My name is Maisie, I’m an ecology graduate. After months of writing up my thesis and being entirely screen-based during lockdown, I was feeling square-eyed, fatigued and longing to get out of the house. I especially wanted to be more involved in community and people-based projects happening around the city in response to COVID-19, so I happily took a COVID-19 SME Internship working for Bristol Food Union (BFU).
BFU was founded in response to the COVID-19 crisis, to support local food producers, businesses and community projects. As a start-up, directly responding to the constantly changing climate of the past few months, work was extremely varied and interesting which meant that I was able to take on a variety of tasks. Primarily, I learnt a lot about the very real and sobering challenges faced by small food businesses in this crisis and about a highly networked local community and industry, that was completely new to me as a science grad.
I was predominantly responsible for data collection from BFU members, learning about the varied experiences of businesses during lockdown, and what would be the most useful forms of support BFU could offer going forward. For this I wrote a questionnaire for local businesses, and carried out interviews with small restaurant owners, producers and food projects. Recurring themes that I heard in people’s stories were those of shock and loss, creative transformation of businesses in order to survive, and most of all, the feelings of camaraderie and collaboration happening between projects and businesses in Bristol at this time.
Another aspect of my internship was supporting Baraka Community Café where I helped to manage the distribution of weekly food boxes to 30+ vulnerable families in the local area which are delivered by a team of volunteer cyclists. Families are identified through the local school and organisations such as Bristol Hospitality Network and Bristol Refugee Rights. I also led the refurbishment of a small garden, which will be a space for families to enjoy as well as to run community events, such as storytelling and Baraka Cafe’s ‘peace feasts’. In the Autumn we’ll be painting a mural across the garden wall with children involved through the food box scheme. The café are always looking for volunteers, so do contact them on social media if you’d like to get involved!
Four weeks have flown by and I’ve been constantly inspired by the selflessness and dynamism of people I’ve worked with during this time. I’ve loved being able to engage in Bristol-based projects and meet more of my local community through Baraka.
Throughout this internship I have witnessed the amazing power of collaboration and trust. I saw many examples of communities, projects, individuals and businesses creatively working together and supporting each other through forms of connection and mutual aid that we must all continue to build on.
I’ve heard about many exciting projects in the pipeline from the team at BFU and am excited to see how these will support Bristol’s food communities in the coming months. Do look BFU up if you haven’t already; hear about many inspiring projects and initiatives that have risen out the COVID-19 crisis, and what you can do to support this project.
As Maisie found, doing an internship can be a great way to make a difference in your local community. Interested? We are still advertising internship opportunities through mycareer. There are also many other work experience opportunities listed here.
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