A few weeks ago we gathered together some of our supplier partners for a special dinner. It was great that they were so happy to spend a generous sum of money to dine with us, eat amazing food and be served by our special volunteers. The event was organised by our amazing team led by Steve Fox, Purchasing Director. George Rodriguez was front of house and Chef Director Pete Redman was in kitchen.

It was a lovely evening where we talked about how we can all make a difference.

The subject was charity and funds we raised for a project in Gambia from the supper we held in 2017. I shared what we did with the money and how we can help even more.

Our interest in our Gambia initiatives came through one of my cousins and a request from his rotary club charity. It started in a small way with donation of clothes and excess stationary. Several bm team members send £60 to sponsor a child’s education (in return we receive a school report and photograph showing the child’s progress as they go through school). One of the students funded by a team member will the first in the village to go to university. bartlett mitchell will be funding his education, so this is evidence of the real impact we are making.

When my (Wendy’s) mother passed away I asked for the donations, instead of flowers to fund building a classroom. That was the moment we could really see the difference we could make, so we rallied around to do a bit more.

Now we have:

  • Team members saving and donating used football boots and sports kit
  • Old bm team uniforms are returned to head office and sent out to the school. They use them as team football strips.
  • Containers are sent out annually to the community in Gambia, which include clothing, old medical items and tools. All donated by bm team members.
  • A bm team member’s family knits jumpers for newborn babies- many are orphans
  • Funds were raised to build a small wall around the village to keep the animals out of the kitchen garden

Results

In 2017 bartlett mitchell raised about £5k and donated a Milling machine to the community which allowed the young females to go to school rather than daily morning chore in hand milling the grains they need for flour daily. The letters of appreciation received from elders of the village, the mothers’ group and the local representatives have been heart warming

This was the request that motivated me to raise funds;

“As it is food related I wondered whether bartlett mitchell would like to help us raise the money to sponsor a milling machine for the village. I have attached letters from the village and a costing for you to have a look through. I think they are self-explanatory, but basically if they have a milling machine it will enable the girls of the village to attend regular schooling instead of spending a lot of their time hand milling the rice and cous. The price for the machine is roughly £3,400, depending on the exchange rate. By having the machine, it can also generate a little income for the village by allowing other villages to use it for a nominal sum. If I were to do this project by myself it would take 4-5 years to raise this sort of money and I would not be able to do anything else. This year has been a disastrous year for raising funds due to most events being cancelled because of bad weather.”

The milling machine, supplied by bm, has allowed young girls to receive a continuous education, with no interruptions. It has also generated an income and a sense of future. The solar lighting, we hope to fund this coming year will allow the children to work longer school days. The lighting will help the teachers to deliver a higher level of education. By being directly involved in the village we know 100% of the money raised is given to the community. More importantly it’s giving them hope and a sustainable future.

It was lovely to see this year a greater emotional connection has meant more team members wanted to sponsor a child. One of our supplier partners funded the school children’s back packs and another has offered to fund a packaging machine for our other charity in Nicaragua. We are funding a kitchen for the Drying Mill ladies who earn nothing for 8 months a year but want to start a small healthy biscuit factory aimed at the local market.

This charity event proved that the value of suppliers is not just about transactions in service or goods. It’s also the relationship and sense of partnership and trust. We spent a wonderful evening with some generous supplier partners and shared our culture and ethos so we can work together much better. And we saw what is possible when we collaborate.

Thank you

With special thanks to the following people who helped make the event possible:

  • Tom Gilbey – The Vintner
  • Glyn Mullholland – Stalbridge Linen
  • Russell Brown – WattsFarm
  • Richard Loader – CMB Foods
  • Miles Matthews – Ascot Hire
  • Rachel Hamilton – Bud Flowers
  • Laura Riddle – Bidfood

My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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