Douglas Maxwell, our Digital Manager writes about starting a new job with Food Train.
Starting a new job can be a challenge at the best of times, but during a global pandemic definitely adds a bit more ‘edge’ to it. When I say edge what I mean is stress, anxiety and that feeling of stepping into the unknown, but starting with Food Train was different.
First, I felt that it was a good time to move from my old job and into a new challenge and this helped ground me and feel that I was in control of my career path and choices. What also helped was when I started telling folk that I was starting with Food Train, the positive and heartfelt comments were very comforting and assuring that I’d make a good choice, and hopefully they thought that about me too.
The actual starting of a new job during COVID-19 was an easy and somewhat surreal experience – I sat in the same place (in my kitchen) and just changed my laptop and login in details. What also helped me those first few weeks was that I had an induction plan that got the balance right between learning, reading, meeting and space for reflection.
In the first visit of my national tour of branches and services I was lucky and privileged to visit the Stirling branch. It was a really good way to help me understand the essence of our work and to really understand the ‘why’ of the organisation. In an early start I was through at the shops for 8am and a handful of volunteers were already collecting the groceries and it was immediate to me that the team had a tried and tested method for ensuring the older people got exactly what they want, as one volunteer succinctly put it ‘we don’t get another chance to get this right, if its wrong they (the older people) can’t just go to the shops and they do without’. So I grabbed my list and went round the supermarket and came to a conundrum, one item ‘a book for reading’ and the other was a ‘puzzle book’. Now it’s easy to collect Fairy liquid, Hovis wheatgerm loaf, there is no ambiguity around that, but to pick a reading and a puzzle book for someone I’ve never met and only know through their shopping list was very difficult. How much did they want to spend? What author did they like? What genre did they like? What was their reading ability? After about 20 minutes I chose what I though they’d like and went for it. It was interesting chatting to the volunteers afterwards as a few of them said that the trickiest thing to buy like that was birthday and other types of cards.
Once the shopping had been collected, checked twice, sorted into routes and paid for it was into the boxes and into the vans. I was lucky to go out in the van with James a volunteer driver that has worked with Food Train for years and has a genuine rapport with the customers. It was at this time that I experienced first-hand that it was so much more than just delivering food and groceries, but also enabling human to human contact and supporting others to live well in their houses. This deep understanding to the ‘why’ of the organisation is critical for me in leading the digital transformation and our future work and is perfectly illustrated by the story of how Food Train began. While there have been 100’s of people involved with Food Train over the years the founders had a simple aim and idea. They wanted to provide practical support to older people in need, enable them to eat well, enjoy more social contact and live independently at home for longer and this was driven by Jean Mundell, a local hero who was unafraid to tackle the powers that be whenever she seen inequality and injustice. And so, during my career with Food Train if I can aspire to live the values that Jean lived, those values of service to others, service to myself and service to our communities then I believe that we will all keep Food Train on track to help and support people for the next 25 years, and more.