Why volunteer? Lesley shares her heartfelt reasons

“Homelessness is a cause close to my heart. I have two relatives who suffer from addiction, mental health problems, and they have unfortunately been homeless. I couldn’t fix them, as much as I wanted to, which is why I try to be helpful and kind to people I see on the streets.”

“Up until I started volunteering at CENS in February 2022, my involvement has been more passive. For example, after going out for a meal, I try to find someone to take the leftovers to. I’ve always spoken to homeless people – I like to build a rapport and ask them if they need any food or a warm drink.”

“It’s important to talk to them like they’re human, without being patronizing. You never know how people got there and everyone has a story. I’ve met some super interesting, bright people who have just been unfortunate in life.”

Help where I can

“I once heard a Radio 4 programme about a mother and her teenage son who only had one mattress between them and didn’t even own an oven. I was moved and outraged at the same time. I phoned Radio 4 to say I wanted to buy them one. They put me in touch with End Furniture Poverty, so I sent some money and got an invoice to say the oven had been purchased.”

“I also donated to Centre Point (a national charity supporting young people facing homelessness) before and enquired about volunteering, but I couldn’t do the hours they had available.”

Finding CENS

“When I moved to Colchester, I asked about volunteering at Beacon House but they’re not open at the weekends, so it didn’t fit in with my work schedule.”

“CENS is perfect for me as I have Sundays free and that is when CENS needs help in the kitchen. When I came to speak to Marina and have a look around, I was really impressed with what you all do here. Marina explained about the refurbishment, and I think it’s great you manage to give the residents the dignity of having their own bathrooms.”

“I’ve had some real laughs over the last few months. With the music playing and residents helping me cook, the atmosphere is great. The only challenge I can think of is that sometimes I worry about getting all the food out at the same time and whether people will enjoy it. One of the guys was a trained chef and taught me a few tricks in the kitchen – for example, putting marmite on roast potatoes, cooking a cauliflower whole to stop it going soggy, and how to cook Yorkies in a Pyrex dish.”

“Sometimes residents aren’t chatty, but you have to respect where they are and remember that not everyone wants to sit and talk. I’ve also had some really great conversations with people. I remember one man told me he had trouble sleeping, so I shared some of the meditations I do that help me. He got out a pen and paper to write it all down. That was quite a special moment.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities, follow the link here

CENS Essential Shopping List

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Hot chocolate
  • UHT milk
  • Squash
  • Vgetable oil
  • Gravy granules
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt & pepper
  • Stock cubes
  • Herbs and spices
  • Tinned fruit
  • Tinned/packet custard
  • Baked beans
  • Tinned tuna
  • Tinned vegetables & potatoes
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Jam, peanut butter, chocolate spread
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Men & women’s deodorant
  • Men’s razors
  • Shave gel
  • Shower gel
  • Toothpaste
  • Cloths
  • Scourers
  • Washing up liquid
  • Surface cleaners
  • Floor cleaner
  • Bleach
  • Bathroom cleaners
  • Bin bags
  • Food caddy liners
  • Loo roll
  • Washing tablets
  • AA batteries
  • NEW single duvets
  • Pillows/pillowcases
  • Single duvet covers/sheets
  • Clean/good condition towels

Please no soups!
Thank you