From August 20th – 24th, the MHFA England office will be closed for a staff Wellbeing Week. Some choose to take a well-earned holiday, while others want to some spend quality time with family and friends. Here’s how Jenna Randall Hill in our Customer Services Team will be spending her week.

Gratitude is an important part of healthy mental wellbeing, and an easy way to stay positive. As a newbie here at MHFA England I was thrilled to discover one of the many benefits of working here, in addition to our annual leave, is the extra week of leave we are given in August. As it was such an unexpected gift, I decided I wanted to pay it forward, and I have decided to volunteer my time during that week. Volunteering has many benefits to all parties involved, some of which include getting out of your comfort zone, meeting new people, learning new skills and expanding your horizons. Giving back and helping others is proven to be beneficial for your wellbeing, and this really rings true for me.

With my extra week of annual leave I have decided to volunteer at the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) in Calais, France. The Refugee Community Kitchen is an entirely volunteer-led organisation that provides hot meals to those caught in limbo in the asylum seeking/refugee space, having fled their countries of origin, while trying to get entry to Europe. They are normally sleeping rough, intimidated and mistreated by local law enforcement and separated from their families. For all those pragmatically-minded individuals who tend to cling to impact and tangible measurements, there are these outcomes

However, RCK not only provides delicious and nutritious food to these individuals but is also a space for human connection providing emotional support and a space for normality. Previous volunteers in Calais have spoken about the importance of their presence for the refugees. Being able to celebrate the small things together such as a new court date or empathising about opening a jar of peanut butter to discover its empty are fundamental interactions that the asylum seekers desperately welcome amidst the chaos of their precarious situation. I hope my efforts are useful not only in a practical sense, but also transmit compassion, empathy and acceptance.

Other immeasurable benefits of volunteering include inspiring others to volunteer and the fact that volunteering for a cause you stand with others speaks against injustices. In my lifetime I have been lucky not to experience any major wars or natural disasters, but this is mainly because I was born and live in the Global North. While our friends and family from previous generations or other locations can relate atrocities of totalitarian leaders in the non-so-distant past- conflict, drought and poverty are realities for too many people on this planet right now. I cannot sit and watch as leaders of my nations build walls, conjure up discriminatory and xenophobic immigration policy and create anti-immigration media campaigns. As just one of 7 billion individuals on the planet, I am not going to save the world. But if I can improve the life of just one person, that is a good start.

As well as volunteering my help for the week, I am also fundraising for the cause. Please see my fundraising page here and give generously. It feels good to give to others. Donations will buy essential items such as rice, fruit, blankets and shoes. Those on the receiving end of your donations will be eternally grateful, as will I. I have reached my initial fundraising target but don’t want to stop there – every little counts!

I wish you all a fabulous week, and I hope you are taking time to take care of yourself and those around you.

To read more about Refugee Community Kitchen, please visit their website here.

To donate, check out Jenna’s fundraising page.