"There’s a lot of people pulling together and a lot of organisations pulling together to take everybody through these terrible times.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mel-Milaap provided day care facilities for older people and people in need at their community centre in Glasgow. As the country went into lockdown, however, Mel-Milaap quickly adapted the services they provide so that they could continue to support the people who relied upon them most.
After officially closing their doors on the 16th March, Mel-Milaap began to provide raw materials for people to cook their own meals at home. However, they quickly realised that some people who had previously accessed their community centre were not comfortable cooking on their own. After a meeting of Mel-Milaap’s board, it was decided from that point onwards that the charity would start supplying hot meals three times a week at no cost.
Mel-Milaap have since expanded the service. As well as older people, they now provide hot meals to asylum seekers and their families. They have also begun to deliver hot meals to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Mel-Milaap are aiming to provide 200 meals a day and have thus far provided 3735 meals to people across Glasgow and the surrounding area.
They are carrying out this work with the help of a number of local restaurants as well as two Glasgow temples, none of which are charging for their services. One temple is supporting with the charities’ cooking whilst the other is allowing Mel-Milaap to use their centre as a distribution point for the whole of Glasgow, demonstrating again the key role of strong relationships in Scotland’s response to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also presented Mel-Milaap with their own challenges as an organisation, leading to their community centre’s closure. Anoop Wallia, Chair of the Board of the Community Centre, expects the charity to return to their original remit providing day care facilities for older people and others in need again when life returns to some form of normality. However, one of the main challenges for both people and organisations, he says, is the uncertainty of when this normality will return.
Anoop believes that ‘cash problems, loneliness and isolation’ are three of the main challenges faced by the people that Mel-Milaap support. He believes that the long lasting impact, however, will be psychological. To combat this, Mel-Milaap encourage their delivery drivers to phone ahead prior to deliveries and use this time to check in with people and make sure they are coping with the effects of the lockdown. For Anoop, this is crucial: “One of the most important things is keeping in touch. Keep in touch with the clients that you have or that you are making because the psychological effect of that in the long run will be good for them. It’s a long struggle ahead of us.”
In terms of advice for other organisations who are also having to adapt as a result of COVID-19, Anoop recommends concentrating on one or two things and doing them well.
However, nothing has been more pivotal to Mel-Milaap’s successful transition than the contribution made by the charities’ volunteers. Some of these volunteers already supported Mel-Milaap’s day care facilities, however the majority have been recruited over the last few months via social media and word of mouth.
Anoop has played an important role coordinating Mel-Milaap’s food distribution efforts. However, he believes that it is his volunteers who should get the credit for the service Mel-Milaap is currently able to offer people in Glasgow: “It’s not me, it’s all the volunteers and all of our partners who are pulling together and that’s what we’re seeing. There’s a lot of people pulling together and a lot of organisations pulling together to take everybody through these terrible times.”