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Building community spirit through volunteering

Emdad Rahman

Maybe a home is nothing but two arms holding you tight when you’re at your worst.

It’s been a busy weekend for us. On Christmas Eve I visited Mujib’s Chill & Grill, who very generously agreed to donate 50% of the days profits to the Ummah Welfare Trust. Straight after that Moklis, Mumidul and all the kids came together to deliver the weekly One Third Soup kitchen at Stratford City. My aunt Shanaz had provided delicious biriani, along with cakes from Maria and  a car load of presents from Nazia, Luisa, Pericles and the generous team at Pearson Old Street, London. I had bags of clothes from Laurain. Everything went down a treat, but we were missing some of our regulars – Amanda, Rose, Paul, Billy, Terry and Petr. We used up the whole lot and guess what? We weren’t short either. Everything was perfect and nobody went away empty handed or disappointed. We left Stratford with one parcel remaining.

There were plenty of new faces though, and we let the kids take a more hands-on role after briefing them on the journey over to Stratford. They were total stars and each one was a complete natural, interacting with smiles and small talk, handing over gifts, food and spreading cheer.

We had a talented drummer to keep us company and it was like having our own private performing artist. It made me smile and gave me hope for our communities in the future. If the adults can nurture and instil togetherness, unity and an innate desire to serve those less fortunate, then our understanding and tolerance of each other can only grow stronger as our relationships with everyone bloom. It is that simple really. That and education too – and also a willingness from all communities to try to get on. Too often the focus is unfairly on a handful.

Christmas Day was the first time I noticed that the number of immigrant homeless friends visiting the Whitechapel Mission outnumbered the natives. Crisis run their camps, so a lot of the regular visitors had spread out – but even then we served well over 150 homeless guests. Sue and Tony were on hand as always to guide, support and advise. Ramesh kept everyone in stitches with his pranks and gags throughout.

As part of a drive I had agreed to join Sister Christine Frost and Neighbours in Poplar to help out with a Christmas Day community initiative whereby approximately 130 Christmas meals were prepared and delivered by volunteers to the homes of elderly and vulnerable local residents.

Neighbours in Poplar (NIP) came into being in October 1969, when some concerned people gathered together a large number of senior citizens in Pope John House for a Christmas Party. Because this was so successful and a need had obviously been met, volunteers began to meet regularly, visiting and providing necessary services for people living in the Poplar area of London E14. NIP offers Multi-Faith Care in the community, practical support and care for vulnerable people who are living at home, regardless of their faith, age, race, gender, culture, or disability. The team also provide disadvantaged children with breaks from their normal environment during the summer holidays.

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I finished my day with a hearty meal with Robbo at Ariana. I am tired but very satisfied and full of life after my experience today. I did receive lots of messages from friends wanting to volunteer and I am sorry I couldn’t accommodate them all. I would thoroughly recommend that everyone signs up for some volunteering and goes through the channels by signing up for shifts where necessary. With our soup kitchen, you could just turn up (with some notice) though. If you don’t find an experience fulfilling or worthwhile, then move on and change until you find your niche. It’ll boost your confidence and keep you happy. You’ll be making a significant difference and will make new friends. It’s win win all the way.

Remember, our homeless, vulnerable and needy friends are not a problem. They are a result of a greater problem. It is our responsibility to support them.

The Whitechapel Mission is a unique charity. In 2016:
6941 different people have used the services so far;
3,714 people have used the advice services during the past year, of whom 293 were women;
10% of people using services are under 26 years of age;
311 people received help in claiming benefits; 30% of people using the services have been in care at some point.

I’m proud to announce that in 2017 I shall be running the British 10k for The Whitechapel Mission for the tenth year in a row. It’ll be a personal landmark for me if I can make it – and I have no intention of stopping yet! If you’d like to support please tweet me @emdad07

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