In Wales, Swansea-based Matthew’s House offers hospitality and hope to the most vulnerable members of its community. The project was started in 2017 by The Hill Church and is led by Robin Vincent (Chief Executive of Care for the Family). The first two volunteers were Robin and the now employed project manager, Thom Lynch. Since they began, the volunteer team has grown to over 100 people from all over the city, donating to date 38,000 hours.
On day one the project served 34 pay-as-you-feel meals but grew to 11,124 by the end of the first year. As of March 2021, it has served 90,000 meals and is feeding about 100 guests every day. Matthew’s House also provides dignity packs, laundry and showering facilities.
The pandemic made the lives of many of Swansea’s most vulnerable immeasurably worse. Many were locked down in a single room, with no capacity for safe food storage or cooking. Several have told the volunteers at Matthew’s House that without their daily hot meal, they wouldn’t have survived. In addition, the team saw a large turnover of volunteers through lockdown due to shielding and care needs. However, they also found new volunteers reached out to them including those who had suffered loss due to the crisis. This all meant that the day-to-day challenges of the project multiplied. Furthermore, Thom Lynch’s influence and responsibilities increased as he led a city co-ordinated response to food poverty.
“We applied for two grants through the Rapid Response Fund. We were given £30,000 to refurbish our kitchen and £40,000 to pay for two part-time members of staff. Our kitchen is the beating heart of what we do, offering hot, nourishing meals to our guests and expressing loving hospitality to them. Without that money, we’d have struggled to keep on serving so many guests per day. It’s been a game changer”.
Robin said, “Our Project Manager and Matthew’s House has gained a greater reputation and influence in our city because of our response to Covid. We knew that Thom would be in high demand post-pandemic and that we needed capacity to take some of the burden of admin and co-ordination from him. His meetings across the city have risen by 200%, we’re involved in the Poverty Partnership Network, Swansea Food Poverty Network, we have links and consultations with the Swansea Bay Health Board, we support at council meetings and support them with reference to other city charities, we’re linked with the Children’s Society, we’ve been asked to assist in areas by the NHS and we’ve got strong links to the cabinet and the Welsh Assembly. Things have gone through the roof and without our two very gifted part-time staff, we just wouldn’t be able to do the work we do. Without Stewardship’s grant, we would never have taken the risk of employing two new staff in the middle of a pandemic. That money has changed everything.”