Cardiff student charity nominated for national award

Michael Sheen joins the team: The star met with the Bare Necessities team during the Homeless World Cup this summer. Source: Lucy Wilkinson

By Olly Davis

Bare Necessities, a student-led project, has been shortlisted for the Community Award at this year’s National Societies and Volunteering Awards.

Bare Necessities is a Cardiff University-based charity which seeks to help spread toiletries and hygiene products amongst those in need, including the homeless, women escaping violence, and those below the poverty line.

The charity was created by Lucy Wilkinson in her final year at Cardiff University. The idea came to her over the Christmas of 2018. Lucy was inspired by the Beauty Bank, a London based charity run by Sali Hughes and Jo Jones, which acts like a food bank but for beauty projects.

Bare Necessities is the only Cardiff University society which has been nominated for an award at the 2020 National Societies and Volunteering Awards.

Lucy said the aim of Bare Necessities is to help overcome stigma. It is not to alleviate poverty per se, but to re-imbue people who are struggling with confidence.

The charity, set up through Cardiff Volunteering, is now in its second year. Lucy graduated in 2019, and whilst she is still involved with Bare Necessities, she says the charity “is doing really well without me.”

Launched in February 2019, Bare Necessities has gone from strength to strength. It works closely with Escentual, a cosmetic brand, and distributes donations from their warehouses. Lucy said the first collection filled two cars: ”It took three days to sort through all the stuff” and amongst the initial donations were some luxury brands which were really nice to pass on to people, she commented.

The summer of 2019 then saw the Homeless World Cup come to Cardiff and Bare Necessities worked closely with the Welsh FA, donating around 350 bags of goods to those in need. They were distributed throughout the playing squads, a personal highlight for Lucy.

The operation has grown over the last 12 months with Bare Necessities now having their own storage units and vans to collect the donations from Escentual, but their aim remains the same.

Speaking to this year’s lead volunteer, Sophie Irving, she said the only real change since the charity was founded is the scale of the operation.

Sophie explained how Bare Necessities worked. “We receive donations from the public and generous companies of basic toiletries, makeup, sanitary and hygiene products that we sort during our volunteering sessions.

“Volunteers make sure that the products are unused, or like new, and are still usable and hygienic to donate. Out of these products, care packages are made that get donated to women’s shelters, homeless shelters and the [Salvation Army’s] Purple Bus project in order to empower those in need.”

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the operation. However, Sophie expects “when this is all over, it’s back to all hands on deck.”

“Escentual are in the somewhat fortunate position where people have been extremely generous and they’re inundated with donations and cannot accept any more.

“After this we’ll be pushing [care packages] out to the people who will appreciate them most: Women’s aid, alopecia support groups, and the Purple Bus project.”

Both Lucy and Sophie are very grateful for the support they have received from Cardiff University Students’ Union throughout this project. The nomination for this award clearly means a lot to both.

Sophie said, “I am ecstatic that Bare Necessities has been nominated. From the beginning when Lucy set it up, this project has truly been a labour of love on behalf of all the volunteers, the volunteering co-ordinators, and all the societies that have engaged with us.

“It will also mean a lot to the charities that we work alongside. The recognition of the project is recognition for them in distributing [care packages]; we couldn’t ask for a better team to work with.”

These sentiments were strongly echoed by Lucy, who said it was “just amazing!” She was proud of the impact Bare Necessities has had “because it has gone on beyond me.

“It shows what Cardiff has to offer.”

Whilst the awards ceremony has been cancelled, the voting is still going ahead. At the time of writing, an online awards ceremony is being planned.

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