Covid-19 Response Appeal

The Mustard Tree – Covid-19 Urgent Response Appeal

We at the Mustard Tree recognise the need for local communities to stand together and support one another at this time. As a result, we have chosen to join with other statutory and voluntary organisations in the One Reading Community Hub. This hub has been created by Reading Borough Council to coordinate services for Reading residents needing extra support during the current Coronavirus outbreak.

We are using our years of local knowledge, existing projects and partnerships and our network of volunteers to help meet the unique needs of this international crisis on a local level. Our existing focus on unmet needs and vulnerable people facing issues surrounding loneliness and isolation, have meant that we are well placed to provide a local response across Reading. Our small infrastructure and the flexibility of our staff team have allowed us to be proactive and innovative in unexpected circumstances. We are continuing to support our existing service users, while finding new ways to offer expanded support to those who need it most.

In common with many small local charities, our biggest challenge is finding the financial and human resources to meet the expanding need as this crisis unfolds. We operate on limited resources and with minimal contingencies in our day to day provision. Increased local need has led to a requirement for us to increase our capacity to offer creative community-based solutions in unprecedented times. We recognise that many are facing financial challenges at the moment, but we would ask you to consider donating to the Mustard Tree Covid-19 Urgent Response Appeal. All donations will go to providing local support for vulnerable people across our town. A donation in any amount will make a positive difference.

Our Response

As you can imagine, our staff are facing challenging personal circumstances and yet through their dedication, hard work and flexibility we are pleased to be able to say that we are already offering the following services via our projects:

Engage Befriending:

Our well-respected befriending service for lonely and isolated older people has risen to the challenge. They are now offering a telephone befriending service for vulnerable over 55s focussing especially on those who are self-isolating alone. Since the current government restrictions came into effect, Engage Befriending has recruited 80 new volunteers. The demand for this service keeps growing, and as a result there is a need to increase service capacity quickly. Volunteer applications need to be processed and new volunteers need to be vetted, trained and matched with service users. Equally new referrals also need to be assessed and matched with an appropriate befriender. Therefore, we need to increase staffing hours for the existing team. As people’s time in isolations continues, we anticipate the need for this service will continue to grow. A donation to the Mustard Tree Covid-19 Urgent Response Appeal in any amount, will help us to provide this increased capacity. It will ensure a minimum of a 20 minute phone call twice a week each to check on the health and wellbeing of older people in our town.

Starting Point:

Our ever expanding and endlessly creative mentoring project for young people not in education employment or training, continues to engage with its clients. The Starting Point team have worked hard to move their projects and services online. Starting Point continues to offer the following services:

Remote Mentoring – Mentoring over video chat, phone call or email for anyone aged 11-19 who is in education or aged 15-25 who is not in education, employment or training. –

Social Media Challenges – Starting Point Instagram run social challenges – combating social isolation, reducing boredom, teaching new skills and connecting the community. Follow: @statingpointreading  on Instagram.

Action Media Training  – Action Media is a young person led production company that will be offering online training and setting tasks around camera work, digital media and marketing. –  Follow: @actionmedia on Instagram

 A significant proportion of Starting Point mentees have additional needs due to learning difficulties and poor mental health. Many do not cope well with changes in routine and often struggle with anxiety, lack of confidence and depression. Sadly, Starting Point has mentees for whom home is not really a safe place to take shelter. These factors lead to extra difficulties for already vulnerable young people in such challenging times. It is therefore, of the utmost importance that Starting Point continue to offer support to young people in as many ways as possible.A donation in any amount to the Mustard Tree Covid-19 Urgent Response Appeal, will help to ensure that vulnerable young people across our town continue to receive mentoring support.


Due to the client group Rahab supports, and the nature of the project’s activities, this project has been hit hardest by the current restrictions. We have worked in partnership with our voluntary sector and council partners, to ensure our clients were provided with suitable accommodation to stay in.  Rahab has now had to pause its services. This was not an easy decision, but under the current circumstances it was simply not possible to offer either the evening outreaches, or the daytime support. We are continuing to work hard to ensure that the Rahab project will be able to get up and running again as soon as it is safe to do so. A donation in any amount to the Mustard Tree Covid-19 Urgent Response Appeal will help ensure Rahab is able to hit the ground running in future.

New Opportunities to Meet Local Needs

We are in the process of expanding our telephone befriending support to people under 55.  This is a need that has emerged from the requests coming through the Community Hub.  We hope to be able to offer this service next week.

Our CEO is working with The One Reading Community Hub to ensure all vulnerable people in isolation can be supported.   She is currently partnering with RVA and local churches to provide a shopping service, by helping to develop a hub infrastructure using teams who are properly vetted and checked.  This minimises the risk of vulnerable people being victims of exploitation.  The clear referral networks will help ensure the response can be quick, and it also joins people with the full range of support services across the town.

Please help us provide this support by donating what you can through our local giving page. Donate Now

We continue to be very grateful to all those who are volunteering to help and supporting us in prayer. Thank you for helping us to help our local community

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