Rene Fransman volunteers for London charity the Food Chain. Every Sunday, he cooks for people with HIV/Aids. The charity received the Queen's award for voluntary service in July.
How long have you volunteered for the Food Chain? Since 1991. There was only one kitchen operating when I started; now there are seven. I am the head chef once every six weeks, which means I am responsible for choosing the menu and purchasing the food. This can be a big job because we offer different meals to suit people from different backgrounds.
What do you get out of volunteering? It gets me out and about and allows me to help other people who, like me, suffer from HIV/Aids. I was thrown out of my job as a waiter 13 years ago after being diagnosed with HIV.
I was told at the time that I only had six months to live and I didn't know what to do with my time. A friend who worked in University College Hospital told me that there was a charity to do with food that I could work for, and that's how I got in touch with the Food Chain. They welcomed me and made me feel completely at ease.
What do you bring to the Food Chain? My 25 years of experience in the catering industry. I have worked in places such as Switzerland and the US. I think I am good at running a kitchen. Every Sunday I work in Kentish Town, in a kitchen provided by the Borough of Camden. This works out well as the kitchen is not far from where I live and is easy for me to get to.
Approximately how much time or money do you give per year? From six to eight hours every Sunday. I also try my best to put aside my spare change for the Food Chain. I raised £300 for my birthday last year to pay for one day's meals.
Are there any other causes or organisations you support? Yes, my partner and I give £70 to Stonewall by direct debit. I also support Crusaid, and a charity dedicated to protecting the Red Kite that I began supporting after discovering these birds on a trip to Wales.