We are all familiar with the postcard beauty of the forests and mountains and rolling farmland. Much less obvious are the pockets of hidden poverty. Not having enough money to buy food in the countryside in many ways is no different to having no money to buy food in a big city. There is however one huge difference – suffering rural poverty generally means being a long way away from any kind of support.
We started to try and address this problem three years ago. If someone in Moffat or Castle Douglas or Langholm was given a referral to pick an emergency food parcel from our base in Dumfries, more often than not it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. If the client lacked the means to buy food, they inevitably could not afford £10 to take a return trip on the bus to Dumfries.
To address this issue we have slowly but surely built up a network of collection points across the length and breadth of the 3400 square miles we cover. Our emergency parcels can now be picked up from an extensive range to ‘pick up’ points. You can find out where these places are by following the link below.
Now we are looking to further improve the extent of the support we offer. Having no money means having to do without much more than food. Over the coming months we hope to find the means to offer more support with other essentials. Thanks to a funding award from the Scottish Government, we are now able to provide emergency sanitary ware and by the end of February 2018 all of our ‘pick up’ points with carry a stock of sanitary pads.
We are seeking the required funds to also provide toiletries, cat and dog food and maybe even emergency power for those who are unable to switch on their lights and heating.
We are very much aware that making emergency sanitary ware available doesn’t necessarily mean it will be collected. We know there are people out there who need it. And we know there are people out there who cannot afford it. But going into a library to ask for it is an incredibly hard thing to do. All we can to is assure people they will never, ever be means tested or humiliated.
Sadly the brutal way the tabloid press and many politicians have depicted poverty over recent years has created huge barriers. People are made to feel ashamed of finding themselves in a position where they are unable to provide themselves and their family with the basics of life. Too many suffer in silence and in secret. Behind locked doors. We issue 5000 emergency food parcels each year. It probably should be at least double. We are very much aware of all the people across the region who are suffering badly, but who are still too proud and frightened of local gossip to ask for help from the likes of First Base.
All we can do is to make sure nobody is ever humiliated or made to feel worthless when they summon up the courage to ask for our help.
And slowly but surely things might start to change.
We hope so.