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Northumbria students answer the call from leading North East charity

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(L-R) Chris Wells (Marriot Executive Head Chef), John McCorry (Chief Executive, West End Food Bank), Sarah Harrison (Hotel Manager, Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel MetroCentre), Kate Harland (Graduate Tutor, Northumbria University), Gemma Whaley (Fundraiser, West End Food Bank) and the full team of Northumbria University Tourism and Events Management students.

Tourism and Events Management students at Northumbria University have put their skills to great use to deliver a special event for Newcastle West End Foodbank in recognition and celebration of its team of volunteers.

The future leaders of the tourism and event industry were tasked by the City’s West End Foodbank to design and deliver a memorable evening to show appreciation to over 60 volunteers who give up their time to help provide a regular and consistent service for people in need.

Newcastle West End Foodbank is the largest in the UK, feeding more than 40,000 people in last year and relies solely on donations.

Level 4 Tourism and Events Management students planned and hosted the event for 60 guests in partnership with the Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel MetroCentre as part of their Building Business Practice module.

The students delivered the event with support from the Marriott Hotel’s Executive Head Chef Chris Wells. They coordinated the catering, hosted the arrival drinks reception, looked after guests and arranged the entertainment, which was provided by ex-Emmerdale actor Dale Meeks. Each volunteer also received a personal certificate of appreciation.

John McCorry, Chief Executive at Newcastle West End Foodbank, said: “Newcastle West End Foodbank volunteers were delighted that the students and Marriott Hotel organised such a wonderful evening, including a beautiful buffet, awards and entertainment.

“Our volunteers have been overwhelmed by the quality of the event and greatly impressed by how seamless the services provided by the students have been. In my opinion, the whole experience made for a fantastic evening for the foodbank volunteers and showcased the considerable skills and professionalism of the students.

“It was excellent; we can’t thank Kate and the students enough for their kindness and for selecting us to be part of this project. I wish them all every success in their studies and careers.”

The Northumbria students also held several fundraisers within the university to raise awareness and a cash donation for the foodbank, generating more than £150.

Describing his experience, student James Landless, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for me to work on a real event. I was able to get involved with a large hotel group and work as a team to deliver a successful night which left me with a great feeling. The volunteers at the foodbank were amazing to cater for, with everyone having a really great time and very thankful for all the effort and hard work we put in. It was a real experience that I’ll never forget!”

Kate Harland, Northumbria University Graduate Tutor, said: “It is fantastic to be able to offer students the opportunity to work with an external client on a project. It provides the important link between theory and practice which enriches their learning experience.

“The students showed great commitment to the event by fully immersing themselves in the project, working alongside the client to a specific event brief. Our students really went above and beyond the requirements of the brief and showed great determination to provide such a brilliant event.

“It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside the West End Foodbank to celebrate and appreciate the volunteers that make sure the facility is available to the Newcastle community. Not only has it provided a memorable experience for the volunteers who work tirelessly day after day, it has also given our students valuable experience of working on a live event.”

Newcastle West End Foodbank opened in March 2013. It offers emergency food assistance to people in food crisis and works in partnership with specialist agencies across Newcastle to help people overcome the often complex underlying problems that have led to them needing the foodbank, such as household debt, unemployment, risk of homelessness, addiction and not claiming full benefit entitlements.