Cooking for the Community

Darren Harp  Blog Images 03

Could you imagine not having a place to call home?

Darren knows firsthand what it is like to not have a home. So, he chooses to volunteer for our partner HARP, a charity based in Southend who support people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. For World Homeless Day 2023 we are sharing his heart warming story. To show that with determination and resilience you can overcome any obstacles life throws your way.

He gives back in this way because he knows what it is like to be in their situation. Darren is a trained chef and uses his skills to cook for people in desperate need of a warm cooked meal.

“I volunteer for HARP because I’ve been in the situation that the people who use HARP have been in. I have been homeless various times. I am also a trained chef, so I started volunteering and it is good for my soul to do something for other people, it’s part of my recovery.”

Homeless soup kitchen food


A Shared Experience

Having experienced homelessness in the past himself, Darren can empathise with exactly what HARP’s clients are going through.

“I’ve been in the situation myself, so I know what it’s like for someone just to acknowledge you, even if it is just a ‘hello’. To be compassionate and to be there for people is a good thing to do, you feel alive. HARP is fully encompassing too. So not only am I cooking for them, but I can be a means of support. It’s not just about the cooking, it’s about working with people.”

During his time as a volunteer, Darren has had appreciation for his time and work from both HARP staff and the service users themselves.

“What I enjoy the most about volunteering is the fulfilment. It’s doing stuff for other people, seeing them get well and seeing them appreciate what’s being done. It’s the little ‘thank yous’ I get here and there. People actually going out of their way and writing it on a bit of paper to give to me, all the little nudges and recognition. My ultimate aim is to feed them and to make them feel some kind of spiritual nourishment for the day that may get them through, it may even save their life, because it did mine.”

Giving Back to the Community

When reflecting on why he thinks people should volunteer for HARP, Darren feels that they should do it “for the community”.

Volunteer chef supporting homeless people

“I believe that not one person deserves to live their life on the streets and anyone, no matter their background, has got something to offer someone who is living on the streets. Simply saying ‘hello’, giving them a cup of coffee, making them a meal, it is that act of sincerity coming from a place and not expecting anything back. It benefits the volunteer as much as it more than benefits the people who are receiving the help that we give. I couldn’t recommend it more.”

Darren expands on his reasoning as to why he decided to volunteer for HARP and what he likes about the organisation.

“I think having been on both sides of the fence I see how it works professionally and I see the ethos. I see a compassionate organisation wanting genuinely and sincerely to get people off the streets and into a life that is meaningful and purposeful. They do care. They have a genuine care for me as a person, I’m not just a volunteer, I’m a person with a life experience that they want to help, just as much as they want to help those we are volunteering for.”

Darren volunteer chef for HARP Southend's Homeless Charity

If you are interested in volunteering for HARP, you can fill out the volunteer enquiry form or apply for one of their volunteer vacancies directly by visiting their website.

You Can Give Back Too!

Volunteering is just one way in which you can give back to HARP. You can also give back to them on a regular basis for as little as £1 per week, by playing make a smile lottery!

With such a small amount, you wont even notice its gone. But when combined with the donations from others it really does make a huge difference.

Help HARP continue to support more local people to overcome homelessness for good.


Draw closes in:
02 Days
13 Hrs
06 Min
36 Sec