Our Aid Together project really is exactly what it says. It is a collaborative effort by many people; it creates so many opportunities, it delivers so much support, it enables us to recycle and re-use, it helps us support people in need in Belarus, Jewish and not-Jewish, and delivers much-needed resources to Jewish community centres and communities in the country. The project is run by a dedicated and passionate volunteer team in London, but we also have volunteers and donors in Manchester and even in the depths of North Devon!
The Aid Together project was our very first project when The Together Plan was created in 2013. Aid Together doesn’t just provide aid to community members in need, it also provides leadership and volunteering opportunities, working towards our values of self-sustainability and community capacity building.
The donations, (clothes and shoes, arts and crafts materials, stationery items, toys and baby items and Judaica) that we receive in London, are all painstakingly sorted and packed before they travel by road to Belarus. In Belarus, they are unloaded and distributed by our Country Director, Artur Livshyts, and our volunteer team in Minsk. Some of the donations we receive are used to raise money which covers the costs of the transportation of the aid by road, and we have among our volunteers an expert with an eye for a bargain. Our wonderful Stephanie is adept at identifying the items which will raise those funds and leads the charge with this part of the project. But, knowing which items will sell is only one part of the equation. Having the buyers to sell to is another. In the words of Stephanie:
A couple of years ago I was searching for vintage buyers on the net and there was only one who responded. Gloria, Louise and I drove to Spitalfields where Angela welcomed us and kindly said she would come to our sorting base to see what items she would consider buying from us. Soon after, the shop in Spitalfields closed, but Angela continued to come to us and brought along her friend Toks. The contact was great.
For a while, we lost touch, whilst they travelled the world, but we continued to receive lovely messages asking about the Tuesday morning packers.
When the Coronavirus crisis hit we stopped our sorting and packing as we all went into lockdown. However when we emerged, our packing and sorting centre was no longer available to us and we also found out that we were soon to lose our warehouse. We were storing a large number of vintage donations but without an outlet so I once again contacted Angela and Toks.
They both came to the warehouse and immediately offered to help. They sorted the items and offered to run a Portobello Road market stall completely free of commission to the charity. Meanwhile, Angela started to eBay items which she thought would do better than on the stall. The stall was terrific and they worked hard all day. Angela even insisted on paying the stall cost herself!
Toks is in the second year of a midwifery course but helps Angela when she can. Her young nephew was a great asset to our stall success, attracting customers with his appealing looks and patter!
Angela has continued to come in on Tuesday mornings and said she will run another stall for us before the end of the year. We are so grateful for her expertise and advice. I asked her why she does it and all she says is that she likes us and enjoys helping.
We can never thank Angela and Toks enough.
In spite of the current situation, our volunteers have continued to sort and pack donations at our warehouse in north London. This November, we will be loading our next lorry bound for Belarus and we continue to search for a new warehouse or storage solution for 2021.
We are looking for a storage space that is ideally between 15-200 sq metres. However, due to the urgency of this search, we are also considering anything that may be suitable: empty shops, offices, warehouses, storage units – preferably in north London. Please click here to let us know if you or anyone has a contact in this area. We would be very grateful if you could put us in touch. Any empty units, where the owner is paying business rates, could be reduced by 80% if they house a charity, and it will keep the unit more secure.