24 June 2020 | Watford, UK [June Coombs]
A community hub based at the Stanborough Park Seventh-day Adventist church in Watford, England, is currently serving more than 3,000 hot meals a week and supplying 800 grocery food parcels for vulnerable families.
Meals and groceries are provided for children who would normally benefit from free school meals when attending school and also for those families who are struggling. Teachers call on a regular basis to collect and distribute according to need, while parcels are made up for single parents with children. Keeping-in-touch phone calls and bereavement support are also provided.
The ‘One Vision’ Project is a community initiative started by church member Enoch Kanagaraj. It began three years ago with a simple Community Chaplaincy Service based at the church. The primary aim was to establish where help was required and then to meet those needs. The pastoral team then suggested that it might be a good idea to extend the project by inviting other community groups to partner together with them in a joint venture.
Kanagaraj immediately recognised that a number of local voluntary groups and organisations were often charities run by a single person. By pooling resources and working together they could thus achieve much more. Kanagaraj works for a supermarket chain that promotes community values and so had already established some connections through the Foodshare scheme which collects food donations from customers, providing groceries for people struggling financially to feed their families.
Thus ‘One Vision’ became a networking and action group where members could exchange ideas, seek and provide advice, and share information, skills and support while reducing waste and duplication and enhancing delivery capability. Three years on and under Kanagaraj’s chairmanship group has 46 members. Their common aim is to make Watford a better place to live under the motto ‘Stronger Together’.
From an initial start of monthly meetings and sharing resources, the project has mushroomed. The church provided government-required food hygiene and child protection training. Then the Veterans’ group helped with a Sikh member, who was re-housing a family. The home needed redecorating.
Further initiatives were introduced as the group. To encourage community action, they developed awards to those giving outstanding service. On one occasion the presentation of an award to the Veterans’ leader formed part of the church service and was presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, the Queen’s representative in the county. In 2019 this then led to ‘One Vision’ winning a High Sheriff’s Award in the Faith Led Groups Community Projects category. [See: Enoch Kanageraj’s ‘One Vision’ Earns Him an Audentior Award]
The current pandemic really tested the group’s ability to cope with a crisis while working together for the common good. Faith, political and other differences were put aside, and the team were soon running a slick operation based at Stanborough Park church.
The church has long been part of the community but with the doors shut for worship and regular weekday activities, the main halls and kitchens were taken over by ‘One Vision’ for storing, providing and distributing groceries and meals. By the end of April, it was designated as an official Hub and given the task of meeting the needs of residents in the northern half of the town by the local council.
With grants from the council, financial aid also came from the Adventist church, Hertfordshire County Council, the local synagogue, and the Rotary Club. Generous donations of groceries also came from members of the public. Hot meals have been provided free by the local gurdwara and an Indian restaurant in addition to those being cooked in the church kitchens.
Sandwich meals and fruit are also provided and distributed with parcels of groceries for those unable to leave their homes or are experiencing financial difficulties. This is in addition to supporting those children who would normally benefit from free school meals. The local Mayor has been actively involved as has the town’s Member of Parliament, who has been out distributing meals every Saturday afternoon.
‘One Vision’ has also been able to provide items of personal protection equipment made by a secondary school. With churches closed, it additionally provided an Easter street service conducted by an Adventist minister.
Kanagaraj states, “currently we are serving more than 3,000 hot meals a week and providing 800 grocery food parcels to the vulnerable. Also, we are working with 18 schools in Watford and taking care of the school children who are not entitled for school meals and helping with essential goods for the families. In partnership with the British Union Conference Convalescence and Restoration project over the past 5 weeks, we have been delivering 180 meals daily to Willesden Green and Hanwell churches.”
But the project does not stop there as in the next week the team are launching a ‘One Vision’ mental health platform, which will reach different communities.
Find out more
Listen in as Harjit Singh, chairman of the Watford Interfaith Association, talks with ‘One Vision’ and various community leaders including Raafat Kamal, Trans-European Division president, and Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Health Ministries director.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
119 St Peter’s Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3EY, England
E-mail: [email protected]
tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division. Readers are free to republish or share this article with appropriate credit including an active hyperlink to the original article.