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Supporting our colleagues and charities during COVID-19 – The Mustard Tree

We announced the launch of our community fund recently to support our colleagues who are involved in community-based organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The Mustard Tree Foundation 

Mustard Tree began in Reading in 2003, with the clear vision of strategically and practically meeting the needs of marginalised or overlooked communities and individuals in their local area. They do this by identifying and resourcing local projects to address specific needs, and by championing change in strategic contexts. 

In the past year alone they we have supported over 360 beneficiaries with the help of around 140 incredible volunteers. 

Our colleague in the Strategy and Regulation team Gillian Morris made the application on behalf of The Mustard Tree. Gillian has close ties with the charity though her church and she worked with them to help define the vision and key deliverables for the Engage Telephone Befriending Project. 

Engage Befriending project 

As a result of the pandemic Mustard Tree are unable to work face to face. They have started a telephone befriending service to support the local community around Reading. This meant they could continue providing support to isolated and vulnerable older people at this turbulent time. This has been hugely successful, and they’ll use our donation to extend this support to enable them to provide regular calls to anyone over 55 and living alone. 

Many of these people are struggling with anxiety and confused about how to access help. They provide a friendly and trusted person who can have a chat and enable them to access the support they so desperately need.   

This service is provided using many volunteers who are given ongoing supervision by an experienced professional qualified team, providing appropriate governance and safeguarding. Each volunteer is vetted and trained. 

Mustard Tree are therefore able to quickly increase their telephone befriending service by using existing networks to source DBS checked and vetted volunteers from other organisations. 

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CEO of The Mustard Tree Katherine Shepherd commented: 

We have been able to increase our befriending services to older people as well as extend it to adults of all ages who are feeling lonely and isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Peter* is in his 90’s and is unable to leave his home during lockdown. He misses the activities he used to do and says that when our volunteer called he had not had a conversation with another adult in weeks.  He became very low and depressed due to being alone all the time. Regular calls from his telephone befriender have helped give him something else to think about and break up the long days. 

Sonya* is a single mum with three children under four years old. She lives on the upper floor of a block of flats where the lift is broken. She has none of her usual support network at the moment due to the lock down. When our volunteer called she was struggling to keep the kids occupied and was feeling stressed and low. She now looks forward to her phone chats with her befriender. Having someone to talk to and someone who will listen and encourage her has made all the difference. Sonya says she is less stressed out and loves that her befriender gave her some new ideas to try with the kids. 

Katherine Shepherd added “Working together enables us all to help the most isolated and vulnerable in our communities at this challenging time, thank you!” 

*names have been changed for confidentiality 

We’re delighted to be given the opportunity to support our colleagues and fantastic local charities such as The Mustard Tree. We’ll continue to highlight these charities and the fantastic work they’re doing over the next few weeks.