Mental benefits of volunteering | The Felix Project

They say that time flies when you are having fun, and the last two and half years of volunteering for The Felix Project have certainly passed by in a flash. I’ve been driving a Felix van most Friday afternoons, delivering the produce we have collected in the morning from one of our biggest suppliers and contributors, Hello Fresh, to a range of charities across west London.

I first came across the organisation at Richmond Fair. I had never volunteered in London for anything before and had been looking for a suitable opportunity. Felix seemed perfect – a cause I could relate to, and one which would provide me with a chance to make a direct personal impact on food waste and food poverty in London.

An oasis of calm for the mind

Apart from making me feel that I’m doing something worthwhile, my Friday afternoon shifts have proved to be a wonderful distraction from my day job. I have a full on, intense role running a business within a large, multinational IT consulting firm. In today’s ‘always on’, 24/7 world, it seems impossible to switch off and ignore calls, emails or messages from clients and colleagues across the globe. Well, you certainly can’t do any of that when you are behind the wheel of a van! Despite the mental concentration required when driving, and the physical nature of loading and unloading the goods, my shifts are a relative oasis of calm. I am totally focused on the task in hand and it’s great to be transported into an entirely different world with a different set of issues and concerns... even if it’s just for a few hours.

And, of course, there is the social aspect of interacting with my fellow volunteers. I’ve met a variety of interesting people during my time at Felix, - each with their own unique story - but it is, also, the familiarity of a regular co-driver (in my case, the lovely Janet), regular clients and route that makes shifts so enjoyable.

Continuing the Felix food journey

Recently, I wanted to experience volunteering for one of the charities we support and see first-hand how we make an impact. I had often delivered to Refettorio Felix at St Cuthbert’s in Earls Court and everyone I had interacted with there had been terrific. They manage to serve a full three-course lunch to upwards of 80 vulnerable members of the community every single day, remaining professional and focused on their mission whilst retaining a sense of humour and fun. Eager to take part in this impressive operation, I contacted them to volunteer for lunch service and had the pleasure of supporting their team recently. From writing out menus on the boards that sit on each table, to serving the guests wonderfully prepared, tasty meals followed by tea and coffee, I enjoyed every minute of this fast-paced and rewarding environment.

More than anything, it was great to see how the food saved and re-distributed by the Felix Project was being put to such good use. On top of that, after the service the volunteers were invited to sit down together and sample the day’s menu themselves.

Help others, help yourself

My conclusion: volunteering isn’t just about helping others, it’s about helping yourself too. If you can find the right project, it can help create a few hours of much needed space in your life, and provide you with the opportunity to forge new and valuable friendships. I look forward to many more Friday shifts in the future!