In the last issue of 2021, Asian Voice reached out to the community to tell tales of kindness, what it means to them, and how they are helping in their own little capacity to make a difference for the less fortunate this Christmas. While many would be in self-imposed isolation as the virus spreads like wildfire, the diaspora reaches out to Britons, in an effort to make the holidays less grim or lonely.

Shefali Saxena Tuesday 21st December 2021 11:28 EST

Congratulations! You survived another catastrophic year. You’ve been brave, resilient, and more importantly, kind. The amount of courage that it takes to get through these unprecedented times and the unity shown by our community is a huge endeavour. Yet, one must not forget that many people still haven’t managed to see their families in the longest time. Some have cancelled their holidays and trips due to the scare of the new Covid variant, which also means thousands of people will be alone this Christmas, children and the elderly will need more help than ever before. Christmas may not be merry for those who have lost their jobs. What will they do? Where will homeless, disabled and lonely people take shelter this Christmas? 

To help such people, Deepen Patel of Meet & Deep is doing God’s work with his family on Christmas. Patel told Asian Voice, “My family and I use this divine opportunity to create a community party in our newsagents’ shop, we all dress up in a fancy dress and my father becomes Father Christmas. We provide free food and a place to be in the company of others to all those in our community who are less fortunate. We play carols, we dance, and we put disco lights all around our newsagents. 


“We have been doing this for the past 20 years and will always do so as it is this message of sharing the good things you have with others and celebrating unity and compassion with all beings regardless of cultural backgrounds or faiths that we feel is the true message of Christmas. If you are free, pop by to Meet and Deep Newsagents in Twickenham or log onto our ‘Meet & Deep News’ Facebook page to see how we celebrate with our entire community!”


Deepen affirmed that, “We even try to take the message of kindness even further than people and put-up posters on our shop windows to promote kindness towards all living creatures.”  


“These tiny acts of kindness also bring good karma and Christmas is a time we will promote these tips of kindness towards the smaller life forms too. This year we are going to have a Bollywood Christmas theme where my mother will wear a Christmas Saree and for snacks, make little spicy Christmas trees (samosas!) and we will have the glitz of Bollywood meet the sparkle of Christmas.


“We are planning to set up tables outside our shop to give away free food to those in need, with the help of a local generous friend, we have set up our own food bank and fund which we call the Anna & Tess Fund (A&T fund) to provide any help to those who are in need most, we have used it not only to provide food but to buy gifts for those who have no family. 


“We are also providing a talking service, where people who feel lonely can come and speak to us on Christmas day as there are many people who have plenty of food, money and presents, but simply want someone to talk to on the one day when everything else is closed. So, we like to be available for them too. We believe no one should ever have to feel that they are alone at Christmas and that's what we are here for.”


The crisis is not over yet


According to Charan Sekhon - Founder Chairman SEVA Trust UK (A registered charity in the UK working in Education, Health, Social-Welfare, and Environment, it has been a very tough year for everyone, the businesses, workplaces, families, local communities and international students have all been hugely impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. 


He said, “Every religion teaches us the true meaning of kindness and compassion. I feel it is a moral duty for all of us to play our part to offer support to others in any way we can.  I believe in the concept of ‘seva’ (selfless service) gifted to Guru Nanak that is to help others who are in real need. 


“Working as one team, we set up a wide range of support projects through SEVA Trust UK and everyone worked very hard to support the local communities and international students during these very tough times for all. 


“We worked closely with community & faith groups, universities, student unions and other stakeholders to reach out over 400 families and homeless, over 750 international students and over 100 vulnerable women and elderly by delivering free food, hot meals and daily essentials who were in real need throughout Covid-19 and I would like to thank everyone who supported us in playing our part. Let’s hope we all can carry on supporting each other as the crisis is not yet over.”


Cllr Sekhon further added, “We are supporting around 50 homeless this Xmas by providing them staple food, soft drinks, water and on Sunday offered a Xmas treat by providing them fresh cakes! We are also supporting a number of elderly over Christmas who are living alone or unable to cook due to health issues.” 


Gratitude towards healthcare workers 


Remembering people who may have lost their livelihood and loved ones during this year, Farhad Ahmad, an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said, “During the pandemic, many people have had their livelihoods altered and we’ve all been affected in some way or shape. Where it’s created many challenges, it has also given an opportunity to find new ways to help people. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community delivered food and PPE to NHS staff who were working around the clock at the peak of the pandemic. Many people who were self-isolating, our youth did shopping for them and dropped it off at their doors. We were also able to run vaccination drives in our Mosques, working alongside the NHS. 


“Our inspiration for this is the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who has commanded Muslims to show kindness to all people, regardless of their background. He once said that “the one who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness.” He also said that “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” 


It is therefore at the core of our faith to do all we can for the people around us, our neighbours and fellow countrymen and women.”


Christmas service for vulnerable children


Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, CEO, The Akshaya Patra Foundation UK spoke to us about TAPF’s plans for Christmas. He said, "We have a sense of Deja Vu this Christmas. Our teams begin the day at the kitchen by 5 am. The demand for food is more than ever, but the helping hands of volunteers are fewer with Covid threatening us further. The Akshaya Patra Foundation UK is serving thousands of meals daily, from its North London kitchen to children, the elderly, the vulnerable and students. While we are conscious of tackling hunger, we are also trying to give dignity to those receiving the meals. We are individually packing the food in most cases, adding a festive item on the menu to bring in some cheer and ensuring the food is nutritious, hot and tasty. Food brings cheer and hope. So even if it is hard for us, we don't feel fatigued.


“The Akshaya Patra Foundation UK is aiming to continue the Christmas service to the vulnerable and to needy children even after Christmas, as the coming winter months are staring at unprecedented food poverty in Greater London.” 


Christmas shoebox appeal


Dr Hardik Bhansali of Seva Day in Manchester told us that for the past year and a half his team has been doing cooked meals for the vulnerable and homeless in Manchester every week (nearly 8000 meals so far). They also distribute long-lasting food in various food hubs around Greater Manchester (nearly 11 tonnes in the past year and a half). 


“During the pandemic, we helped the elderly, NHS staff looking after Covid patients, nursing homes as well helping to improve Mental health in elderly. This Christmas, along with our activities to help food poverty, we have made a Christmas shoebox appeal where we will distribute essential toiletries, tea bags, coffee etc to the needy in Manchester. Same a last year’s appeal we will also be distributing gift bags/boxes as a token of thanks to hard-working volunteers of various food hubs/ food banks, hospice and special needs schools,” Dr Bhansali said.

Every small act of kindness counts

Viva Andrada O’Flynn told the newsweekly that she believes helping out connects you with humanity. It makes you part of a bigger whole; that you have blessings to share with those in need. It could be that somebody helped you get to where you are now. It’s your turn to repay the favour by giving someone a boost. She further explained, “My husband and I are sponsoring children in the Philippines. We have also donated Christmas dinners for two families in need. I have used my skills and talents to share love, joy, and inspiration with the world as host of World Humanitarian Drive’s Inspiring Millions Show. I have also donated my delicious bakes of my business Love Viva Cakes and Crafts to help charities celebrate.”


Winter survival kits and 10,000 meals of free food

Hanuman Dass, Founder & Chairman of Go Dharmic said, “Love and compassion are the core of all spiritual traditions and during a time when there is so much suffering in the world we have an opportunity to express the highest dharma. Go Dharmic volunteers live the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita and act for the welfare of the world. We have been helping people who are suffering from food insecurity and in times of disaster.  Many will say in words that we are all one, but to truly express that oneness we must see the suffering of others as our own we must act.  Whether through distributing food and blankets to the homeless or helping victims in a flood, it is the expression of our love that is important.  For anyone wishing to get involved with Go Dharmic as a volunteer, they can download the Go Dharmic app and introduce themselves!

“Over the Christmas period Go Dharmic is holding over 40 distributions across the UK handing out food, blankets, sanitary products for women, sleeping bags, winter survival kits and over 10,000 meals of free food. Our motto is Love all, Feed all, Serve all and this is the true spirit of Christmas.”

HRH the Prince of Wales supports the DEC’s Afghanistan crisis, raises more than £17.5 million in five days 

HRH The Prince of Wales has issued a message of support for the DEC’s Afghanistan Crisis Appeal which has now raised more than £17.5 million in under a week, with aid already being distributed on the ground. 

HRH, The Prince of Wales, Patron of the International Rescue Committee in the UK, which is one of the DEC’s member charities, said: “The situation in Afghanistan is truly catastrophic. More than half the population will face acute hunger and freezing temperatures this Winter, including 1 million children under five who could die unless they receive immediate treatment for malnutrition.  

“This is why I am so grateful that some of the world’s biggest charities have come together to launch an emergency appeal to support people in Afghanistan. 

“I am proud to support this collective effort to provide the people of Afghanistan with emergency food, nutritional support for children and Winter kits to help them stay warm. The International Rescue Committee has been on the ground in Afghanistan for thirty years and despite everything, they are increasing their efforts to reach those most in need.”  


Within days of the launch, DEC member agencies were able to start spending funds raised in the appeal. Cash grants are helping people buy stoves and a 3-month supply of firewood. Members are supplying winter clothing – hats, coats, shoes for families to stay warm. Mobile teams have been deployed to screen children for malnutrition and provide treatment. 


As well as winter kits and healthcare, the money raised will help DEC charities and their local partners to provide emergency food and nutrition support for children, supply clean drinking water and protect women and girls. 


 The UK Government announced it will match pound-for-pound the first £10 million donated by the public to this appeal, to make donations go even further and help DEC charities reach more people in need. 


In Northern Ireland, the British Red Cross, Tearfund, Save the Children and Concern Worldwide have joined the appeal. 

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