by Robin Nierynck
Hero of the Week: “Volunteering gives you a newfound appreciation for the city we live in”
October is Hero Month at our Hero Hub, a time for our Heroes to get involved and give something back to the community. These 31 days (and beyond) we’re partnering with numerous organizations throughout Berlin, joining forces to make the biggest possible impact for the better. Every week, we spotlight some of our extraordinary Heroes, who have gone above and beyond in making a positive change.
Sometimes the most magical moments happen when you least expect them. Sumit Mehta is a Senior Project Manager and has been working at Delivery Hero for four years. As a Volunteer Champion, he is part of the backbone of Hero Month, organizing volunteering events and connecting with partner organizations.
When Sumit signed up as a volunteer, he wanted to give something back to the city he calls home, but the experience turned out to have an equally great impact on him, offering a new perspective on how we move through the world.
Why did you get involved as a Volunteer Champion?
I’ve been living in Berlin for seven years and wanted to give back to what I feel is the city I really grew up in. I went to university here many years back and stuck around. All that time I wanted to do something, but never put aside the time. So when there was a call for Volunteer Champions at the office I thought it was a great opportunity to finally put in that time and use it in a positive way.
Which charity are you working with and why?
I’m partnering with The Real Junk Food Project Berlin, an organization dedicated to preventing and reducing food waste by turning surplus food into meals for the community. They organize workshops, cooking events and talks to raise awareness about food waste, and in doing so they support a lot of people in need.
Our first joint project took place last week and was really amazing: We went out in the morning and picked up food from supermarkets that would otherwise be wasted, and in the evening we cooked a big dinner out of that food for the Berliner Straßenchor, a choir of people from difficult backgrounds. Every member has been through a lot, from homelessness to drug or alcohol addictions, but they are given a voice in the choir.
We were able to cook a three-course dinner for 30 people from the food we collected. We made appetizers, pasta with vegetable sauce, french fries, salad, and an apple and pear crumble. The people from The Real Junk Food Project had some great and inventive recipes, which were fun to try out. We had one volunteer that had never chopped vegetables before!
“Meeting people from so many different backgrounds is very humbling, you realize that anyone can end up in difficult situations, and everyone deserves help”
What have you learnt from volunteering?
It’s shocking to see how much food we waste. I knew that supermarkets throw away food but the amount was much more than I thought. Supermarkets throw out about 40-60% of their stock. Bread makes up a large part of this, as many supermarkets bake multiple times a day and end up with a lot of surplus. I also thought a lot of the food we’d pick up would not look or taste so good anymore, but most of it was in almost perfect condition.
Did anything surprise you about volunteering?
It impacted me a lot more than I thought it would. I didn’t expect how friendly the people would be, and how much it means that someone is doing something nice for them. A simple act of kindness can go a long way, and you learn a thing or two in the process. Meeting people from so many different backgrounds is very humbling, you realize that anyone can end up in difficult situations, and everyone deserves help.
What is the importance and benefit of an initiative like Hero Month?
We all have a responsibility towards preventing food waste. As a company and as employees we operate and live in this city, and it’s great that we are going out and giving back in a constructive way. I think volunteering gives you a newfound appreciation for the city we live in. More importantly, it allows you to grow as a person, because we often live in our own worlds in such a big place. We use the transportation, walk through the streets, and don’t pay much attention to the lives of the people we pass by. By volunteering you can hear their stories.
What do you want the outcome of your volunteering work to be?
I hope people here at Delivery Hero are inspired to volunteer more, both as part of our volunteering scheme and outside of work, and find something meaningful in it. Perhaps, at the least, a newfound appreciation for what they have.
You have already decided to continue your initiative after Hero Month. How did this come about?
Often volunteering or charity is tied to the emotion of pity. The Straßenchor, on the other hand, is an extremely positive initiative that is based on hope. Their mission is to provide second chances and give people something beautiful to live for. Although cooking for them is only a small act, it is a rewarding experience. It’s a minor time investment to help our community grow exponentially. We were really moved by the reaction of the choir – they had never experienced anything like this before and they loved it. So we decided to host the dinner once a month.
What has been the most rewarding moment?
The moment the choir walked into the room. They could smell the food and came straight to us with huge smiles and compliments. We didn’t know them or their backgrounds that brought them there. But it was amazing to eat together and be part of their experience. It’s rewarding to put in time and effort to make people happy.