“It all started by accident really! I just needed some company during the day. But it was wonderful from the start – I chose a topic we could discuss each meeting, and brought a talking stick so that everyone could have a turn at sharing their thoughts. People were asking, “When’s the next one? When’s the next one?” so we made it a weekly thing”.
From this, Snouber started attending more community events, and at one she was introduced to FareShare Midlands. At the same time, she was asked how the group (now known as Women Empowering Women) would feel about inviting children to the weekly meetings during the school holidays, and providing them with a lunch. WEW signed up for a month’s-worth of FareShare food… and they are still with us 7 years later!
Since then, WEW has grown into a cornerstone of the local community, receiving regular deliveries from FareShare Midlands. The group and their volunteers provide food parcels to people in the area, particularly those who live in the housing association where they meet, at St Peter’s College in Saltley. This service became particularly important during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, there are lots of people struggling in our community; be that the elderly, people with mental health issues, refugees and those with disabilities. These were exactly the kind of people that were especially vulnerable during the pandemic, so we did what we could to support them.”
Food parcels for the vulnerable is just the tip of the iceberg of what WEW provides. FareShare Midlands food has also been used in their community cooking activities, where people are invited to come and learn food preparation and cooking skills. Their open days have also been popular, where all are welcome to come and try dishes inspired by cuisines from across the globe – food which most attendees would never have been able to try otherwise. They are also in the process of setting up a Local Pantry, to provide further support for those in need.
“FareShare Midlands have been absolutely amazing. The staff are wonderful and we’ve met a lot of great people through them. They’re very accommodating, approachable and humble. We’ve actually been there twice with the group to help volunteer!”
“I’m sure many of our projects would not have been as successful without FareShare Midlands – even those which aren’t explicitly food-related. For example, when we are providing awareness training on important social issues, sometimes we have struggled to get people to attend. However, when we tell them they can have first pick of the FareShare food if they come, we get a great turnout – 18 people came to the last group!”
As the name suggests, female empowerment is at the heart of everything this organisation does. As full-time or part-time work is not an option for many local women and mothers, a whole range of activities, training and support services are laid on in the hope of improving the opportunities and quality of life of those who attend. Keep fit sessions, school holiday play schemes and classes in cake-decorating and jewellery-making are just some examples. They have even completed an oral history project, publishing a collection of memoirs from South Asian, second-generation immigrant women who grew up the area, called Daughters of Birmingham.
Keeping WEW running requires a huge amount of hard work and dedication from Snouber and the team, but seeing the positive impact it has on people’s lives makes it all worthwhile.
“The women I work with regularly inspire me. There was one lady who was going through her second divorce and she had two children who she was supporting alone. She was really struggling financially, and as a result, struggling mentally too. We gave her food for a good while, and with the money she saved on that she was able to afford a tutor for her children, in the hopes of giving them a brighter future.”
“Another story which always used to make me cry was from when we put on a fun day for families. With the small financial donations made by recipients of FareShare food, we hired Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes to have at the event. The children absolutely loved them – two of whom went home to their families to tell them how they had been to Disneyland – because they truly believed they had. It is a pretty deprived area, so to be able to provide experiences like that is very moving.”