RAFT (Refugee Aid From Taunton) is highly regarded by us as a place run with integrity, honesty and openness, which is why, when we have survival bags packed up to send abroad, we bring them here to be transported out.
Various fabulous volunteers have taken our deliveries there from Devon over the months but yesterday was the first time I had felt well enough to travel there myself with a fellow volunteer at our shop, Louise. Louise had already delivered to RAFT but for me, the pleasure in meeting the two ladies Mel and Lesley, that I'd had most contact with via fb within the organisation, as well as a superhero, sponsored walking little boy called Cassidy, made my day.
We were greeted so happily and met other volunteers in the building who were working hard. The organisation is AMAZING!!! Our weeny little shop compared to this massively well organised hive of charitable work was brilliant. Two other people came in with lots of donations while we were there and we were able to see some special projects RAFT runs too.
I felt in awe of their huge amount of work but one of their volunteers said this to me and made my heart sing....
'Are you from Survival Bags-Home and Away?' he asked. 'Yes, we are' I replied.
'You do a truly amazing job' he said. I looked at him and said 'compared to this, its a tiny operation!'.
We discussed the difficulties of becoming bigger and maintaining quality control of what we do and he said,
'we take quality control very seriously and go through everything, whether packed up and other people think ready to send or not, but not your bags'. I smiled because we take so much care in how we actually pack our bags as well as what we put in, but I had thought realistically that the bags were probably all unpacked and checked before being replaced and sent out, because this is what i myself would be doing.
This lovely volunteer told me that when they had first received the bags most running the organisation were happy for them to go straight out as they knew our work and our 'filled with love' policy for every bag we send out.... but other volunteers understandably still felt it was important to check through our bags before sending. After doing this for the umpteenth time, he had said to a volunteer, 'do you really think we need to keep checking these survival bags? Have we ever once found an single unsuitable item in any bag or a bag not up to our standards?'. 'No', the volunteer had to admit, and now, our bags go straight to the area ready to go out.
This fills me with so much satisfaction. The knowledge that our tiny little group are trusted implicitly to send responsibly makes me so happy and encourages me to continue to send out our bags with joy.
I hope that knowing how much our survival bag volunteers care about what we send to the refugees in need, encourages you too, both volunteers and donors, to continue to support us.
A new project RAFT is helping is a little orphanage in Uganda. They have a contact there and are sending out items shortly.... we are very excited about this as we had some football kit for a whole team donated by who wanted the kit to go abroad and we hadn't found exactly the right place or means to send it out...until now!
So, we have already got our volunteers ready for action and this week we are meeting to sort the kit, wash and iron, pack into individual 'survival bags' for each player with new underwear, to be taken to Taunton in a fortnight, hopefully with donations of football boots/shin pads/footballs and pumps too!
Exciting times behind the scenes of our very special little place tucked away in the middle of Barnstaple!