This week we’re chatting to Rich, Founder of Manchester-based social enterprise Healthy Me Healthy Communities, an organisation dedicated to providing health and wellbeing services that empower, educate and inspire for a healthier, happier and longer life. They run the award-winning Community Grocers scheme, which is an incredible initiative helping to redistribute surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. The Community Grocers look and feel like a traditional shop, but members can take home around £12 worth of goods for just £2.50. These Grocers also act as community hubs by offering training, volunteer opportunities and other community services.
Hi Rich, tell us a little bit about yourself and the organisation you work for
I am the founder and Chief Executive of Healthy Me Healthy Communities, a social enterprise with the mission of ‘everyone enjoying a long, healthy and happy life’, working with Manchester’s most deprived and diverse wards. We do this by supporting residents to get involved, learn new skills and take control of the community activities they would like to see in their neighbourhood – like the award-winning Community Grocers.
What is a day in the life like as CEO at Healthy Me Healthy Communities?
My day is very varied and will start with replying to emails, responding to requests for us to collect surplus food and always involves meetings with Grocer volunteers, members of our team, community groups and partners. And then finding time for planning and developing new ideas with our community partners.
What is your personal motivation for working at Healthy Me Healthy Communities? What inspires you?
I am passionate about people fulfilling their potential regardless of their background and current circumstances. Everyone has something to offer and people experiencing social-exclusion are best placed to know what works and what wouldn’t in the community. I love being able to take an idea born in the community, nurturing it and developing it into a successful project – like our Community Grocer project that started with the fabulous Anson Resident’s Association.
Can you tell me about someone who has benefitted from your work?
Maria was finding life tough; she was buried under mounting bills and couldn’t see a way of getting on top of the problem. Living on just £80 per fortnight she was struggling to provide the type of life she wanted for her two kids. She needed help but didn’t know where to start. Sammy, a volunteer at the Community Grocer that she joined was able to connect Maria with the Our Money team, who provide advice on managing money and debt.
“I had all these bills and I was just opening them and then putting them on the shelf. Then I got a bill for £8,000 and I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking I need to sort this out, I was worried about the bailiffs coming to my house”. Maria then started seeing Vicky from the Our Money team at the Anson Community Grocer. “It has been a big help coming to the community shop and now I am able to deal with all the bills myself. I feel like I’ve come up in the world and I can sort things out for myself. I feel so much happier in myself”.
Since becoming a member, Maria is now a Community Grocer volunteer and completed an RSPH Food Safety level-2 qualification and is planning to find a job now that her youngest child is in a full-time nursery.
What is something that might surprise someone about your charity or beneficiaries?
I think people would be surprised by the number of neighbourhood volunteers we have making a difference in their community. Currently, we have around 40 volunteers giving over 200-hours a week, helping to run the Community Grocer project and community activities. The Community Grocer project is not just about alleviating poverty, in fact, it is much more than that. It is about people coming together, working together and finding out else is going in their community.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Healthy Me Healthy Communities?
My favourite thing is seeing people develop, starting with small steps like attending a social-activity and making new friends, achieving their first qualification and then progressing to leading their neighbourhood Community Grocer project. We know, from our experience, that people’s health and life outcomes improve not just from taking part in community activities but making them happen – that is where the magic happens.
How can people get involved with Healthy Me Healthy Communities?
There are lots of ways to get involved including attending a HMHC community activity, volunteering and with our skills escalator become a paid sessional-worker. People can also support the Community-Grocer by donating money and unwanted food items, organising a fundraising activity or collection at their school or workplace. You can find more information about getting involved on our website.
Know a great social enterprise that you’d like to see on Buengo? Suggest them to us here.