On Sunday morning at the crack of dawn, while London town was probably having a lay in, I woke up to go as a volunteer to do the Breakfast Challenge at the Whitechapel Mission.
Their motto ‘Bringing hope where there is despair’ Just about rounds up the reason myself and 5 other colleagues decided to do this challenge.
The Whitechapel Mission serves breakfast every morning to the homeless, the needy and the vulnerable, for whatever reason or circumstances whoever walks through the doors of WM is welcomed with dignity, offered showering / clothing facility, charging of mobile phones and a full hot English breakfast for as little as 50p. Bearing in mind, some may not have any money at all.
From cooking the breakfast to serving teas and biscuit, to managing money to
keeping tracks of mobile phones and returning them safely to them is just some of the jobs involved. Then after the kitchen shutter closes at 11am, we then had to wash and scrub down the kitchen/dining room. From plates, pots and cookers. Basically leaving the kitchen how we found it – ready for the next group of volunteers the next day.
The whole morning is supervised and supported by the staff of WM – we had Ramesh and Billy – 2 very loyal workers for the mission. They not only kept us on our toes but also kept us in high spirits.
We served over 300 hundred very hungry, cold, desperate people – who may have spent the night on the streets sleeping, working or just moving from shelter to shelter.
The question for me was one of ‘What can I do to make a difference’ to my lifestyle, to my well-being and the answer was simple ‘ Give something back into the community that will have an impact on not just myself but to the recipient’.
My experience at the time was ‘Yes, I can do this physically’ but mentally, only hit me last night as I began to reflect on the team’s effort.
I had deliberately but unconsciously avoided being at the front of the kitchen serving and having direct contact with the users because that was reality – I did for a brief moment to cover breaks to do that particular spot and realised that I would be giving food away for free because emotionally I would far be too sympathetic. Feeling sorry for them is not the answer but enabling them to be independent is.
I cooked over 587 eggs yesterday morning and each one was done with the intentions of leaving these men and women with pride and dignity.
Would I do it again? Next mission booked already. Our mission was a good one, but I hear that it can get out of control and shutters have to close in emergency if there is a disturbance amongst the users.
Although, we only did a small section of a very large operation it was obvious that every ones efforts/contributions was imperative to this worthy cause.
A Volunteers Morning!
At 6am, the first task of the day will be to prepare breakfast. This requires the preparation and cooking of bacon, sausages, beans, tomatoes, eggs, and mushrooms, hash browns, buttering of bread and making of toast. We will make and serve over 400 cups of tea, and 600 cups of coffee.
At 8am, some of the team will begin to serve breakfast, while others continue to cook more breakfasts and others will collect plates, wipe tables and wash up. There will be a rush at 8am for breakfast, which will last for about 20-30 minutes and then continue for approximately the next hour and a half at a steady rate.
During all of the morning, we will be giving out towels, soap, razors, shampoo and toothbrushes.
At 10am our kitchens close for the day and we can begin to clean the kitchen down and prepare it for the next day.
By 11am the centre will close and we will begin the big clean-up. The Dining area will need to be swept and mopped. The toilets will need to be cleaned and hosed. The shower area will need to be cleaned and prepared for the following morning.
By 11:30 we should be able finished for the day.
I believe if we give in times of ease and hardship, our sustenance will increase. Giving awakens our souls and triggers genuine concern for the well-being of others. Priority should be given to feed the poor and the needy, the 3rd Pillar of Islam is one my duties as a Muslim. But one should remember this ‘Only help according to your abilities’
If this was my step to self-purification then it’s a step forward and I don’t think I will be looking backwards after this rewarding experience.
A big Thank You to Ramesh & Billy from the WM for being so supportive and allowing us to fulfill our needs by letting us loose in their kitchen!
Ms Safirah Irani