I am a lucky, lucky, lucky man!

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.

I am a lucky, lucky, lucky man!

This was how I began my 3-minute talk to the year 12/13 at Chapel Assembly at school a few days ago. We had been doing a week-long collection for the Bradford North Foodbank and since I am Team Leader of part of it, Trinity Foodbank Centre, I had been asked just speak by the Chaplain, Rev Vicky Atkins.

I am a lucky lucky lucky man!

In 43 years since I began full-time work, I have never been out of a job. I have a wonderful wife and daughter a and a beautiful home. We have hot and cold running water  always have food and drink on the table. We can afford to take lovely holidays, both at home and abroad, sometimes twice a year.

We have a car and bikes to use, whenever we want to. We can travel into one of the country’s largest cities or another slightly smaller one next door, whenever we want and make a trip into beautiful countryside on foot or otherwise since it is so near.

In my current job I have had the good fortune to travel to China, India, Cambodia, Slovenia, France, Germany,  the US and I hope soon to go to Japan with a group of students.

I could go on…

Feeling so fortunate, I had long harboured a desire to help the community, though I knew not how.

In 2016 a great opportunity arose for me. With a bit of prompting, I found I was able to take early retirement. I reduced my working days to 2 per week and discovered that my monthly income actually increased. All my worries about having to work full- or near full-time until I was 66 or 68 were dispelled.

About the same time a friend from Church asked me to accompany her to St Luke’s Foodbank centre in Eccleshill, itself a part of Bradford North Foodbank.

I sat in on an interview with a client and for the next hour and a half listened to the detail of a terrible tale of woe as this unfortunate man recounted all the things that happened to him. In a nutshell, ill-health, loss of job, broken marriage, dwindling savings, benefits, addiction, misery. Listening to this made my heart ache and break. I knew I had to do something!

So cutting a long story short, we opened the Trinity Foodbank Centre on 16th January 2017. Since then we have provided literally hundreds of parcels of food to help needy families in the Rawdon, Yeadon, Guiseley, Otley areas. We have signposted them to places where they might receive advice and help. We are not an advice centre, but try to point people in the right direction.

We are grateful for all donations of food toiletries and other items, because we depend almost totally on the generosity of the general public for all that we deliver.

We are in a privileged, though very strange position. We must be one of the few organisations dedicated to its own demise. Our aim is to end UK food poverty. With all that has happened recently, it seems we have a long journey ahead of us! No likelihood of our packing up someday soon!

Now I know I did the right thing!

The other Boris –  Pasternak, to be exact,  the famous Russian poet and novelist, author of Doctor Zhivago amongst many other works, said

When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.

«????? ??????? ?????? ???????? ? ????? ????? ?????, ?? ????? ?? ??????, ??? ?????? ?????? ??????, ? ??? ????? ????? ????????.

Fortunately I was listening !

Not long after my Epiphany moment in 2016, came another, or rather was revealed as one during this last year.

We had been approached at school by the Groundwork charity. Was anyone on the staff interested in preparing a group of students for the Green Leader’s Certificate, with their help? As it happens, I was!

So began our Himalayan Balsam bashing on the riverbank. We chose a small 10-metre section adjacent to Apperley Bridge and the A658, at the far south-western corner of the Woodhouse Grove School grounds. We removed as much as possible of this majestic and handsome, yet most voracious and invasive of all weeds and replaced it with a willow “fedge” (a lattice-work of willow saplings). Contrary to the previous tenant, willow is thirsty and deep-rooted and is therefore a friend of the riverbank. Unbeknown to me at the time, but Leeds City Council had embarked upon a multi-million pound scheme to limit future flood damage to the city centre businesses and properties, later extending further upstream in phase 2 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme as far as and including Apperley Bridge.

Only a matter of a few weeks later, the Council came and sprayed the lot, destroying weed and good growth in one fell swoop! In a sense though it did not matter. Whilst the vegetation died, the seed had been sown. Now 4 years on I find myself in a flexible non-teaching role at school (except for a bit of Mandarin at Bronte House for Year 3s!) and so I had the opportunity to pick up where we left off. Three funding bids later and we are up and running with the first work session at the back end of September. Rawdon Parish Council agreed over the summer to cover the costs (£3000) of employing Groundwork Staff (Louise Ross with whom we worked last time) and materials for the whole of this academic year, with fortnightly sessions after school as long as the light holds and then monthly meets at the weekend after that. Community Grants from Tesco will provide between £500 and £1500 as a top-up and help us to buy saplings for plantings of willow and fruit trees in the Spring. The final value of the grant depends on how many tokens are placed by customers in our bin at 4 local Bradford Tesco stores (I can give you the postcodes if needed!).

However, the first bid was entered on behalf of our school back in May to the new government-funded Türing Scheme. Unlike its forerunner, the EU-funded Erasmus + Programme which enabled countless student exchanges to take place, this one only supports students in UK educational institutions. On the other hand its pillars are levelling-up and widening participation. Since one of our aims in the Green Grove Riverbank Project 2021 (GGRIP21) is to share our learning experiences with our international school partners, it seemed a worthwhile effort to enter a bid for 12 students from WGS to visit our partner school in Gifu Prefecture, Japan for a 3-week study tour in 2022. Imagine my surprise on learning in late July that our bid had been accepted and that all travel and accommodation would be funded, to the tune of £31000 ! Now the small matter of COVID restrictions and a current moratorium on travel from school … Watch this space!

“What God may hereinafter require of you, you must not give yourself the least trouble about.

 Everything he gives you to do, you must do as well as ever you can.

 This is the best possible preparation for what he may want you to do next.

 If people would but do what they have to do, they would always find themselves ready for what came next”.

George MacDonald


Peter Lambert

October 2021