One Vision Project to Help the Community of Watford
8th March 2019
Stanborough Park church has recently extended its outreach even further into the Watford community by linking up with the local 'Food For All' café in collaboration with the Health Ministries department of the British Union Conference (BUC) which will run health workshops in the near future.
This initiative has been the brainchild of Enoch Kanageraj, an employee of The Co-operative Food Stores, who along with fellow church member Richard Poulton, established the Community Chaplaincy Service a few years ago at the church with the aim of meeting the needs of its local community.
Last summer Enoch's store became part of the Co-op's Food Share Scheme whereby good quality food which cannot be sold at the end of each day is donated to local groups who can put it to good use feeding people in the local community on a not-for-profit basis.
One of the organisations which collected food from his store was Gokula, a vegetarian café in Watford's town centre. The café is the local arm of the 'Food For All' programme which was established in 1988 and operates mainly in the London area. According to the Charity Commission's website this organisation 'distributes around 2,500 free, nutritionally balanced meals to the homeless and disadvantaged on a daily basis' and is 'based on the philosophy of community self-help'.
At the Watford café Annette Kelly and her volunteers were operating on a 'pay as much as you can' basis. About a year ago she started the 'free food Mondays' and reports the numbers taking up the offer slowly increased from 5 to 80; the most they had was 130 ‒ a venture she finds 'exciting and exhilarating'. The café has proved to be popular with Watford's homeless and gave Enoch an insight into the problems they face.
During 2018 Enoch introduced 'Community Days' at the church providing local groups with the opportunity to tell members of their work and seek their support in various ways. Realising that if these groups had contact with each other they would be able to work together and target their ideas, aims and resources more effectively he contacted them inviting them to meet at the Stanborough Centre.
The response was good with many local charities attending the meetings including the Mayor and representatives from the council and Watford Football Club ‒ Premiership team. The group decided to adopt the name 'One Vision' with the aim that all members of the community ‒ politicians, Watford Borough Council, ordinary people ‒ could work together to help the community and make Watford a better place. Already training in Food Hygiene, has been conducted at the church for those volunteers helping at the café in addition to Child Protection training.
Peter 'Para' O'Grady, a Hare Krishna devotee, the owner of the Gokula café and a director of 'Food For All', believes that which is 'done from the heart out of love lasts forever and has real substance'. He decided to join 'One Vision' as he saw it as a way of developing the café to meet the needs of the community. His aim is to run clubs and workshops there, developing healthy living concepts and giving access to arts thus developing its links with the local community in addition to supporting the homeless and those in need. As a result of joining the group he had the café redeveloped as a community café and renamed it 'One Vision'. It will continue to be operated on a pay as much as you can afford basis with free food on Mondays and offering vegan food two days a week.
Monday, 25 February saw the official opening ceremony of the rebranded 'One Vision Café' as a community café. In keeping with the group's aims it was attended by people from all faiths including Christians, Sikhs, Moslems and those of no faith at all. Speakers included the Chairman of Watford Borough Council Councillor Rabi Martins, 'Para', Enoch Kanageraj and the Park's Pastor Geert Tapp who reminded his listeners of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.
Adventist influence in the venture has been very proactive according to Sharon Platt-McDonald the director of the BUC Health Ministries and Adventist Community Services departments. Under her leadership of Director Sharon Platt-McDonald, have committed their support to the One Vision Project. She has been very supportive of the One Vision Project and inspired by the ethos and scope of outreach of this initiative she donated funds from both departments to the One Vision Café. Books on healthy eating written by her are prominently featured there.
In her speech at the opening event Sharon gave an outline of her departmental input ‒ initially by the donation of health resources to the café which was demonstrable in the vivid and informative fruits and vegetables cards highlighting both recipes and health benefits, which were displayed on the café tables and bookshelves. A range of health books and well-being resources were also donated.
She also outlined plans to undertake mental health first aid training to One Vision Café's staff and volunteers. This she stated would assist in better understanding the complexities some café users encounter, in particular those experiencing emotional and mental health challenges. The training teaches individuals to look after their own and other's mental well-being and provides skills in communication, support, and referral. It also explores societal attitudes and behaviours regarding mental health and challenges stereotypes regarding mental ill health.
Cllr Martins mentioned in his speech that as a former business consultant he used to advise that anybody can have 100 ideas but it takes a person of passion to take them forward and succeed. Starting something is easy, sustaining it will be the real challenge he said.
Let us pray that this challenge will be met and that the church will indeed be able to make a substantial contribution to helping to improve the lives of the less fortunate members of the community of Watford.