Tracey Davis, the founder of Guiding Hands, a voluntary organisation that helps families, has been nominated by the council as a lockdown hero.
BBC Radio London’s Make A Difference is interviewing a Londoner in each borough who has gone the extra mile to support others in the pandemic and they aired their programme about Davis on Thursday.
The work of Guiding Hands and Davis was also featured in this year’s Red Nose Day BBC fund-raising show.
Based in Selhurst with around 20 volunteers, Guiding Hands started in 2011 offering face-to-face cookery lessons and a mini-market for local families on low incomes or Universal Credit. After the pandemic hit in March 2020, this switched to home deliveries and online cookery lessons, and the number of families it helped rose from 16 to 80 a week.
Throughout the pandemic Guiding Hands, which also featured on this month’s Comic Relief, has supplied a weekly food box with around £50-worth of groceries costing parents £7.50, with food provided by Coughlan’s Bakery and major supermarket chains including Sainsbury’s, Greggs and Tesco.
“When the pandemic hit, we could not do it socially anymore, so we changed to just having deliveries,” Davis said.
“What we found was a lot of our mums who we had not heard from for a year or two were coming back. They had lost their jobs and they would say, ‘Is Guiding Hands still doing Foodie Friday?’ It was very busy, and very harrowing.
“Hopefully we can all go back to being social in the coming months with our programme.
“We have expanded who we deliver to. We do families, vulnerable adults and referrals through social services and other agencies. The system we have in place works for them, and they stay on our books until they tell us they don’t need it.
“Throughout my career I’ve been around mums, and being a mum myself, I’ve seen the struggles that single mums come across.
“You get such stick if you’re not working, but when you do work, the balance of every day life, work, school runs, and childcare fees are just so extortionate. It only takes the slightest disruption, a broken washing machine or school trip to make life in the house just that much more difficult and the first thing to be cut is the food.
“In the areas that we work in, in Croydon… I can name seven temporary housing buildings that have got single parents with two or more children living there.
“To have been singled out for the work we do, it goes to show we are reaching the people we need to be in contact with. The honour is on the service we provide, that everyone has been happy and we have been able to help the community.”
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