A brand new food bank opened earlier this Summer with the aim of supporting Brazilian and Portuguese families suffering hardship due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Brazilian chaplaincy, which is based at St Anne’s Church, Whitechapel, serves Portuguese speaking communities across London. It is just one of many ethnic chaplaincies in the Westminster Diocese which can reach people that parishes struggle to connect with.
The foodbank at the Brazilian chaplaincy opened in June and is currently working with 25 families each week. Volunteers from Whitechapel parish have been preparing food parcels and delivering groceries directly to those in need. Donations to the foodbank come from the food distribution charity FareShare, as well as from Tower Hamlets Council.
The chaplaincy was introduced to the work of FareShare by Minet Masho, Caritas Westminster Development Worker for East London. The chaplaincy had already received support through the Caritas Emergency Food Voucher scheme in April 2020. This scheme distributed supermarket vouchers, but the chaplaincy realised then how great the need was, and decided to bolster the support offered by the voucher scheme by setting up its own foodbank.
Many of those who have approached the chaplaincy for support have recently become unemployed or have low incomes. Some have no recourse to public funds due to their immigration status. Others have been directly impacted by the virus. One parishioner needed support after her husband, who was the main financial provider, contracted COVID-19 and died after three months in intensive care.
Telma Melo, Parish Administrator at the Brazilian chaplaincy, described how there has been great community spirit and resolve, even in the midst of the pandemic: ‘We noticed that many parishioners helped each other in the ways they could: either by delivering food to those who could not leave their homes, by donating money to the ones in need, or by calling and visiting isolated individuals to pray and talk. We are glad to see the community united and supportive.’
One individual and her family were supported by the foodbank after she lost her job as a housekeeper during lockdown. Her husband was unable to work due to underlying health conditions. As a result, the family were struggling to pay their bills and buy food. They have now received food parcels, supermarket vouchers and donations from the parish to help them through this time.
Minet Masho said: ‘It is unfortunate that in a wealthy country like the UK there are families and individuals in our parishes and schools struggling to have three healthy meals a day. Caritas Westminster has been pleased to support the dedicated work of the Brazilian Chaplaincy.’