Despite On The Map UK being born 18-months ago, I haven't really shared my journey. I have mentioned the odd thing, but never just gone all out; imposter syndrome strikes again amongst other fears! But after being nagged at by some pretty awesome people with their own journeys, I decided that now is the time. There is a shorter version over on my Instagram too, so apologies if you are feeling Deja Vu right now.
I'm a people person and a helper! I enjoy making a difference to someone's day. I have worked in retail and customer service my whole life and it's how I am programmed... I love it.
Back at the end of 2016 I discovered that I had quite serious issues with my hips and I had to give up retail and take a break to look after myself & recover, I felt pretty lost. Doing nothing was odd, so I looked for something... Along came a mobile soup kitchen project called Soupervan, just one genius project of Max McMurdo. My initial plan was to get freebies from supermarkets etc. to help to reduce waste and help those in need, but it didn't stop there. I was welcomed into the team and I was getting stuck in with all aspects of the project. The team took out an upcycled caravan with chunky wooden dining table, china and proper cutlery. We served soup, supplied toiletries and had a good old fashioned conversation with those in need on the streets of Bedford. Soup was on the menu, but it was so much more than just soup and I had found something special!
Every team member and service user, had completely different journeys, but we were all part of a community. We treated people as people and learned from each other. It was brilliant to see so many other people getting involved and not only to help those experiencing homelessness but also support Max's project. It was inspiring, but we realised that even more support, shelter & humanity was needed.
We learned and cried lots, but laughed often. It changed me. I was grateful, but struggled to leave people in the cold when I headed off home to my cosy little part of the map... I believed that Everyone Should Have The Opportunity to be On The Map!
Early 2018 I was talking to my now good friend and honest sounding board Laura from It's Character Building. I met Laura at a Community Camp run by The Eden Project, which I attended in connection with Soupevan. We were based in the same part of the UK, started talking and something just clicked. Laura is awesome! We were chatting about how I wanted to achieve more with Soupervan and how I didn't feel that my journey was going quite how I expected. I had recently created a piece of art for her based around a map and when I delivered it we got talking (as usual) when the phrase to change everything just flew into the room...
"We should be providing more support! It would be great to get more people off the street and... back On The Map!"
We then laughed a lot, discussed how cheesy we were and then paused before both looking very excited! Time for a new direction... On The Map UK was born so I decided to get involved with organisations such as Bedford Homeless Partnership to help those with direct experience of homelessness. This movement is still a relatively new journey, but it is moving and there is so much more to come. Remember though that it’s powered by you through buying my products & sharing the On The Map message, so thank you and watch this space...
If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, please report it to StreetLink on 0300 500 0914