Mary Byrne, shares her experience of volunteering at Made in Hackney for the past two years.
One of the highlights for me has been meeting so many amazing people and feeling so much more connected to my local community.
I love how Made in Hackney brings together people from so many different backgrounds, age groups and walks of life. It’s fantastic to connect with different communities and people of all ages, especially in an urban centre like London where I might not otherwise get to interact with those from older or younger generations - it’s a really enriching experience.
I've always enjoyed cooking and had an interest in nutrition and food as medicine, so when I originally decided to volunteer I was keen to explore these interests more, and the community aspect has proven to be an added bonus. I was ready to do something new in my day-to-day life and seeing what other people involved with Made in Hackney do helped me to take the plunge and quit my job in the media industry to pursue a career in food. Initially after doing this I went to Sweden for a few weeks to work on an organic farm as a “woofer”, which was a wonderful experience. Since then I’ve ventured into the start-up world and have been working for a small artisan food business for the past 1.5 years.
During classes, there are also inevitably discussions about ingredients and their provenance, which I always find stimulating, and everyone brings something to the class. The themes of the classes I’ve participated in include: international cuisine (cooking for life course), fermented foods, gourmet vegan, bread making, gluten-free baking, nut cheeses, homemade cleaning products, healthy breakfasts, the Smart Italian, healthy packed lunches… – where I always learn something new (be it a new technique, knowledge or delicious new recipes to add to my repertoire).
I've also had the chance to participate in events like a market stall, a charity women’s clothing auction and of course the parties hosted twice a year for volunteers which are always a great chance to meet other volunteers and Made in Hackney folk, plus we’re treated to tasty food in lovely venues! Volunteers are given loads of learning opportunities such as video-making workshops and the chance to apply for apprenticeships so it's a very well run programme and I always feel well looked after.
What I really admire and value about Made in Hackney is that it's open to everyone and completely non-judgemental in its approach to encouraging people to eat more veg and choose healthier alternatives to refined sugar etc. and always in a non-preachy way. It's very much a community space for people to come and learn new skills as well as connect with other people.
I believe that every person I encounter teaches me something and certainly I've learnt a lot about myself as a volunteer in terms of relating to different types of people and working with people I've never met before as a team. I’ve met so many people doing so many inspiring things – from trained nutritionists, aromatherapists, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, professional chefs, people who’ve quit their jobs to start up businesses, students, men & women who grow vegetables for a living in Urban spaces in London.
It blows my mind to know that there is such a myriad of different people contributing to our society and their communities in such varied yet brilliant ways. It’s a network of diverse yet like-minded people, which I feel very proud to be part of. Having lived in London for over 10 years, I feel like I've finally found my tribe!
To learn more about our volunteering opportunities visit https://madeinhackney.org/get-involved/volunteer