GIFT ‘gives its volunteers purpose’

Give It Forward Today is one of the Jewish community’s preeminent giving and volunteering charities


Selfie from Miriam Ibigi on stage at the GIFT annual dinner

For Miriam Ibigi, volunteering with the charity that put food on her family’s table 15 years ago has helped her find her true purpose.

During GIFT’s 20th anniversary gala on Sunday night, Ibigi stood before an audience of 650 people at the Roundhouse in Camden to share how the Jewish charity had changed her life.

Ibigi, one of 11 children, detailed how her parents had struggled to feed the family after their separation 15 years ago. Then someone told them about GIFT, and they began receiving groceries from the Jewish volunteer organisation.

“The bags that we received were more than just grocery bags; they contained anything you can think of and more,” Ibigi said during her speech. “It was more than just a helping hand; it was dignity, comfort, support and provided us with everything we really needed to help us start back up again.”

Ibigi said her mother had begun volunteering at GIFT and she was inspired to do the same, helping to deliver food parcels.

Years later, however, Ibigi suffered severe injuries during a road traffic accident, leaving her bed-bound for two years and in a wheelchair for five. She said she had to relearn how to stand, walk, read, eat and write again.

She now often has wears sunglasses because of double vision and sensory overload issues she sustained from the head injury.

As she began to rebuild her life after the accident, Ibigi said she decided to volunteer at GIFT again by cooking meals for vulnerable people who were unable to cook for themselves or leave their houses. Through this initiative, GIFT launched the Giving Kitchen, which provides over 400 meals per week to those in need.

But for Ibigi, the meals are more than just food: "They are hot, wholesome meals made with so much love and kindness.

“Every time I go to The Giving Kitchen, it gives me so much purpose. To be honest, as volunteers, we gain more and receive so much more than we are giving. For once, I feel like I am flourishing and able to give so much to the community.”

Ibigi's story exemplifies the power of giving and the impact of GIFT's mission, said its heads. Director of GIFT Michelle Barnet MBE reflected on the organisation’s founding ideology at the gala, stating that the aim was simple: “to foster a culture of ‘We’ over ‘Me’, to aid the less fortunate not just monetarily, but by instilling a spirit of giving.”

The gala also featured speeches by Rabbi Naftali Schiff, founder and chairman of GIFT and managing director Rabbi Sandor Milun. The evening was further enriched by several performances, including a rendition of Shir Hamalos by Yoni Shine and Robbie Staffler, and a shadow dance performance by Tumbelina, an all-male shadow dancing troupe. Guests were also shown a screening of The Hero, a short film created by GIFT.

The gala also served as a platform to rally support for GIFT's ongoing initiatives, including its vital educational programmes and community outreach efforts. As Rabbi Schiff said: “We established GIFT with a profound purpose: to educate, inspire and empower individuals to embody a culture of giving. GIFT's mission extends beyond donations; it's about encouraging a lifelong commitment to selflessly giving, not just in the giving of things but also the giving of self.”

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