frustrations of frontline workers so often lacking some of the fundamentals, such as hygiene products, that could be easily provided, to enable them to be more effective and the clients be more receptive to help with their dignity and wellbeing improved.
One of my closest friends in South Wales told me about a community based hygiene initiative in their area, and I decided to bring the idea to the Square Mile.
In May 2019 I started, “The Hygiene Bank – Square Mile”, setting it up under the umbrella of The Hygiene Bank, a national charity.
As soon as I started, I was blown away by scale of hygiene poverty in this country and heart breaking stories from schools, families escaping crisis in safehouses and victims of modern slavery and more.
I was though also amazed by the number of people wanting to get involved in donating hygiene products, to play a part in helping alleviate hygiene poverty. I remember not just the generosity but also the joy it gave people when they were able to do something good in that way.
Making it easy to give
This initiative continued to develop with more community partners coming forward asking for help, but we were blessed with more donations: City workers setting up office collections and the Head Office of The Hygiene Bank setting up partnerships with the likes of Boots, who now also provided additional donation points.
In mid 2020 with additional needs being identified (e.g. linen and other products), I launched a complimentary initiative called GenerosCity to encourage corporates such as hotels, linen companies and Auctioneers, to donate good quality linen, towels etc that they no longer needed, a form of upcycling, to support these community partners in helping their clients.
Meeting needs by tapping into a city network
The success hinges on collaboration and speaking to frontline workers and asking what they need, then reaching out to the community, corporate network, City institutions, Livery Companies etc.
It is in asking “what do you need?” that we learn sometimes that the little things like hair dye or nail clippers that can make the biggest difference. It’s also about giving what you can, and, since every bar of soap or shampoo is a gift of dignity, everyone can join in “doing good, feeling good” together even if you haven’t got much to share, which is great for our wellbeing too.
Overall, it’s an amalgamation of community spirit, encouraging a generous heart, supporting our amazing front line workers, as well as for some a ‘freecycle’ culture: but it places the individual’s need first.
The initiative has snowballed since then with various volunteers, other City churches joining in, some regular financial and product donors, alongside the national awareness campaigns.
In just over two years ago The Square Mile Hygiene Bank and GenerosCity have collected and distributed over 11,300 kilos of hygiene products as well as distributing 46 Laundry Bags of towels, bed linen and bathrobes, 61 bags of business attire, and 2 boxes of kitchen/household equipment, between fifteen Community Partners.
Making a difference to and for the community
I recognise that there are major political and social issues that need to be addressed but these are outside of my immediate control so I am trying to tap into that “can do” attitude, recognising that when we all pull together amazing things are possible.
If you would like to get involved in alleviating hygiene poverty in the City of London, current product drop off sites include Holy Sepulchre Church Holburn Viaduct, St Olave’s Church Hart St., Boots Liverpool Street Station and Boots Canon Street station.
For more information about the work of St Sepulchre’s Hygeine Bank and GeneroCity visit their website
Revd Nick Mottershead is SSM Priest in Charge at Holy Sepulchre, the National Musicians’ Church. He also works in the City as CFO and Head of Compliance at a FinTech company, focused on banking for the unbanked in the Middle East. In being able to do both things, Nick feels he is best able to see, serve and understand the City with all its positive aspects as well as its challenges.
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