Learning to ‘smile with your eyes’ through the pandemic

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By Kiaran Black, volunteer at NW Glasgow Foodbank 


Having previously volunteered at a food bank, Kiaran from Glasgow had no idea what was in store when she signed to volunteer at her local food bank in Autumn 2019, just a few months before the pandemic struck. 

“I had a break from volunteering but continued to donate food until in 2019 when I decided to sign up to be a volunteer at the Trussell Trust NW Glasgow Foodbank. I have personal experience of being on benefits and wanted to give back whatever I could to help others. It is ridiculous that in this day and age, in a G7 country, that there are people living in our community that do not have enough money to eat and feed their children.”  


“Changes in life and situations just happens, and they can happen to anyone.” 


The impact of lockdown  

In April, Scotland went into lockdown and the reality of the pandemic was slowly becoming apparent. “It felt like everything was turning on its head at the start of the pandemic,” said Kiaran, who currently volunteers at the food bank every Friday. “There were lots of new volunteers as others who were a bit older and needed to isolate. Volunteers, like myself, were coming in for double shifts to help out, we were receiving huge quantities of food donated by the public and supermarkets, while at the same time so many people were coming to us for help and food.” 


Learning to smile with your eyes 

Kiaran started to notice that keeping up the interaction with people was so much more difficult due to the social distancing rules. “We often had people queuing up in the rain before they were able to come in one door and then out of another door to collect their parcel. Pre-Covid, we would have offered people a cup of tea and a toastie but that became impossible.”  


“Wearing a mask, I try to smile through my eyes at people to bring whatever small amount of joy and normality I can, at a time when they are feeling so desperate and often alone.” 


Kiaran is passionate about her involvement as a volunteer, “I work from home on my own and so often don’t speak to anyone all day. I never experienced being a team player and didn’t think I would be any good at it, but I really love it!” 

“Since I have started volunteering every week, I am much less introverted and love chatting to all the other volunteers. It has made me much stronger, not just physically from lifting boxes but also emotionally. My skills at organising have improved, too, and when I arrive, I can see what needs to be done and just get on with it.” 


“Volunteering has taught me so much; I’ve learnt not to judge – life happens and for whatever reason people have no money for food. It can happen to anyone, and it breaks my heart and I only wish food banks didn’t exist, but they do and in times of emergency we are an essential support.” 


If you’ve been inspired hearing about Kiaran’s experiences of volunteering, why not check out our volunteering page and get involved?