Every day we are bombarded with news of negative behavioural traits in people, of violence or anger and you could be forgiven for thinking this is what life is. This is why organisations are now making a purposeful stride towards promoting positive stories. It is important for us to see and we need to hear the best that our society has to offer. It is a reminder of what we can achieve, both as individuals and as a community.
So today we are going to shine a light on a good story, one that will hopefully uplift your spirits in this difficult time. I would like to introduce you to Suzanne Goodman. She is a lovely lady of 70, who has been shielding with her husband for the past year. A global pandemic did not stand in the way of her volunteering for a cause that she has been part of for years. Suzanne heads the team of volunteers for Aid Together, The Together Plan’s in-kind project, and she has been an active part of it since its inception in 2015. Every year Suzanne, along with a team of ladies who have named their group ‘Chat and Pack’ sort, fold and bag up all the donations that are loaded onto a forty-foot lorry until it is packed to the gunnels. Those donations are then transported and distributed to the communities of Belarus and 2020 was no exception. Most donations are clothing but they also send toys, household items and Judaica. Last year, one person donated a handmade chuppah which was put to use at the first Jewish wedding in Minsk during the pandemic. Nothing will stop a Simcha.
Being forced to stay in your home would stop many people from feeling energised to do more. But if Suzanne cannot make it to the donations, then the donations will come to her. Suzanne’s lounge has transformed this year, from a sitting room to a sorting room. She receives the bags of donations left that are left outside her front door, out comes the folding table, ready to sort. One by one each piece is carefully sorted, graded, potentially washed or cut up for craft and carefully placed in labelled sacks and left in her car until another volunteer collects the sorted items and then the whole process starts over again. Nothing goes to waste as partnership programmes with other charities makes sure no clothing goes to landfill.
During this year Suzanne has overcome numerous hardships, where her volunteering has hit closer to home. It is quite common for donations to be the clothing of those who have passed, sometimes it is not strangers’ possessions that get donated. Sadly, Suzanne’s best friend, Susan died from Covid-19 last year and her son donated his mother’s clothing to Aid Together. With tears in her eye, she described to me how she diligently sorted through her best friend’s clothing which she considered an honour. For even though Susan’s life has now ended, the life of her clothes and the goodness they can provide for others will continue.
Most of the time, sorting with her ladies is a great laugh. With a smile on her face, Suzanne tells me of all the funny stories of finding ‘naughty undies’ people have donated and the camaraderie between herself and the other ladies who have all been volunteering for years. Men are allowed, but they mainly do the ‘schlepping’! Together the women, who all have different personal situations, come together and enjoy each other’s company, form friendships, help each other out and remain active. For months they were not allowed to sort together. Some stayed home, but others continued but in different sessions to facilitate social distancing with ease. Being of a certain age they were very concerned about contracting Covid, but they are starting to come back to pack and are very excited to see each other again. As some of the ladies are not on Whatsapp, and indeed Zoom was all too much for others, staying in touch throughout the year not only helped them to feel valued, but it helped them to get through lockdown. A good chat on the phone from time to time did nicely for everyone and how wonderful that they have each other.
Thanks to the work of Suzanne and the other fabulous ladies, who freely give their time and patience, Aid Together has created a thriving community that extends all the way to Belarus.
To find out more about Aid Together or how to volunteer for this project just click the link here.
Article by Rachel Gordon