Park Inn update
On Weds 22.09 John (Simmonds) and I attended a meeting of the Faith and Belief Network on behalf of Love Southend where we received an update about the Afghan families and individuals being accommodated at the Park Inn for an initial 12 week period. Council workers have done a superb job of welcoming and carrying out the required initial assessments of their needs. Despite not advertising they have also been inundated with material donations and have much more than the families immediately need.
What help is needed?
Transport – a ‘pop-up’ school is starting next week (w/c 27.09) Mon – Fri 1pm – 5pm at Garons. There is a need for people-carrier or minibus transportation to and from the Park Inn. Private cars are not suitable as the children will want to travel in groups, not alone, given the enormous upheaval they have experienced. Do you know anyone who could help?
Homes – there is already a shortage of housing in Southend. Finding accommodation for families / individuals who stay in Southend will not be straight forward humanly speaking. Do you know anyone who has property to rent in Southend who might consider providing accommodation for a family (typically 7 members) or single men? Does your church have a manse or similar property that could be used? Do you know a landlord who could be approached?
Support Fund – Some of these families and single men may be housed in Southend, and although statutory funds will be available there will be all kinds of need to furnish and create home-life for these folk. I asked if a ‘pot’ of funds could be created now so when the time comes there are funds immediately available to support these families. The suggestion was taken up enthusiastically and I was asked if I would organise it. This is now in place.
Prayer – all these folk are from a Muslim background, though they differ in how liberal / conservative they are in their belief and practice. Some come from very conservative rural backgrounds, some from city settings and contact with UK / US nationals. The local Muslim community have been very supportive, providing material things and prayer mats / copies of the Koran. For many the upheaval of recent months and the culture shock of western lifestyle has had a great impact. Even the idea of a crèche or nursery is completely unknown to many of the women. Some have expressed their wish to be finally settled in other areas of the country where they have other family members or contacts. There is a huge journey of transition and adaptation for all of them. Many are expressing their desire to find work and be usefully employed. Many of the men speak English well, but not always the wives and children, though the boys love cricket and football! There is much here to pray about for these that God loves with all his heart.
We thank God for another opportunity to express his love and kindness, this time to vulnerable visitors to our borough.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35).
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:1-2).
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not ill-treat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself… I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19: 33-34).
Mark Churchward, Love Southend Servant Team.