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Frontiers’ Volunteers: giving communities time, talks and tarts 

Author: Anastasia Long

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have been at the forefront of community and societal responses. This week, we talk to fellow Fronton Carolina Garcia, who is a journal specialist in the Publishing Development department, about her volunteering work with Be Enriched, an organization that ‘uses food to bring joy and connection to the socially excluded, develop skills in young people, build communities and grow future generations’.

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What is your background? What is your role at Frontiers? 

“I am Portuguese and I did my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Lisbon in Languages, Literature and Culture. Then, I moved to London to complete my Master’s degree in Creative Writing and Publishing at City, University of London. To be working in publishing is exactly what I wanted to do. I started working at Frontiers over two years ago, and I am a journal specialist for the Humanities and Social Sciences program with a specific focus on Frontiers in Education. It has been quite a ride but a very pleasurable one.”

What does the organization you volunteered for do? 

Be Enriched is a charity that uses food to bring joy to the communities across five South London boroughs. Volunteers help cook and serve food in these community canteens and spend time with the visitors. Be Enriched centers offer a social sanctuary for everyone to enjoy, particularly for those who are elderly or socially isolated. It is great that such canteens bring people together to enjoy a meal without the stigma of receiving a handout.”

What was your personal motivation for choosing it? 

“Last year, I opted for remote volunteering opportunities because of the pandemic. I did some content writing and some social media campaigns. This year, I decided to do something in-person. When I was growing up in Portugal, I was into scouts. Since a young age, I have been used to going to similar community centers to do food collection and spend time with the local communities. I wanted something that would bring me back to what I knew but hadn’t done for a while. With my passion for cooking, it seemed like a great opportunity to put my cooking skills to good use. In fact, it is not the cooking itself, but cooking for people that I love. It has always been one of my greatest pleasures in life – cooking for people. Be Enriched volunteering combined both my love for cooking and being able to help local communities.”

What exactly did you do as part of your skill-sharing? 

“I didn’t know the actual details of what the day would entail. When I arrived, I joined two other volunteers in preparing a three-course vegetarian meal. I instantly chose the dessert. Although they had some basic ingredients in stock, the actual challenge was to come up with a nice and creative dish. I decided to make a caramelized peach tart. With lots of personal touches to the original recipe, it turned out to be a complete improvisation on the upside-down peach cake! {laughs}

“At midday, the visitors started to arrive. It felt really important to spend some time talking with them over a cup of tea or coffee. We served pumpkin and tomato soup followed by mushroom risotto and, of course, my caramelized peach tart for dessert. It was rather humbling to be able to share the warm meal with the visitors and spend more time getting to know these people and listening to their stories.

“But then I had to clean up all the mess that I ‘improvized’ with my caramelized tart!” {laughs}

What did you learn from the experience?

“It might not be what I learnt, but what it reminded me of. The past year and a half has been hard for every single one of us. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that there are people out there, right in the center of our communities, who have been much more affected and secluded by the pandemic. Being caught in or frustrated by our own issues, we tend to overlook such situations. This volunteering opportunity gave me the ability to share a warm meal and to share kind words. It was very humbling. I felt gratitude for everything that I have and also realized the importance of doing this more regularly: to be there, to hold fellow person’s hand and to share a smile.

“And, of course, it was great to be a dessert chef for a day!”

When prompted to share the peach tart recipe, Carolina, like a true patissier, decided to keep it an ‘improvized secret’. But everyone is very welcome to join Carolina in her next volunteering experience and try the tart then.

For more than a decade, Frontons have been showing a great passion and big heart for the most pressing world causes, both as scientists and as citizens of the world. At Frontiers, we are committed to contributing to communities in a meaningful and sustainable way and encourage our people to participate in charity activities via our volunteering partner platform Alaya.​

Frontiers is a signatory of the United Nations Publishers COMPACT. This interview has been published in support of the United Nations Sustainable Goal 2: Zero Hunger

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