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The Power Of Volunteering

Further to calls from the government to raise a volunteer army to help bring in the crops this year. We take a look at how to apply and what you could be doing.

Farmers are calling on furloughed British workers to fill vital roles harvesting fruit and vegetables. As the coronavirus crisis continues after warning crop stocks may ‘run out’. Due to the travel restrictions imposed by governments amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Some 90,000 volunteer’s positions need to be filled, many in just a few weeks’ time. Previously agricultural workers from eastern Europe usually fill the majority of roles. The restrictions across Europe and further afield mean they can no longer get to the UK to work.

An International charity called Concordia, based in Brighton, supplies volunteering and international work placements to people all over the world. Founded in 1943 to recruit volunteer labour to help with the war effort. Since its founding, has supported nearly three-quarters of a million people to undertake intercultural exchanges all over the world.

Normally, its seasonal worker programme finds jobs on UK farms for people from abroad. It had lined up some 10,000 labourers, half from the EU and the rest from Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Barbados. To come to the UK but they now cannot as countries go on lockdown. But during the coronavirus pandemic, the recruitment charity has joined HOPS and Fruitful as the three leading ethical providers of labour in the UK to launch the Feed the Nation campaign.

Can I apply?

Applicants can apply through the Concordia, HOPS and Fruitful Alliance’s Ethical Labour website here. It’s a simple form with a few basic details. All applicants will then be sent a link to an online video interview platform. Once the Alliance has received the video interview and the applicant is successful. They will be matched with a role on a UK farm based on their skills and preferences. Successful applicants will be sent matched roles along with information on the farm and it’s amenities.

At this point applicants decide if they want to take up the position – and accept the roles by email.

What Will I Be Doing?

At present the vast majority of the roles will be harvesting crops. Beginning from the end of April and early May onwards. Placements last from six weeks to six months all over the UK. There are roles on farms in the next fortnight harvesting asparagus, harvesting beans and preparing strawberry and raspberry plants. Workers with additional skills – such as tractor drivers and those able to operate heavy machinery – are also available.

To date, more than 14,000 applications from people all over the UK have been sent in. With 50% of those coming from people who have lost their livelihoods due to coronavirus. According to Concordia: ‘Working on farms can be can be hard work, long hours, and early starts, in sometimes difficult weather conditions.’

Will workers be paid?

Workers will be at least paid minimum wage and many farms pay National Living Wage or more. Depending on how much fruit and/or vegetables they harvest. All roles offered through Concordia, HOPS and Fruitful come with training. Which can last up to three weeks, to give workers the best chance of maximising their income. Workers are paid while they complete training and every job found with Concordia, Fruitful and HOPS comes with free insurance for all workers which includes travel, health and dental cover.

Is it safe during coronavirus?

Concordia said all the farms it works with follow the correct procedures around safe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak. Housing is always provided although participants do not have to take it up. Concordia spokeswoman Donna Holland said: ‘Concordia was originally created to recruit volunteer labour to help with the war effort. To encourage peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of the Second World War. ‘Since then, the charity has supported nearly three-quarters of a million people to undertake intercultural exchanges all over the world. ‘Each year the UK farming industry needs to fill 90,000 roles on UK farms. Growing, harvesting and packaging fruits, vegetables and edible horticulture. ‘Getting workers onto farms is absolutely vital for the UK to get through this pandemic.

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